Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Too Headstrong

I suffer from a condition that plagues many women: The Curse of the Confident Woman. It hits us when we are young girls, when we are young and confident, and its effect determines whether or not the girl's confidence will grow or if it will be squelched.

I believe that all children inherently believe in themselves at first. It is the outside world that teaches them otherwise. But the moment when girls begin to lose that belief happens around age 8 or 9. This is the time when they find their voice, when they aren't afraid to speak out about every little thing they are thinking and feeling.

I never realized this until I was at my Grandma's house one day as an adult, and she played a recording on a cassette tape of me when I was that age. I was loudly singing "Love Will Keep Us Together," and in between choruses I talked loudly and confidently about how great girls are and how much we know.

And while I listened to this, I realized I was embarrassed. My family sat around, patiently listening, amused. But I felt embarrassed by the loud, confident, 9ish-year old me.

And that was crazy! Why should I feel embarrassed? I was loud and confident. What I was feeling was the exact thing that probably squelched my enthusiasm and confidence not long after that recording. I'm sure I was taught by society that girls should be more demure and modest.

Although I may have learned not to shout my virtues, I must have retained a bit of my bravado. I learned this when it came to relationships. When I was in high school, a boy never asked me to the prom for any of my four years of high school. In fact, most boys didn't act interested in me at all (partly due to my extreme lack of confidence with boys, but that's another story). When I was a Senior, I lamented this fact to my Senior English teacher, our beloved Mrs. U, and she told me, "Well, it's because you're too bossy."

Hmmm. Too bossy? I remember I didn't like hearing that I was bossy, but at least it gave me a reason.

Then in college there was a boy I liked. He was a music major and looked like Michael J. Fox, and he and I would spent hours in the music lab while he played albums for me that he liked. We had so much fun together. When my friend told him that I was interested in him, his response to her was, "She's too headstrong."

Hmmm. Too headstrong? Bossy I could take, but headstrong? Suddenly, I didn't see him in such a favorable light.

The recent awakening of the women's movement has brought back all these memories. For too long, women's opinions and confidence has been squelched. (Yes, I like using that word.) Finally, with the momentum of the women around me, I can state to the men in my life that I will no longer listen to jokes with women as the punchline. No, I will not watch The Godfather, because the chauvinism in it has always made me sick. I will stand up to the behavior that is finally being acknowledged as unacceptable.

So, call me opinionated. Call me strong. Call me bossy. And headstrong. It's no longer an insult.

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