The voice from the wall of TVs bounced off a linoleum floor, creating an echo of manufactured sound. As my 10 year old and I weave through the aisles of Target’s electronic section, I began to feel depressed. She was insistent on buying a friend a “Call of Duty” game for her birthday. I had casually said ok to this a few days before, feeling sure we could come up with something more creative, more personal, more interactive, more…anything.
When I saw the cover, and the price, I had no problem saying no. We (I) will not purchase this game. I will not support video violence or the glory of war or the disconnect between shooting something through a screen. But that is another blog.
Coco’s response came without words. Rather the glare of her eyes conveyed her disappointment and disgust. She was telling me I had become outdated, a fuddyduddy; a person out of touch and irrelevant. I remember converting my own mother to this status. I was younger and it was 1977. Dorothy Hamill had won an Olympic gold medal and the heart of every young girl in America. Like many in my kindergarten class, I chopped my hair to look just like hers. Really it was a glorified bowl cut requiring a curling iron to finish the ends. While shopping with my mother, I noticed “Dorothy Hamill Shampoo” which of course I needed to perfect my look. My mother refused to waste the money so I staged a sit-in right there in aisle 7 of the store. My mother, always sensible and strong, left me there to finish her shopping. Once her purchases were complete, she came back to see if I was coming home with her or staying with the comfort a bottle of shampoo could provide. It was lunchtime so I begrudgingly headed to the green station wagon, defeated and annoyed. She didn’t get it, never would.
What I didn’t realize was she did know. She knew what it was like to put hope in a product only to be denied access or worse yet, disappointed by it’s failure to live up to the marketing promises. What my mother was subtly teaching me was to trust in myself. It didn’t feel like that at the time but looking back I can see she was showing me I am so much more than what I buy or what my hair looks like.
And thank God she did. Because middle school and magazines and society have been trying to beat this lesson out of me for 37 years. Don’t get me wrong, I like things. They are shiny and fun and pretty. I made a career out of marketing. I like fashion and style and I firmly believe in a need to express oneself through these attributes. But if you put too much stock in these things, you will end up losing your own compass.
Today I found a quote from Lupito Nyong’o of 12 Years a Slave from before her Oscar win. It sums up everything I want to teach my girls. It is everything I want to live and embrace and surround myself with. It is why Nyong’o can win an Oscar in the first role she has ever played on the big screen. It is Truth. Here is the link to the whole speech but what she speaks to is the lesson on beauty her own mother taught her. She says: “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you. Beauty is not a thing you can acquire or consume. It is something you have to be. What actually sustains us is compassion.”
That is what my mother was saying to me in aisle 7. And that is what I am trying to say to Coco in the electronics department and every other day of the year. If not buying a war game means your won’t be cool, then so be it. If speaking up for yourself makes you unpopular, oh well. If our family rules don’t align with others, you can blame me. It may have been more eloquent if I had a british accent for delivery.
Coco and I ended up purchasing the movie Pitch Perfect and some candy for her friend. There are some swear words in it and I think one character is recovering from bulimia. I wish we had put more effort into finding something less generic, something with more of a soul. At least this choice has a cappella singing and the story comes full circle on an over-controlling Queen Bee who gives way to creativity. It was a step in the right direction.
I know my daughter is convinced I am sabotaging her ability to be cool. I vacillate between having principals and being tired. Will my “No” make a difference in the kind of people I raise? Hopefully. Perhaps one day they will see they aren’t road blocks but stepping stones. I don’t begin to think she will thank me. But she may, eventually, understand why.