Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hey Girls: Dream Big! (But dream little too)

I've been reading a lot lately about the pressures put on today's girls to be the all-around perfect teen: get the best grades, excel in sports or arts, and look like a runway model while doing it all. Since I design clothes for girls that are positive and inspiring, I'm always telling girls to "Dream Big," encouraging them to set their goals high and try their best to reach them. Today I'd like to emphasize the importance of "Dreaming Little" too.

When I was a teen, my dream was to become a novelist. I graduated high school and went on to study journalism in college, feeling that so many of my author heroes began as journalists, that if I followed in their footsteps and did well, I'd become a novelist too.

After college, I moved to New York City, got a job in broadcast journalism, and on the side wrote a novel. I spent two years working on a historical fiction novel set in the 1930's Florida Keys around the time of a real-life disasterous hurricane that took place there. I even went to the Keys and interviewed long-time residents and local experts to make my story authentic. And after two years of toiling over it, I began to edit and discovered was baaaaaadddddd. Really, truly, genuinely unpublishable. Sure it had some good parts. Some of the characters were good. In some parts the writing worked well. I thought the premise was a good one (still do), but overall, it didn't come together. Afterward, I tried writing and submitting many short stories, poems, plays -- you name it. In came rejection after rejection. I was a capable writer, but not an outstanding one. Maybe years from now I'll be able to write and publish a good novel -- but most likely not. I know that now and accept it.

So then what? I had kept my day job, thank goodness, so I wasn't a starving artist. I pursued my passion of sailing. I met a great guy and married him, and we both achieved our dream of having a family. And now I've started a business, which is another dream of mine. These last few dreams are ones many people share. They're pretty common. I call them little dreams. They won't bring fame and fortune, but they bring me a great deal of happiness.

And that's my point. As my daughter grows, I will continue to encourage her to follow her dreams, as grand as they may be. I will do whatever she needs me to do to help her achieve them. But I also will teach her about the importance of having little dreams too. Actually, to have many dreams -- as many dreams as she can! If all of them come true--wonderful! But if some of the big ones (or little ones) don't, then that's okay. Accept it, and move on to making another dream come true. Just as long as she has some dreams and can realize some of them, then I think she'll be okay. And I think that's an important point to make for girls (and boys) everywhere. Only a few of the thousands of school-age athletes or actors or artists ever go on to become professionals. But that's okay. Just because you don't play professional soccer doesn't mean you can't play soccer at all and enjoy it. And if we teach girls to have many dreams -- big, medium-sized and little -- then we'll teach them to rebound from the hard knocks in life and still be happy.

'Til next time,

Friday, April 17, 2009

Did the Superwomen Create the Supergirls?

When I was in 4th grade, my teacher told my parents that I had to go to college. I remember my parents -- my mother, especially -- being proud of this acknowledgment of my learning potential. Apparently, Mrs. Ortman didn't make that recommendation for every girl in the class. Nowadays, it is expected that most kids will go to college. In fact, the accomplishments of previous generations of women have opened nearly all doors for girls everywhere to pursue anything they put their minds to. Some people are now arguing that -- unlike boys -- today's girls might be at risk of developing an anxiety unique to their generation's myriad potential. A new book titled "Supergirls Speak Out" by Liz Funk addresses the problems caused by the current class of overachievers. Like the Superwoman of the '80s and '90s who managed to handle school and work while raising a family, today's Supergirl is expected to excel in everything: academics, sports, social life, and look like a runway model while doing it all. 20-year-old Funk writes from an insider's perspective, bemoaning the fact that she didn't publish her first book until age 20. Today's girls -- unlike my grandmother's, my mother's and even my own generation (I'm 35) -- can do anything. But that doesn't mean they should do everything. Some women embrace the Superwoman persona; but many do not. Maybe its up to those of us who've had a taste of the Superwoman life to teach our daughters and other girls that it's one thing to be super, but quite another to be overextended. My mother wanted to to excel, but she also wanted me to take the time to enjoy life and be happy. Maybe my mom really was the Superwoman after all!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Wear Eyeliner

I picked up a copy of a local parenting publication this week and was shocked by a full page advertisement I saw for a spa. What shocked me, you ask? Well, this wasn't any old spa -- this was one for girls 5 AND UNDER. Yes, you read that right -- a spa for toddlers and preschoolers. This company specializes in hosting parties that include -- for a base package of $34.95 per girl -- a special hair updo, makeup application, manicure, a 15-minute walk on a runway, cake and a special goodie bag including more makeup, glitter and a photo to capture memories of the special experience. This company offers services for tweens and grade-school-aged girls, however this ad specifically was targeting pre-schoolers. As the mother of a toddler girl, I am afraid -- very afraid of the kinds of things I might face in the years ahead. Are these "princess packages" creating negative images in our daughters' minds or are they harmless? Is it just a day of fun, or does it create a lasting impression on our girls that this primping and perfecting is what they need to be real girls & women? That you always should be made up, done up as much as you can, or else your just not worthy of being called a princess? Last week, an article ran on called "Generation Diva," about the very same subject. Author Jessica Bennett posed these questions and others and pondered what this "diva-fication" will do to girls' images of themselves. Will a girl raised on mani/pedis be getting Botox at twenty, facelifts at 30, and then Prozac at 40? Will the never-ending search for perfection be taken to new extremes by the next generation? The article stated that tween girls are bombarded with an average of 500 advertisements a day, many of them concerning how a woman can gain a little bit more perfection physically. That's the reason I started my company, Gis4Girl, is to let girls know that they are already fabulous and beautiful just the way they are. I don't really have a problem with girls wanting to be princesses -- playing dress up in pretty dresses can fun. And maybe they want manis and pedis and make up because they see mom doing just that. But I can't help but feel that a party including makeup application and strutting down a runway is just a bit too much for someone 5 and under. Be a princess for a day, fine. But girls: be a scientist, an athlete, an adventurer, a reader and writer, an artist, a doctor, a creator, and be yourself every other day after that!

Til next time,


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

That's Right: Throw Like a Girl!!!

I attended the park with my daughter during the past week. It was nice finally to get outside after what has seemed to be never-ending wintry weather! A father and his son stood nearby playing catch. The boy--about four or five years old-- was doing his best and his father was trying his hardest to encourage his son to improve. However, one comment struck a nerve: the father shouted at one point, "You're throwing like a girl!" Oh no! Not that!! The boy immediately changed his stance, gritted his teeth and tried harder to impress. Because, heaven forbid he throw like a girl! No boy wants that! No waaaayyyy!! I wondered: would comments like that help boys form negative impressions of the opposite sex in other ways? To throw like a girl is to throw weakly. To run like a girl is to run slowly. Doing something like a girl is then associated with being inferior. Would this kid grow up to believe that women are inferior in ways not related to physical strength? I'm not sure. I hope not. I grew up believing I was equal to males. I didn't realize some people thought otherwise until I was in my 20's. Maybe I was sheltered, but it was a wonderful world to grow up in! I excelled. I followed my heart. I went to college. After that, I moved to New York City. No one tried to stop me or tell me I couldn't or I wasn't strong enough, because even if they had, I wouldn't have believed them. I grew up believing that I could do anything a boy could do, and maybe even do some things better. I still believe it. Hopefully girls and boys everywhere can grow up believing it too.

'Til next time,

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