Monday, July 2, 2012

Girl power

Ladies, ladies, ladies, I must say, bravo for brazen sexuality! Maybe it's always been there and I've just been clueless but I have to admit, 50 Shades of Grey combined with Magic Mike sure look to me like the world is finally getting it. Women are just as sexual, if not more so, as our male counterparts. Shocker! Yes, this is something we females have always insisted to be true but our actions thus far have not matched our words on a global scale. 50 Shades of Grey has topped book sales not only in the US and UK but around the world, selling more than 10 million copies with book rights being sold to 37 countries. And that's just the first book of the trilogy. It set the record in the UK of being the fastest paperback ever sold, surpassing even my beloved Harry Potter. (Wikipedia! Woot!)
Magic Mike stars some of the hottest, most sought-after male leads we've got. And reviews all indicate that not only does this film have lots to look at, it even has decent writing and a plot. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a beefcake bonanza with heart as well as muscle." (Thanks again Wikipedia!) This means, somebody out there in Hollywood land has gotten a clue. Women like looking at hot bodies just as much as men do! We just so happen to require some semblance of personality, humor, and heart to really get the motor running. 


I'm not going to rant about why it's taken so long for Hollywood to wake up and realize women buy movie tickets. That's not my concern. What I am concerned about is while I am 110% for the sexual revolution and women actually owning and loving the sexuality, we still don't seem to have each others backs. We will go see Magic Mike and read 50 Shades until our eyelids literally droop closed in sleepy surrender but God forbid we see a woman who's prettier or thinner, or better accessorized that we are. (Don't even roll those eyes at me, I can see the Coach bag and Pandora bracelet from here hot stuff.)

I have always seen teenagers as a fairly large percentage of my practice. Over the years I have heard many things either through direct conversation, reading articles and books, or through conversations with other therapists. I have heard stories about domestic violence in teenage relationships. This is an actual problem that is rarely noticed or talked about. I think it's because we don't see teenagers for what they are - fledgling adults who are just starting to form what can and will become their go-to reactions to emotional stimuli for  quite possibly the rest of their lives. I try not, in any way, shape, or form to kid myself about what the teens I see are capable of. Teens are capable of the same response to every good and every bad situation any of us could ever face. They may come up with something even better than we could if it's on the bad side because they haven't fully developed their capacity for empathy yet. It's no help to them if I try to downplay their reality to them. And it's not my job to judge them and put them down. I have to build them up and teach them that they are better humans than the behaviors they're displaying and indulging in. 
This, however, is sticky stuff. Discussing domestic violence with grown adults is one thing but teenagers feels like another planet. It is so taboo to discuss it that it must be treated with absolute calm and even forgiveness/acceptance of things that are scary or hard to grasp.

One girls wish was simply to go unnoticed by her ex boyfriend. A first love gone sour that, unlike adult relationships never got the opportunity to heal because they had to see each other every day in school. Adults don't have to face their newly-ended relationships every day unless they are married or live together and can't financially avoid sharing living space. In our world of Adult Perks, we date someone, we break-up, we get sad, but we don't see that person. They're out of our lives. The ones least ready to deal with intense emotions get that job. I'm not sure why we expect them to handle it appropriately and then get mad at them when they screw up what we, ourselves, likely would have screwed up at their age and our age because that shit is messy no matter how old you are.

Denial is a powerful force. It can and will keep parents and families from seeing things that are disturbing or upsetting which is the only way I can make sense out of a lot of things that cross my path. Hearing of a girl who wanted to be invisible to hide from an ex-boyfriend is sad, but nowhere near as sad as hearing about girls actively destroying other girls. The words "Bitch, Slut, Whore" can and will shred even the most confident girl. And hearing those words from other girls - girls who they may have considered friends - is abhorrent especially when they are doing so in defense of the perpetrator of violence against said girl.

So maybe pay a little more attention to your girls relationships. Get to know who they talk about, try to actively participate in your teens and pre-teens (drama in elementary school is totally intense) social lives by being open and interested. Be interested, not overbearing. Use their boundaries as a guide and don't start off with a comment that will immediately put them at odds with you. Show them you do pay attention to what they say and that it matters which is why you're able to have this conversation in the first place. 
Ask them questions about themselves then ask what advice their friends gave them and do not tear it apart no matter how awful it is. Be kind when you hear something you didn't expect always - towards your kids and their friends. Shredding their friends to pieces guarantees they will tune you out and be too busy hating you to hear anything helpful or positive you impart. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. You can do this.

It is in small conversations all kids receive life messages about love, violence, heartbreak, the world. You have the capacity and the opportunity to spot an array of issues if you are open to seeing it. You have the power to impart beliefs about human value, and how to treat others and themselves with self-control and compassion. 

Pay attention to the way you treat yourself and other women, it will be seen and documented by your daughters.  Tread carefully to ensure you don't punish the victim when you hear tales of their or their friends relationships with boys or other girls. Give them values to rise up to when they're faced with difficult situations. They can only use what they have been taught.

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