What I Would Have Said

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I don’t envy the President of the United States.  I’m not big on being responsible for things, which is one of the reasons I outgrew wanting to be a princess pretty quickly.  Princesses have to be queen someday, and that means trying to fix a lot of problems and potentially doing a lot of things wrong.  So no, I’m not in that miniscule fraction of girls who wanted to be President…but that’s because I know my limits.

Not that there aren’t perks to being President.  You get to go all kinds of places, play basketball with George Clooney, and occasionally oversee great moments in world history.  You also get to make somebody’s day – no, their life – just by showing up and surprising them.

Which is why I loved seeing this image of President Obama during an unscheduled, unannounced visit to the Cleveland Boys & Girls Club.  I don’t know what he said to that girl, but I’m guessing she remembers every word of it, and it made me think about what I might say if I was in a position to potentially shape someone’s life like that.

I would have asked her about her school, her family, her community, what she enjoyed and what she hoped to accomplish.

I would have told her she and what she does was worthwhile.

I would have told her she was beautiful.

When I went shopping a few weeks ago, there was a twelve-year-old girl in the dressing rooms trying to find a dress for an upcoming spring party.  Her mom and younger sister were helping out.  The mother had straightened and highlighted hair, she was tan, and wearing Uggs.  I made some judgments in spite of myself and I wondered what sort of mold her children might be trying to fit into, with this magazine-perfect woman for a mother.

I was pleased as punch when the dressing room door opened, revealing a gawky, freckled brunette with a plain ponytail, wearing a bright yellow lacy skater dress and beaming.

“This one, Mom!”

I can’t remember ever being excited about a dress between the ages of thirteen and seventeen.  I was gawky too, and it took armloads of dresses at every department store to find one that was even marginally okay.  The Uggs mom congratulated her, turned in the rejected dresses, and everyone went on their way.  I was pleased not only that the girl had managed to find a dress (because oh honey, I’ve been there), but that her mom, despite what her own uber-trendy style may have said about her, seemed to have no intention of making her daughter wear anything other than what that girl wanted for herself.

It breaks my heart every time I’m out shopping and I hear women in the dressing rooms berating themselves because they don’t fit into a piece of clothing that was designed to fit a certain type of person – it’s not that their body type is wrong, it’s just a different shape.  It sets my teeth on edge when I see how non-white models and actresses are portrayed in magazines, with light, straight hair and even lightened skin.  (Remember when Viola Davis went for natural hair at last year’s Academy Awards?  It caused a lot of controversy, which is patently ridiculous.  Why should one type of naturally-growing hair be any better than another?)  And it makes me want to scream when I find “fitspo” tools like this, promising that when you reach your goal weight, you’ll instantly be hot, when weight loss follows no predictable rules and weight loss in and of itself will not magically make your life better.

So, while I may not be President, I am a writer, and I hope whoever reads this blog is reminded that however she looks, however much she weighs, whatever she wears, she’s worthwhile.

You’re worthwhile, and you’re beautiful.  Please remember that, even if no one else says it to you.

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