A frown creases her face, her eyes look at me like I've stuck a knife through her heart and her voice cracks a bit. She's nine and I've just told her no to some thing she wants... not a big thing... maybe even something I should say yes to. A walk, painting our nails, reading a book but for whatever reason, I'm tired and I just can't right now. Just. Not. Right. Now. Which kind of becomes just not ever and there goes those guilty feelings. Again.
Shonda Rhimes' TED talk rings in my head, a year of yes. Even if it's only for 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 30 seconds, just say yes. Then I get bitter because we aren't all Shonda Rhimes and don't have a couple million dollars sitting in the bank to cushion us if we fall so the words shoot out of my mouth before I can stop them.
"Don't be drama." Her gaze falls to the ground, she mumbles sorry, and saunters off like I've just broken what was left of her tiny heart. My heart hurts just recalling this moment, I say moment but it happens far more often than I'd like to admit.
I have to remind myself (once again) that these are her formative years. I need to listen to her even when I can't even listen to my own thoughts any more. Someday she will be a teen and I will be dying for her to talk to me, ask me to go on a walk, to paint nails and giggle over ice-cream.
So here it is, me confessing that I feel like a terrible mom and then ruminating on those words I spit out so quickly yet hated hearing, and dare I say, words that scarred me.
You've all heard it and most likely have said it... drama. We associate it with girls. Girls who cry, girls who scream, girls who throw fits and on and on and on. What we are really doing is disassociating emotions as to quench what we don't want to feel or deal with in the moment and in turn teaching girls that if they speak their mind, if they say what they want, and if they make a big deal out of anything, they are in turn creating drama.
This brainwashing of our young women is terrifying to me and heres why. I was always told I was drama... from the time I can remember. If I cried when I was upset, if I asserted myself, if I stated an opinion that wasn't in line with those around me... I was drama. It became the word we used to describe other girls as well. I heard it from adults, I heard it on TV, I hear it constantly.
Telling girls they are drama in turn creates a sense of them having to do everything in their power to not be drama. To be quiet, to take the verbal abuse of those around her who berate her for her emotions, to fold her hands and sit quietly while the men talk.
While extreme, I can't help but remember when I was 16. I lied to my mom and went to my friends boyfriends house instead of to her moms place. We partook in bad decisions and inhibition altering consumables. I flirted with a boy and eventually started making out with him. He took me to a back bedroom and as we started kissing he began to unbutton my pants. I tried to push his hands away and I said no... Tears slipped from my eyes as I laid there whispering no while he continued until he came. He rolled off of me and I sat up immediately. A million thoughts ran through my head but the most prominent was that I had been invited here by my friend and this was her boyfriends friend and I couldn't be drama.
I wiped my eyes, put it all away, slapped a smile on my face and went out of the room. I couldn't call my mom because I had lied, I couldn't tell anyone because ... because I didn't want to be drama. Years later after being date raped I still find myself a bit scared to even use the term. I have no right to the word "rape." It's not as if someone broke into my home, pulled me out of a car, or did some other violent act accompanied with non-consent sex. I lied, I made bad decisions, and for a long time, I thought being date raped was my punishment for those decisions. Maybe a piece of me still does... I don't know.
Here's the thing, I've seen it several times in my adult life as I work with students. A girl gets physically or verbally assaulted and she has to fight a system that is already set against her. Either she doesn't know who to tell or she is too scared of being "drama." When she does assert herself she is faced with all those questions like "well he recently broke up with you, is this why you are saying these things?" or "you didn't seem to mind when you were kissing him a week before, what's changed?" and my favorite "what were you wearing when the incident happened?"
I, myself, have pointed out things that should be changed or that are unfair in a system and I am told to be quiet, not to rock the boat, this is just how things are. The sad thing is, society has even pitted us against each other. While boys are bullied by other boys, girls are bullied by girls and boys. The minute a female starts doing well those around her are there to bring her down. When a women finds a "good man" we are taught other women will seek him out and try to lure him away.
It's like ingrained in us from the time we are born and we are continually told over and over that we can't stand up to these things because the minute we do we are creating drama. We continuously tell women to stuff their emotions, put up a front, and basically become something that is the opposite of their genetic engineering. Women are, by nature, nurturers. And we need nurturers in this society, today, right now.
As I sit here and watch my daughter play with my son I can see her teaching him, talking him through problems as they solve a puzzle, and teaching him the right way to do something and I think to myself how dare I ever say she is drama. She is magnificent. Her emotions make her human. When she cries at the news of an animal being tortured or a person being killed, that's not drama, that is empathy and it is severely lacking in our society today. When she is disappointed because I won't take her on a walk that's ok because she is allowed to feel disappointment.
Her infinite wisdom draws me to the only conclusion that can come of this. I must stop saying she is drama, we must all stop telling girls they are drama because when we do we rob them of their voice and we instill instead the fear of telling the truth which is why so many women are victims of rape, domestic violence, and verbal abuse not only by the men they love but also by the men they work with.
I don't know about you but that is just way to much drama for me!