“Be the person you needed when you were younger.” (author unknown)
It wasn’t until I was an adult, mother of three, that I realized how influential women were in my life. Sadly, upon reflection, I didn’t have a lot of ambitious, like-minded women to learn from. I didn’t even know that I would benefit from “strong female role models.” Nobody ever told me. I had a lot of male role models. But women? Psh. I can’t name a single one that inspired me to do great things. I guess it’s a miracle I’m not a 300 lb housewife that wipes snotty noses and plays games on my phone for mental stimulation.
There were a lot of fascinating men I knew growing up. A lot of them had an impact on me.
My dad. I learned to make to do lists from his neurotic self. Diligent. Fierce work ethic (that I like to think I inherited). Honest.
Mr. E, my first grade teacher. He inspired me to love creative writing. He was firm, but funny. Organized, with the nicest male penmanship I ever saw.
Mr. A, the fiery Irish lawyer in our Mock Trial, who used Socratic seminar tactics to humiliate us and keep us on our toes. I thrived in that environment. He brought out my best self. I worked hard. He made me see things differently. Think differently.
Mr. Q. Kindhearted teacher who could tell stories like no other. He always had time for anyone. “You’re not a Republican,” he told me, laughing after I told him I registered to vote for the first time. “You’re a Democrat.” No, I told him. I most certainly didn’t register as a Democrat. “You’ll come around,” he said, smiling knowingly. He was so right (thank gawd). He’d give you the shirt off his back. I cried as I watched his casket lowered into the ground 10 years after I graduated from high school. I miss him so much.
My husband. He opened my eyes to a lot of things. Politics. Marketing. Pursuing my passion. Fitness and health.
But where are the women? Geez, I think. If I only had some strong, fierce women in my life, I’d be a fucking rockstar right now. If I only had someone to relate to in my youth, to inspire me, nudge me a little further, show me what was possible. I needed FEMALE role models. You know, women who could relate to monthly periods and emotions and obstacles and child rearing and show me how to juggle it all, how to break down barriers and forge the path ahead of future generations.
I start to go through my female “role models.” Who were they? Let’s see…
Mom. What can I say about Mom? We’re complete opposites. She pissed me off a lot growing up. She only read romance novels, and I read serious fiction. She likes to please people. I like to piss them off. She likes to get along with people and not have confrontation. I like to rage against the machine. She shops at Walmart, for crying out loud. Fucking Walmart! How many times do I have to tell her where Walton family spends their money?! No disrespect to Dear Old Mom. We just have different personalities and goals in life.
Teta. My maternal grandmother. Divorced mother of 4. Immigrant. Awesome cook. Nurturer. I’ll tell you what I loved about her: 1) she was a caregiver. She loved taking care of us (especially me…first grandchild…neener, neener, neener 😛 ) Cleaning, cooking, you name it. 2) She was stubborn. I’ll admit half the shit she was stubborn about was pretty stupid. But she could be fierce about her preferences, and that’s something we all need more of. 3) She didn’t need a man. She divorced my grandfather and took care of herself. She was a victim of domestic violence, but that didn’t hold her down. 4) She confided in me that she had an abortion after her fourth kid. Back when it was illegal in most states. I donate to Planned Parenthood now in her name. She was able to choose what to do with her body, and she did. Screw everyone else. She did what was best for her. End of story.
Boss K. I worked for her throughout college. She had good fashion sense. Kind. Smart. Great taste in a wedding ring. Except…she was always catering to her husband (the actual boss). That was okay for them, but not for me. (Don’t hate me, K, if you’re reading this. I totally still love you guys!).
Aunt L. She was my best friend since childhood, up until a family feud ended everything about 6 years ago. She went from being this cool, single aunt who wore fashionable clothes and drove a new car, went to concerts, had lots of friends…to this woman who subjugated herself to her imported husband who treated her like he was some kind of third world king. She literally jumped to make him coffee when he woke up in the morning. She served him his fucking cigarettes. Needless to say, I made sure I married someone who made my coffee.
Neighbor. The woman across the street was a nurse practitioner and a UCLA grad. She liked my brother. She barely talked to me. She was fit, a working mom, and here I was…an impressionable young girl who babysat her kids…and she literally never talked to me. She let her drunk husband do all the talking when it came to me. How disappointing.
Not a single female teacher was a role model for me. Not even in college. Isn’t that sad? I can’t think of one.
Why did I end up connecting with males more than females during my most formative years? Where the fuck were all the female role models? It’s interesting, really. I never really analyzed the impact of male vs. female before. Now I’m wondering if there was an ulterior motive as to why the men were always nicer to me. Shit.
Okay, so here is my CALL TO ACTION.
Women over 25: Be a role model for young girls around you. Talk to them. Share your life (past and present) with them. Encourage them. Be friends with them.
Women under 25: Seek out these potential role models. Talk to older women. Befriend older women. One of the best things I’ve ever done as a young adult was to add women old enough to be my mother (or older) as part of my circle of friends. There is no reason why our friends have to only be our age. Reach out. Keep an open mind. Develop the lifelong learning mentality. We learn from these older women (even if it’s a what-no-to-do lesson).