Monday, January 24, 2011
Play: A day in Girl World
Though they live in different towns and go to different schools I have made it my mission to ensure that M really is Big E's BF-F. I make sure that they get together every month or so and with that in mind, I took Big E, Little E and M to the mall to see Tangled this weekend.
Big E and M first met in the toddler room at their daycare when Big E was not even two and M was six months older. That half a year put M a grade ahead in school and a notch higher in sophistication; with each get together that last part seems a little more apparent. This time I noticed it as soon as I picked her up, when her entire conversation with Big E was whispered behind a concealing hand and punctuated with giggles.
And quickly I realized that the open, ingenuous days of pre-school and kindergarten were gone. M and Big E are headed to Girl World.
This became even more clear as we walked through the mall to the theater and M noted that she "loved, loved" the tank top in the window at Old Navy, Big E, whose wardrobe preference is whatever I lay out for her (with special enthusiasm for shirts with cute dogs on them) nodded in solemn agreement. With time to kill before the movie I agreed to take them into the oddly-named Justice for Girls, a tweeny-bopper chain M had deemed "so perfect." The two of them pawed earnestly through the racks and discussed the relative merits of glitter and sequins but gave me a little hope when they blushed and giggled at the racks of festively patterned training bras.
They are hovering at the threshold, singing along expertly to the Jonas Brothers in the car but unself-consciously holding hands all through the mall. M, the second-grader, is a farther gone than first-grader Big E. She wears Ugg boots to Big E's OshKosh snow boots and dishes out plentiful advice of varying value. To Little E: "Never start smoking. It's a terrible habit." (So true!) To Big E: "You should always hang all your hair over your shoulder and tilt your head like this." (Impractical and not terribly becoming...) Little E, I fear, is not as far behind as I would hope; recently she gravely announced that she would be giving up red as her favorite color, as it was time for her to like pink.
It is not just that it is bittersweet to watch Big E growing up, it is that I remember my own years in Girl World and I worry. I'm hoping that the extensive character education curriculum at her school will spare her some of the girl-on-girl nastiness that was business as usual in my elementary school. Just last week she chatted about empathy with a level of understanding that I think I only developed myself in the last few years. I feel cautiously optimisitic on this front, but even if the girls manage to play nice, there's still all the rest.
There are movies like Tangled, which, while enteraining, sent some dubious messages. For example, when the woman who says she's your mother tells you she knows what's best for you, you may find that she's simply an evil old lady who stole you from your real mother, a sweet, beautiful, eternally-young queen. Or, when you meet a roguish bad boy, you will effortlessly charm him and with love and understanding reveal his heart of gold and, naturally, live happily ever after. Neither outcome is very likely in my experience. Oh, and there's long blond hair is magical and when it is not, it turns brown. (Note to Big E: Your long blond hair will turn brown, and hopefully you'll manage more gracefully than I did when it happened to me.)
Of course nothing in Tangled even compares to the trailer we watched for the upcoming Disney teen movie Prom, which proclaims that prom night is "about who you are" and "who you are going to be." Thank God this movie didn't exist when I attended my own prom, which would have spoken very unflattering about who I was and augered terribly about who I was to become.
At the end of the day, after the girls had insisted that we stop to watch enviously as girls not much older than they flirted with the camera and swayed to bad techno at a "Model and Talent Search" in the food court, we headed to back to the car. There I struggled mightily to wedge the three of them in the back seat with a car seat and two boosters. And though M happily chirped that she hadn't used a booster in years, I continued to mutter G-rated curses under my breath and search for the seatbelt socket.
I had a government-approved product that promised to protect these girls. I have a feeling that it won't be that simple in the years to come, and I wasn't about to give it up that easily.