For the Girls Learning to be Women, by Milly Pinkos
To the Women in Process,
We are taught many things, not all of them good. We’re taught to be polite (good), to be accommodating (sometimes good), to not cause a stir or a fuss or a hoopla (good on occasion). Most of the time, we are taught to do or not do things in relation to men. Don’t interrupt, don’t raise your voice, don’t be difficult. These “guidelines” are all designed to keep us in line. But in this, the year of our Beyoncé, 2017, we are finding our voices. So this is for the girls who are learning to be women, be they 18 or 28 or 48. We all have something to learn about ruling the world.
Let’s start with something small.
As someone who is now living in New York City, I have been fascinated by man-spreading. I count the number of men who spread their legs wide while on the subway, sometimes taking up more than one seat. A friend recently took a picture of a man across from her to show me: THREE SEATS HE TOOK UP. THREE. So I say if a guy is man-spreading next to you, man-spread right back. Do it. It’s extremely uncomfortable to touch your leg to the limb of a stranger, I know, but fight for your space, lady! Don’t let this be a boy’s game. We as women have just as much right to be here, taking up transportation real estate, as men do. We have the ability to create and foster life, so we damn well can enjoy the simple act of sitting comfortably. Never forget that. You inhabit this earth too.
Let the idea of “not caring” and any negative connotations of that phrase become something else in your mind.
It’s going to be your new favorite trend (kinda). I don’t mean stop caring about school and assignments, or your job or your family, or personal hygiene (especially that one). I mean not caring about what people think. Living your life according to what you think they think is toxic and frankly, it’s exhausting. There are always going to be sources of negativity in your life, and I have learned that it’s okay to step waaaay back from those sources. Don’t invite someone to a party or gathering if you don’t like them. It’s such a small thing but it makes a world of difference. You need to be your first priority. In a world where everyone is usually out for themselves, you need to do the same. Take care of yourself. The power to feel good and do good is in your hands, and we are so lucky to be able to care for ourselves. “Treat yo self” isn’t just a fun slogan from TV.
Find women you can align yourself with instead of women you compare yourself to.
The importance of an ally that can help you exist in a glowing, soft light is paramount. We need people around us who make us see ourselves in a gentle puddle of flowers, surrounded by greenery and fireflies, the soft giggles of young children tinkling faintly in the background. It’s hard to be a gal and not look at yourself alongside someone, comparing and contrasting. But doing that too much is like inviting the Babadook into your soul; it will take up a dark residence in a corner of your heart that you’ll never truly get a look at, but you’ll 100% know it’s there and, boy howdy, is it bad. Look for people who you can grow with. We are never done growing, and we should never want to be.
Which leads me to my next point:
Don’t be afraid to let yourself change.
I think about that a lot in relation to who I currently am. I really like myself right now. I do finger guns in the mirror. I like my style, my humor, my whole aesthetic. But I know I’m nowhere near done changing and shifting and altering and growing. And even though I’m jazzed about my current self, I know that if it’s who I’m meant to be, my growth will only improve that. Trust that the people you surround yourself with and the people you love, the places you live and visit, will all facilitate a better, stronger you. That probably sounds like bullshit to some people, but I really believe in it.
Listen to Lorde, or an artist that speaks to you. Don’t just listen to meaningless fluff.
Hearing the work of someone who is truthful, eloquent, and poetic and someone who can speak for our generation is empowering. It’s good for those days where growing up feels like too much. But meaningless pop is okay sometimes, too, when you want to bounce on clouds while drinking soda, rather than dig deep into the earth with your bare hands. You know what I mean?
And finally, just let yourself be.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself all the time. Go outside and mess around with sidewalk chalk; you’ll never be too old for it, and the only thing that will change with age is that your artwork will probably get better. Take yourself out to dinner and try a new kind of fish. Buy a painting from an art fair. Advocate for yourself when you need to, and trust me, you’ll know when you need to. Your gut will tell you what is right and what is necessary, so trust yourself. The only way to grow is to learn. Take your time. You have your whole life.