I live in the south where sometimes people break into random conversations with strangers.
It can happen anywhere, any time, and recently it happened to me. A stranger asked me what I do, and I said, I write books for teenagers. How ironic, she said, because she teaches school to teenagers.
There was that awkward silence that happens when you’ve been assaulted, and so I blurted, “What do you want to pass on to your students most?”
And she said, “Respect. There’s so little of it these days.”
Then she got on her phone and cussed out her husband for being late to pick her up.
That wasn’t the only assault that happened that day. A few minutes later I stared at a TV screen and heard another stranger say, “Do you see those two lines right there? YOU’RE HAVING ANOTHER GIRL!”
And my husband’s eyes got big and my three-year-old shouted “NO!” and I thought Heavens To Arlene, what are we going to do?
Don’t get me wrong, I am crazy about girls. I am one. I wrote a book for some. Because hey, I navigated some awful teenage years while trying to figure out the most important thing, which was, ironically, what that school teacher said I needed most—respect.
Let me tell ya, sometimes when you have two X chromosomes, you’re going to get the wrong message. You have to coach yourself that you can do anything a man can do. That you are gifted and talented and intelligent. That beauty is overrated.
And so as I stared at that giant television screen with no man-parts staring back at me I thought, how in the world am I going to teach TWO innocent little girls what I struggled for so many years to figure out? I mean, I could hand them this column, but somehow that lacked the motherly touch.
And then, out of the panicked silence, my inner voice whispered… you have to learn to respect yourself. Again.
So here I am, and this is my declaration: I refuse to cuss at myself inwardly for not being “man enough”. I refuse to tip-toe toward my dreams while thinking I can’t accomplish it all. I refuse to sit by while others do what I have always wanted to do.
And I refuse to forget that part of what I’ve always wanted to do is love two little girls—little girls who are relying heavily on me to show them what respect really is.