Near the end of the fifth grade, I received a copy of the Student Handbook for the Middle School. Being a studious child, I read the entire thing – just to make sure I knew the rules. And in that handbook, I learned about the dress code, which stated that all girls are required to wear… bras!
Now, I needed to wear a bra about as much as my second grade brother, but that hardly mattered a bit! Rules are rules, after all. It never occurred to me that the rule might be there simply to allow selective enforcement with girls that needed to be wearing them but were not. I very calmly approached my mother and told her that I needed some bras. She responded that I did not. I confidently presented the handbook and said, “See! See right here! It clearly states that girls are required to wear bras!” With a rather exasperated tone, she reminded me that I didn’t actually need a bra. I responded that it didn’t matter. I was required to wear them and we needed to go get some so I could practice wearing them. She relented.
Some time later, I told her I wanted to shave. She tried to talk me out of it, saying that once you start shaving, you can’t really stop. You’ll have to shave all the time, even if you get tired of it, which you will. Just wait. Wait a little bit longer. Please… I did not.
Girls are always in such a hurry to grow up, to be woman. My mother should count herself lucky. I was in middle school when I asked to shave. My daughter didn’t ask. I caught her in the shower with my shaving gel spread all over her leg. She was in the third grade. Fortunately, she’s a child that responds well to guilt. I caught her in time and explained in a very stern voice that she was not to try that again without getting permission. Sometime in the fourth grade, I gave in and she began to shave. By fifth, she was asking for… and needing… those dang bras.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised. No, I shouldn’t have been surprised during this first week of sixth grade when she sat down next to me on my bed and asked, “Mommy? Why can’t I wear mascara?” I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I’m not sure a mother is ever really ready for the next step. “Because you are only in the sixth grade.”… “But some of the other girls wear mascara.”… “And others don’t.”… “But why can’t I?”… “Because we haven’t talked about it and I’m not going to make that kind of decision right now. We’ll have to discuss it later.”
That’s what we call a stall tactic. It just delays the inevitable march of time for a bit longer. Because I know that just like my mother’s pleas to wait went unheeded, mine will too. I will eventually give in to this, because really, how can she understand the reason? She won’t understand “because I want you to be my little girl just a little bit longer” until she finds herself in my role. And then, of course, it will be too late.