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Posts Tagged ‘tweens’


Twilight Advance, advance ticket for opening day of Twilight, the long-awaited film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s young adult hit series, image © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



Twilight opened at midnight last night, and I imagine theaters everywhere were filled with teenage girls dressed in black. My teen didn’t make it; today was a school day.

But guess who has a ticket for a showing tonight? Yep. The way I see it is, these are the things that eventually become memories when today’s kids get to be our age. Standing in line for over an hour to get a good seat in the theater on opening day of Twilight, or sitting two rows from the front of the screen and being unable to straighten your neck when the movie ends. Sweet.

I don’t remember standing in line as a kid to be among the first to see a movie or to buy a book. Maybe life was simpler then and less sales-driven. Or maybe my parents just wouldn’t stand for such nonsense.

I’m pretty sure it’s the deprived child in me that now indulges my daughters and last year endured the torture of standing—or, rather, leaning—in line, half alseep at one in the morning, so I could fork over $24.99 to a testy cashier and get Dee’s copy of the long awaited Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.



     



What did we have that was even slightly similar? My older sisters swooned over The Beatles and Elvis, although I don’t think they ever made it to a concert. Jim remembers going to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on his 13th birthday, although it wasn’t opening night. “Nah, we never went to openings when I was a kid.” And in general, we still avoid the crowds that come with any opening night.

Although, Em reminded Jim that we all went to see Wall-E the first night it opened this past summer. We were in Taos for the Taos Solar Festival, and on a whim the Friday night we rolled into town, we decided to go see Wall-E. We sashayed on in, bought our tickets, and sat smack dab in the middle of a mostly empty theater. We couldn’t believe our luck. No way we would have ventured to an Albuquerque theater for opening night of any movie, not even a Disney Pixar one.

But some people love the excitement of being among the first. It’s kind of like making history. Or, like I said, making memories.

How about you? Do you move with the throngs or do you hang back until the crowds thin?




-Related to posts My Kid Got Bit By Stephenie Meyer and Stephenie Bit Me, Too!

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Last week I read the book Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher, Ph.D., and this week Jim is reading it. For anyone who hasn’t heard of this book, you’ll nonetheless recognize the phenomenon it describes — the adolescent girl’s loss of self.

Just think of a typical 10- or 11-year-old girl. Gangly, unconcerned with how she looks, willing to speak her mind without fear of embarrassment, curious, brash, silly. Now picture the same girl at ages 12, 13, 14. She’s moody, sometimes sullen, often preoccupied with saying just the right thing or saying nothing at all since nothing can’t be judged as “dumb” by her peers.

I’m reading Reviving Ophelia because in the short time Dee’s been in middle school, I see subtle changes in her and her small group of friends. I also see big differences between them and some of the other girls their age. I figure Dee is heading to where those other girls are, and I’m hoping I can help guide her journey there.

I’m also reading the book because friends of mine who are therapists working with girls this age suggested I read it. I’m taking their advice because I love who Dee is at her core, and I want to do what I can to help her be faithful to her true (goofy, in-awe-of-nature, big-hearted, mischievous) self.

It’s a lot harder to navigate the halls of adolescence today than it was when I was a kid. Yes, we had peer pressure and parents (like mine) who weren’t always overly involved in our lives. We had pot, and we had beer, and we had Annie Greensprings. But at least our media-influenced “ideals” were mostly about long, straight hair and white teeth (a.k.a. Marsha Brady and Laurie Partridge).

Today, tweens have the temptations of drugs, alcohol, and sex, plus they’ve been bombarded with images of a narcissist heiress leaving prison in skinny jeans and Marcello Toshi shoes, a genitalia-shaving-and-flashing drunken celebrity who parties and rehabs, parties and rehabs, and who else? Lindsay Lohan?

Dee and her peers live in a world of tube tops and breast implants and nose jobs. They’ve got girl-bashing music and sexualized everything. When last did they hear that it was en vogue to be kind to unpopular kids, to care about the poor, or be concerned by global warming?

This is not a now-that-she’s-in-middle-school revelation. Dee’s first day of second grade: A fellow seven-year-old arrives at our house wearing black mini skirt, black boots to her knee, red-and-black off-the-shoulder t-shirt, and black fingerless gloves that go past her elbow. She looks like a baby hooker. 

You can say (I did) that that girl’s parents weren’t on the ball. That they were at fault for buying their daughter that get-up. But the point is, that get-up was available at stores everywhere! That and t-shirts touting bad girls and sexy girls and spoiled girls. Elementary-aged girls can wear their own versions of the same high heel shoes that adult women wear.

Reviving Ophelia isn’t about anything we parents and others don’t already see and know, but it is a wake-up call to something for which I’ve become inured:

We are going backwards.

The other day, Dee brought me a Halloween circular from Party City. “Who’s this,” she asked, pointing to a woman with tall pinkish-white hair. “That’s Marie Antoinette,” I said. Then I started to study the image. 

I’ve included it at the end of this post. Take a look. They’re all women, and every one of them, without exception, is a sex kitten. This is the front cover; the back cover is just like it.

Alarmed, I rifled through the rest of the mail. I came across a postcard for a rug-cleaning company. I’ve included the flier’s image at the end of this post, too. Look at it. Tell me what you see. How old do you think the girl in the photo is? And what exactly does her near-naked body add to the notion of rug cleaning??

Wake up fathers, mothers, aunts!

Tell the 11- and 12-year-old girls in your life about lookism. Point out to them what it is society thinks they should be. Encourage them to choose different options. To be individuals and independent thinkers. To resist what has become the norm for girls and women today.

Explain that they might be shunned, but help them be strong. Be there for them. Guide them through choices they have to make.

Dee is not ours for much longer, but for the time we have her, we’re going to do our best to show her a different way.


Party City Halloween costume circular, front cover
Party City circular featuring Halloween costumes. Three pages filled with women as sex objects. October 2007.


Serafians Rugs flier
Serafian’s Oriental Rugs postcard flier featuring a young woman lying naked except for loose fabric, promoting rug cleaning. October 2007.

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Birth is a natural wonder. Those words refer to Dee and to this earth. How can I describe what it’s like having an eleven-year-old daughter? To the Natural History Museum today she wears a skin-toned tank top with black lace coverlet, blue jeans, and a pale pink tie in her hair. Her bangs fall around her China-doll face.

“Look, Mom,” she tells me as she debuts for the day, “I’m Violet Baudelaire.” Dee and Violet (from Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events) are pretty yet clever. (Always remember clever. Dee will never go for just pretty.)

A year ago–six months ago, in fact–Dee would be no one other than Dee. Play unencumbered by fashion. Digging a giant hole in the front yard–so what if high-water pants? Then suddenly this year, a subtle shift. This certain tank top from The Gap in Denver. We bought it on sale. Dee loves to wear it, although tank tops are taboo at her school. So she slips it into certain outings. Natural History Museum on a Sunday afternoon.

I birthed Dee in early fall of 1995. A roller coaster–that’s how I described pregnancy-to-birth. Being on the world’s highest roller coaster (which I’ve been on–The Viper in Six Flags Southern California), me screaming as the contraption click-clicked toward its pinnacle overlooking the entire amusement park. Are those specks the cars? I couldn’t even see people. You can scream your head off (I did) yet it won’t do a whit of good. The emaciated man with corn-cob teeth manning the controls on the ground can’t hear screams. They evaporate like steam into atmosphere.

When I used the roller-coaster analogy I didn’t realize I was talking about raising a child. I thought I was referring to the act of bringing another human into the world. Yet, the ride persists. I read today that it took six hundred million years after its birth for Earth to contain all the elements of modern life. Ocean, rivers, mountains, atmosphere, continents. After eleven years I wonder if I’ve delivered the most basic qualities: love, respect, self-confidence, compassion.

In the context of Earth’s six hundred million years, this particular day is not even a grain of sand. Not the cuticle on the left thumb of the person–what I presume to be a person–standing in the vicinity of the Ferris Wheel. Quartz, the most common mineral on earth, is more ancient and durable than me and my concerns. But I am a woman of today, aware that every moment I spend in my daughter’s presence is an opportunity. To be volcanic, gaseous, a tectonic plate pushing sea into land, land into mountains. Or a phantom–the invisible parent. (These are words from nature’s terminology. Phantom to quartz is the black vein-like formation inside the crystal, like tree rings symbolizing time on earth. In a human, phantom is the residue of childhood, what you take with you through years of therapy. Your true story.)

Dee and I walk from Earth’s Origins to Triassic Period, walk across the super-continent Pangaea, and I wonder as she peers at Coeleophysis, New Mexico’s state fossil, whether she will remember me as an erudite mother wandering museums on a holiday Sunday or as a guilty, preoccupied parent touting an occasional mother-daughter to-do. Do the museum visits override the time I slapped Dee in the car when she was two and wouldn’t stop crying?

I read the exhibit labels aloud but she doesn’t hear me. New Mexico two hundred million years ago was hot and humid. The year I birthed Dee was dry. We grew sunflowers taller than the top of the window. They bloomed bright yellow-orange and beckoned my pregnant belly to give forth its contents. Scream your head off, it doesn’t matter.

Both our favorite is Jurassic Period, the age of super giants. New Mexico was covered with conifers, cycads, and ferns–not juniper or sage. When Pangaea split apart, we were sea or were we coast along the sea? It doesn’t matter. Either way, I like this version of life. Ultimately we are everything. Placenta and child and blood and beating heart. Happiness and frustration.

Dee runs from the whip-tailed dinosaur (whose name I forget) to a young man with a ponytail, little more than a teenager himself, standing at a small table showing his dino-wares. He holds up a fossilized dinosaur thigh bone with quartz growing where the marrow used to be. He describes the process of crystallization, water sitting in the channel of the bone over many, many years. The crystals glimmer and I notice Dee is mesmerized.

“What’s this,” he asks, and he’s on to a smallish oval-shaped thing that looks like rusted metal. Dee is thinking. I watch her instead of generating answers myself. This is how it is with Dee these days. I’m consumed with her process of growing up. Fossilized dinosaur poop, or coprolite, as he prefers to call it. Dee and I look at one another. I raise my eyebrows, in awe of nature. What nature does she see in me?

“T-Rex had 150 teeth,” the young man says as he holds up a giant white fang the length of his hand. “T-Rex’s brain wasn’t as big as this one tooth,” the boy-man says dramatically. He looks at Dee expectant but she says nothing. She doesn’t even make eye contact. She knows not what to do with sex or sexuality, and I am only now aware of this small seed growing inside her.

“…so, you could say T-Rex definitely had more brawn than brain,” the boy-man says. I laugh at the punch line while Dee skitters off to Cretaceous Period. For a moment I think I’ve imagined it all. She’s a girl, not a pre-teen.

In the Cretaceous Period shallow seas covered New Mexico. They say a type of plant-eating, five-horned dinosaur–Pentaceratops–was found only in this area. I like the idea that we have our very own species. This one ranged in size, they say, from no bigger than a dog to up to five tons. Flowering plants arose during this time. Up to then there were only evergreens.

There are different theories for why dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. A great meteor, Chicxulub Crater, hit the earth and ended the reign of these creatures. Or mammals ate the eggs. I go for the crater explanation. I can’t imagine anything worldly preventing mothers–even dinosaur mothers–from having children. So many methods for not having kids today, yet so many babies born. Wanted or not.

On the drive home from the museum, Dee reminds me of our new joke. “What’s a man eating dinosaur?” We both saw the riddle on a wall near the exhibit describing the evolution of dinosaurs into birds. You lift up a little plastic tab and underneath is a picture of a man carving into a Thanksgiving turkey. “I don’t get it,” I first told her. She had to walk me through the dinosaur-to-bird section and explain that turkeys were ancestors of dinosaurs. A-MAN-EATING-DINOSAUR…GET-IT?, she asked. I did. Finally.

I notice something about Dee. When it’s all of us–me, her, her sister, my husband–Dee is distant. She snaps her answer whenever I ask a question. Yells from the bedroom, WHAT??? Yet when Dee and I are alone together in this fast-disappearing eleventh year (do we only have one more before she officially becomes a teen?) she settles into me. Me into her. We are earth settling into a new period. Shallow seas covering land. Flowering plants for the first time.

Eleven years I’ve had to be a mother. Eleven years of impatience and love. I’ve tried to make memories. Natural History Museum (age eleven and times before). Disney World (age three), Santa Monica Pier (age four). Six Flags too many times now to count. San Francisco, the same. Somehow, though, I know it’s the day-to-day that counts. I worry that I’ve been distant. That she emulates what she sees.

Some day it will be Dee’s own life. Her own eccentricities and values and actions that override everything I’ve stamped onto her. You can scream all you want but you still can’t get off.

I learned today that New Mexico had camels and elephants five to 18 million years ago. Nature–she has her own plan.

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