don't compete with the boys

Growing up, I knew my life was out of phase with "Mormon culture."  Both my parents were (are) professionals with advanced degrees. I academically outperformed every boy in our ward (and maybe even most of them in our stake).  For career day in elementary school, I dressed up as a lawyer, skirted twill power-suit and all.  I babysat twice as a youth, and to this day have never changed a diaper.  Instead of babysitting, I bought wholesale balloons (or really my parents did the buying), fliered the neighborhood, and made bank twisting animal balloon for parties.  I went to a private college-prep high school.  These are small metrics, but that's really the only way you can measure childhood and teenager-dom.  The point is: I was driven in areas that Mormon girls tend not to be, and apathetic in the areas that were culturally emphasized for girls.

One ward conference, all the young men and women were gathered together to be talked at, as tends to happen at conferences, Mormon or otherwise.  Our dear Sister W. made a remark that stuck with me for a very long time.  She was talking about academic stuff, and she says to us girls (with the boys sitting there listening along) "Don't compete with the boys."  I'm sure it could have been interpreted to mean everyone should achieve at their own standard, but then why bring gender in at all?  Sweet and kind as Sister W. was and is, she meant that girls shouldn't compare themselves to boys academically/professionally because either they'd fall short (and they will if you feed them that rhetoric their whole lives) or else it wasn't their place (i.e. they, due to their femaleness, should be more domestically and family focused).  Whatever her reason, it was part advice, part directive, and it infuriated me.  I steamed at church and sobbed for a long time when I finally got home.

It was a long time ago, and I'm very over it.  Forgiveness, healing, repentance of my anger, the whole deal.  And I've changed a lot since I was a kid.  Heck, I'm way more domestic than I'd ever thought I'd be.  I love cooking, crocheting/knitting, and gardening.  I am kindling my quilting skills and have a secret passion for vacuuming.  I've always wanted kids in an abstract sense, but now I actually like playing with toddler-age kids.  (Still wary of the very wee ones, though.)  I haven't lost my drive to achieve at things I enjoy, but I've shed some of the raw material ambition and power-hunger that came with it in the past.  In short, I'm mellower as an adult than I was as a teenager.  Surprise, surprise.

But being over this event (and growing up in general) didn't prevent me from cackling maniacally at the phone call I got today.  Mom and Dad called to tell me they saw Brother and Sister W. at a wedding reception.  They talked about us briefly, how N was in grad school and all.  Then Dad just had say something along the lines: "You know Allison, she just has to compete with the boys.  So she applied to school and now she's getting her PhD too." Stone silence.

No comments: