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:
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.
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.