Monday, April 23, 2012

Louisa May Alcott, personal affirmations, and nausea

I was nine when I first read Little Women; I wept copiously when Beth died. Her goodness and gentleness inspired me to make a little sign for my desk at school to remind me to be as good as Beth, and as silly as it was, I was in earnest:
    "Be nice and
     be kind and
     don't forget to
     always mind!"

Fast forward to 2012. Kids decorate their school notebooks with stickers, photos, song lyrics, notes, all manner of personal touches slid under the plastic cover. But my stomach lurched when I read a little sticky note one girl had written to herself:
   "Dear Me,
       You are the sexiest one that walked the earth."
                   Love, Me"
Aside from the unmatched grammatical tense, just the idea that, at thirteen, sexiness was her highest aspiration made me feel queasy and sad. 

Such is the pressure on girls to please and attract the opposite sex. 

I think everyone who teaches elementary school and middle school should see Thirteen (2003), directed by Catharine Hardwicke, about the pressures of modern thirteen year olds. What's stunning about this film is it was mostly written by one of the teenage stars of the film. It is not easy to watch. But maybe raising teens isn't easy, either.  

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