I don’t know if you all have read Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans, but it’s been on my “to-read” list for a while. (It was released back in 2010.) I’m still working through it, but the first short story, titled “Virgins,” really engaged me because it made me think about how sad it is that in most cases, it’s very hard for our children to not only hold on to their virginity, but to hold on to their innocence, for as long as they desire to. It seems that they are pressured from an early age to grow up as soon as possible—casting away things of childhood for more adult things.
In “Virgins,” Evans portrays a pair of 15 year-old girls in Mount Vernon, NY who are coming of age in a world where peer pressure and sex surround them in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Even though the narrator desires to make losing her virginity special, she avoids one situation of carelessly giving it away (and possibly being passed around to a few random guys she and her friend meet at a club) only to find herself in another random situation shortly afterwards when losing her virginity seems inevitable. I love the sad, but deep line, “…I did understand then that there was no such thing as safe, only safer; that this, if it didn’t happen now, would happen later but not better” (Evans 25).
The story really makes me think of how hard it is for young girls to hold onto childhood and innocence for as long as they desire to; instead, they are almost forced to let go of childish things when society or their peers tell them to. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with maturing. We all have to grow and mature. This never stops. However, it seems more of a problem to me when we have kindergarteners wearing as much weave as 30-year-olds and preteen girls wearing clothes to their school dance that are more suitable for a 21+ club. What’s happening here? Why is it so uncool to look and act like a kid anymore?
I’ll never forget the moment when I first realized that it was no longer cool for me to play with dolls. My mom and I were in a hole-in-the-wall storefront fast-food place on the Westside of Chicago. I can’t remember how old I was, but I know that I definitely was not in my junior high years yet. Honestly, I don’t think that I was even 10 years old yet. If so, I was a fresh 10, but more likely 8 or 9-years old. I was standing next to my mom with my favorite doll in my hand when this perverted old man walks in looking at me crazy—with a slight hint of lust in his eyes. (I think every young girl knows that look that you can’t quite put a finger on, but you know it’s a look that a grown person shouldn’t be giving a child.) He makes a comment to my mom about how pretty I am and how it’s good she’s got me still playing with dolls.
I stood there thinking, “Wait a minute. What’s he trynna say?” After that moment, I felt a little more hesitant to take my doll places. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. Was I too old to play with dolls now? Did that make me a baby? At that time, I knew what sex was. I knew that I would get a period soon. I knew that my classmates would touch each other behind the coat closet in our classroom when the teacher wasn’t paying attention. I knew there were other girls that were more into boys than I was. Yeah, I had crushes, but some girls were more serious about boys, if you know what I mean. But, it wasn’t until that moment in the dingy-looking fried chicken spot that I started to really question if I was too far behind.
It’s a feeling that I dread for my daughter to have, but I know that it’s probably inevitable that she will. I just hope that when she’s ready to trade her dolls for nail polish and tinted lip gloss that it’s because she wants to and not because some stranger told her it was time.
Do you think there’s anything we can do about our kids growing up too fast? How do you think we should prepare them to confidently into their preteen/teenage years? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook! 😉