“Why are those girls all wearing the same boots?” asked my young daughter on a recent errand. In front of us, four teenage girls wore the exact same pair of boots, all in short skirts and similar tops. Inexplicably, they were dressed the same and I did not have an answer to the question – at least not one I wanted to tell an impressionable child.
Fellow moms with older girls have confirmed the pattern and I notice it on Facebook. Pictures of bright, young faces that have clearly worked very hard to look the same – straight hair, the same dress with boots and matching purses. Outside of their world, it looks strange and the degree to which our girls attempt to conform is alarming. I wonder about the girl who cannot afford the Frye boots or designer jeans. Worse yet, if their clothes and hair are the same it’s safe to assume that their interests are conforming as well. Can the girl in the same boots express that she loves chemistry or that she read a really good book recently if her friends are talking about the football game, boys or, worse….other girls? Will she be free to determine her own path? Will she even know how? This is a signal of deep insecurity at a time when girls desperately need confidence.
The matching boots struck a deep chord within me because I know, deep-down – in a place I do not want to visit, that these girls are getting their cues from us. They are simply displaying things that we do in more subtle ways. In our striving to make our homes look like a Pottery Barn catalog, our bodies look like a magazine cover and our clothes acceptable to our friends, we are continually pushing toward a center where we feel comfortable. Seriously, do we ALL love the rustic look with candles ablaze, wood beams and the apothecary light over the leather reading chair (I’m sitting in that chair right now and I think I’ve used the lamp twice).
In contrast, my greatest life experiences occurred during times of discomfort or places different from the norm. I think we’d all agree – our best memories came from the mission trip where we didn’t shower or even bring the hair dryer, a creative play or musical performance, the time we challenged the system or when we hung a piece of art simply because it spoke to us (not because it looked like a magazine cover).
It’s time to put down the Pottery Barn catalog, let your hair be natural (shout to my gals with curly hair!), get out of our comfort zone, worry less about the brand of clothing or shoes, spend more time with a good book, play an instrument, learn a language and, in general, dial into your true self. The only suitable ‘answer’ we can give our daughters is to show them.