There’s a line where the sky meets the sea and it calls me
But no one knows, how far it goes
All the time wondering where I need to be is behind me
I’m on my own, to worlds unknown
–”How Far I’ll Go – Reprise,” Moana
This past weekend, I trained at Common Dreams for the Saturday/Sunday shift, so I got to take off today. I used my free time to visit the DMV and handle some household chores, but I am happy to feel increasingly settled at my new job and in my apartment. After work on Friday, I was drained from a long day of trying to sort through some troubling global affairs, so I went home and watched Moana, a Disney film released last year. (For a fascinating look at how producers navigated culture and criticism, check out “Consider the coconut! The Polynesian myths (and Disney-fications) behind Moana.”) For me, Moana resonated because its main female character seeks adventures and life experiences beyond the limited parameters her father sets for her—similar to Ariel in The Little Mermaid, and Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
After watching the movie, I found myself reflecting on two scenes from my teen years. When I was 14 years old and started researching some journalism and political science programs at prestigious Northeastern colleges, my father said to me, “get your head out of the clouds.” He promptly informed me that I would attend community college first, and if I attempted to go to any out-of-state schools, I would “not get a dime” from him. I channeled his rejection of my ambitions into motivation to study harder and lead as many extracurricular activities as I could manage. Three years later, I accepted a full scholarship to attend Ithaca College in New York State; I told my father about it in the exact place where he had told me to stop dreaming.
So, for anyone who has read this far down the post: Don’t let yourself be held back by the people who don’t believe in you. College was by no means easy, but it taught me the value of perseverance, and the vitalness of finding people who love, respect, and support me. I learned to seek out people who both challenge and encourage me to chase after my “crazy” dreams.
Apparently, last week’s reflection theme was “absurd restrictions forced upon me as a teenager,” because I also ranted about dress codes—and received many wonderful words of encouragement from friends, family, and former teachers. I am including it below.
As I retrieved my apartment keys from my handbag tonight, I couldn’t help but notice that my fingertips brushed against my thighs, so this dress would have violated my high school dress code. It has been a decade since I started high school, yet the policing of my attire apparently remains engrained in my subconscious. I, like almost every woman and girl I know, have struggled with body image issues most of my life…but I have also cultivated a love for fashion, and I use my clothing choices to express who I am and who I wish to be. I remember when a male high school teacher reprimanded me for a skirt that barely complied with the dress code; I remember sweating through short-sleeved tops in 90-degree weather, because we weren’t allowed to wear shirts that showed our shoulders; I remember being relieved that the yoga pants-ban came after I graduated, because as a college-bound 18-year-old, they were my go-to comfort option.
Somehow—despite my visible tattoos, pink hair dye, and “short” dress selection for summertime work attire—at age 24, I have graduated college (which I attended on an academic scholarship), secured full-time employment in my desired career field, and fostered a wonderfully supportive community of friends, family, and colleagues who embrace me for who I am, and what I wear. So, maybe it’s time we stop pulling teenage girls out of classrooms for their “distracting” dresses, and allow them to learn while wearing whatever clothing makes them most comfortable. Eventually, they will have to decide what careers they want to pursue and whether they can live with any requirements that accompany those career fields, but first, LET THEM LEARN WHO THEY ARE AND WHO THEY WANT TO BE.
If they want to pursue careers that involve pantsuits and heels, that’s awesome. If they want to work from home in pajamas, sounds great to me. If they want to work for a company that, like mine, accepts an animal print dress and Birkenstocks, then that’s fantastic…but while teens are trying to figure out what to do with their futures, let’s stop policing their wardrobes and instead focus on encouraging them to be thoughtful, compassionate human beings.
A few more pieces you should read (in addition to mine, which are posted at the bottom):
- ‘I Am a Girl Now,’ Sage Smith Wrote. Then She Went Missing.
- Connecting McCain’s Tragic Diagnosis to Trumpcare ‘Is the Goddamn Point’
- The Fragility of the Western Traveler: Time to (Un)Pack the Colonial Baggage
Weekly Roundup (read all my CD articles here)
Poland’s Lawmakers Are Nuts and Poles Are Mad About It (Update: Shockingly, their far-right president did a good thing and vetoed these awful bills)