Glitter and Cynicism

I spent a lot of years trying not to be me. I hated poetry and the color gold and anything that sparkled and dresses and high heels and Taylor Swift. If I thought a thing was feminine or if a lot of other teen girls liked it, I was outspoken in hating it. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with this internalized hatred of girl things. Sarah Hollowell tweeted the other day:

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Those tweets sum up my experience pretty well. I pushed so hard against girly things, fabricating reasons why disliking them was morally superior to genuinely enjoying them. I did it because I wanted to make sure the people who mattered (read: adults and boys) knew I was “special and smart.” But this was exhausting, because I actually liked the things I pretended to hate.

When I moved to college, I realized I could drop the charade and start over. I finally worked up the bravery to embrace the things I had been running from. I let myself love what I wanted to love. I bought sparkly gold shoes and wore the heck out of them. I immersed myself in poetry. I tried out new makeup. I went through a One Direction phase and would have hung up a giant poster in my dorm room if I’d had the chance. But like Sarah said, the mindset of hating “girl” things doesn’t magically go away when you move to college or turn 20 or whatever.

As I settled into college, I also put on a veil of cynicism; partially in response to the vulnerability I felt in a new place with a bunch of strangers and partially to continue to distance myself from the most pervasive “girl” things. I thought this cynicism made me cool and edgy; plus it got some laughs, and I love making people laugh.

But as Sarah also tweeted hating something just because lots of girls like it is boring. And she’s right. People stop listening to you after a while when you’re only ever cynical. You can only make so many disparaging jokes before they get old.

So I’m trying something new. I’m trying joy and wonder.

As Emily Joy puts it in her poem “Extraordinary,” “dignity is not all it’s cracked up to be when it’s preserved at the expense of losing ourselves in the only thing that was ever really able to swallow us.” (Go listen to the whole poem; it makes me cry every time.)

Why would I waste a single moment with cynicism tainting my vision when I could look at the world in astonishment? There are so many things in this wide world to wonder at. There are so many experiences I will miss out on if I reject them simply because masses of other girls have enjoyed them before me.

I’ll miss out on declaring gold as my favorite color. I’ll miss out on the poetry that speaks so intimately to my soul. I’ll miss out on making a pinboard full of glitter and sparkle that brings me so much joy. I’ll miss out on silly Taylor Swift bathroom dance parties. I’ll miss out on all these lovely things that I genuinely enjoy, that have helped me expand into my fullness.

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And yes, I’m still going to be contrarian about some things. I haven’t jumped on the Beyoncé train yet and I don’t plan on reading the rest of the Hunger Games series, but I’ve made those decisions for reasons other than “ew girls.” That’s the boring response, and I’m not about boring anymore. I’m not about cynicism.

I’m about amazement and wonder and complexity and glitter and being fully me.

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8 thoughts on “Glitter and Cynicism

  1. Thanks for writing this. I’m still not super into glitter, but I went through the same kind of thing with dresses and makeup, feeling guilty for liking it, pretending not to. It’s really freeing to know other people had the same struggle and to realise that it’s way more important to embrace what you love than to pretend to be someone else. Beautifully written.

    1. Yes yes yes. Pretending not to like things takes so much energy. But it’s hard not to when you hear people disparaging the things you want to like. I think it’s very important for us as “adults” to never make kids feel bad for liking the things they like.

      1. That’s a good point; I also think a lot of it came from books I read—girl main characters were always extreme tomboys, because “we need strong female leads.” So to be a strong girl, I thought I had to be an extreme tomboy, too. That’s part of why I love writers who have strong girly girls leading.

      2. Ooooh. Good insight. I remember reading books and thinking “oh please don’t make the girl fall in love with the boy” cause I thought it was a weakness.

      3. I’ll be honest—I’m still really torn. I’m a sucker for good romance (oh my gosh I just admitted that on a public forum) but the feminist rebel in me loves stories where girls are successful independent of a relationship—and yet I think there’s something really beautiful about a successful, independent person being able to accomplish more through a relationship. So I don’t know. Now I’m arguing feminism. I’ll stop. Haha.

      4. I’m always for arguing feminism! Have you found any good books/stories where the woman is able to achieve everything she needs by herself but is made better by a romantic relationship? I have a hard time identifying those stories, but I think Rosie in Spindle’s End accomplishes this. I’m always looking for more!

      5. I recently finished Kiersten White’s “Paranormalcy,” which features a teenage girl as the main character. She’s simultaneously badass and emotional, strong but loves glitter (she carries a hot pink taser, of all things!)…I loved the juxtaposition of girly-girl on top of hardcore vampire hunter. Give it a try. Also “Spindle’s End” is fantastic and I need to reread it.

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