On Watching Girlhood Fade


I believe in patent leather shoes. Cartoon band-aids. Sleepaway camp. The long, coast after you shed your training wheels and before your first lesson in driver’s ed. 

I have been an agent of Girlhood, splashing around in the 3 ft. level of the pool, fully immersed in the game, crying out and suddenly realizing no one was matching my Marco with a Polo. I glimpsed Girlhood riding off on the horizon for other girls. I was clinging to it, playing school in the basements of my friends, passing notes and trading secrets in our own little huddle.

I remember when everyone’s bathing suits started to change, the filling out and filling in and the tuck and the plunge and I was no kind of ready. My growth spurt was never up, it was only out.

Now, I am watching The Girlchild who lives with me board the growth spurt train. I add an extra bathing suit for her to the online Target cart. She will need two for sleepaway camp. She favorites one; I explain the plunging neckline and how it may not be the most comfortable for her. As if comfort were a major theme of becoming a young woman. I tell her this - all this - will not necessarily be comfortable, but it will be manageable, and I mean it.

She has questions about herself and there is acrylic paint all over her legs. Her dreams are so big and she swings between one and the other and oh, yes, her eyes alight at that other possibility there covered in paint. I am willing her dreams to be as outsized as she will allow them. I am willing her a future unrestricted by jeans size or the number of followers or likes. I will wrestle the world’s measuring stick with my own bare hands if I must. I will hide it from even myself.

The other night we were riding the subway home The Girlchild and I. In my wisdom, I had told her to bring a book in case we were waiting at the station for awhile.

A woman sitting across from us was YELL-INGG. I trusted that I would get to hear EVERY-THINGGG that “Bro” kept calling her about even after he (allegedly) hung up and called back. The YELL-ING lady kept repeating it wasn’t her problem (it was) and she was trying already (allegedly), trying to get her $*#!ng card to work but nothing would $*#!ng work 

Meanwhile on the other side of the car the guy with the ear buds and the tattoos lamented on his phone that he couldn’t find Anybody EN-KNEE-BUH-DEE on Facebook anymore.

The Girlchild was reading and thumbing the same page of Percy Jackson. She said it was her first time reading the book, though she had listened to the audio version already. She admitted she was glad which she had, since she knew how to pronounce the brother’s name properly, Chiaron, pronounced “KEER-an.”

It strikes me now that this is one way we navigate the transition of our lives, the transferring from the girlhood train to the one that only women are fit to ride. We look and we listen and we absorb; the world presents itself as a text. It is a mercy and a gift that we then get to write our own chapters, though sometimes casting a different set of characters in a completely distinct setting than the one chosen for us.

I had felt fearful, even as near as the beginning of summer, for The Girlchild to turn the page. Fearful of what she might discover about the cruel world, about her incompetent parents, about her unadulterated self. I am reminded once more that we are reading and writing this text together, riding a rumbling subway, absorbing the input, synthesizing what all will become the story of how this momentum continues, with a denouement that is well beyond our sightline.

I still believe in the sanctity of Girlhood, and she still exists in peeks these days like the fireflies that the Girlchild spent so many summer nights chasing after. (And I hope she always does.)

Shifting Seats with my Tween

I am not sure whether my ten year-old is an aberration from the species of tweenus humanas but she has become a creature that is largely incomprehensible.

Something Changed this past year and by that I mean Everything Changed.

Although the years prior had been rife with giggles and craftmaking, curiosity and general chumminess, the Tween who now lives with me is an unpredictable force of nature.

The field research, as I understand it, runs long on this species.

The Tween, it appears, is not a creature that evolves in a way that is linear or even progressive. The Tween can be inexplicably mercurial in temperament. Sometimes she is fully independent and categorically dismisses the wearing of pink or frills, and other times she is not sure why I would deduce she’s too old for “My Little Ponies” and really-- why would I think that? Tween does not often offer clues as to how her needs can be met. For example, when I say The Wrong Thing on Monday, I am not confronted about The Wrong Thing until several Mondays henceforth at which point I have blithely been thinking everything had been forgiven, all the while a large fortress had been under construction around The Threat of the Wrong Thing Being Said Again, and the fortress is now fully armed with emotional explosives that can detonate at any time.

Dear God, it’s me, Kendra. Can you hear me? Because I need you to translate some things down here on the earth plain.

In fact, Tween terrain has felt to me like utter displacement. Much like waking up one day and learning that the house you had been living in for the last ten years had been transported right in the middle of a busy intersection. The rooms and furniture in your house were still all the same, everything inside was just as you had left it, but now you would have to get used to horns blaring and sirens wailing just outside your window, and the fun daily escapade of playing frogger just to get to your front door. The vessel is the same. But the traffic pattern and the sights and sounds have changed radically. You can’t go back to your old address. You can’t move to a new house. You have to learn to live within the familiar confines in unfamiliar territory.

Instead of leaning in to my own feelings of displacement, though, I have found a more helpful posture to be that of shape shifting. I cannot expect the evolving vessel that is my Tween to explain to me what is happening with her since, hello? She is going through it. But I can try to understand what it must be like to have your feelings and hormones and body and mind all learning a new tango at once.

Recently I put Tween in charge of decorations at our church VBS. Friends, I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for the staggering creativity and ingenuity she infused into everything. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I unintentionally stepped on when I rearranged the fluffing of plastic bags on the waterfall. But swtiching roles, making her the boss of me in a sense was just the Freaky Friday role-reversal I needed to help me see this complex world through Tween’s eyes. It’s a prescription --and a privilege--I hope not to ever lose.

Boston Roller Derby: I was not prepared

3 Things for which I was prepared when we went to see the Boston Roller Derby this past weekend: 1. I bought the Groupon. Wise move, Kendra. Where else can you buy a family four-pack of tickets for your hot li'l Saturday night for $32 (!?!) whilst supporting women in sports? I ask you.

2. I also knew about the clever name game of all the players, probably thanks to Whip It!. I have to say my favorite from the Wicked Pissahs was probably Anita Pierogi. Just yelling that name out in public. Comical and probably truthful. Anita Pierogi!! Because who doesn't need a Polish dumpling? Her appellation obviously appealed to my sensibilities. Daughter liked Tara N Tula, whose acquaintance we made after the bout (see below). If I were going to be a roller derby girl, I decided my name would be Betty Rumbles, as a nod to that ol' Flintstone wifey friend, Betty Rubbles, herself.

Roller Derby

3. I was semi-prepared for the body positivity of roller derby in that I had already met the women in Chattanooga Roller Derby and they were all about girl power and the muscles and the inner strength. It was just awesome to see so many women of all different shapes and sizes able to compete with such ferocious intensity. There is a lot of teamwork involved, especially for the defensive blockers, and just watching them caused me to develop bruises all over my imagination. Like ouch, Scoob.

3 Things for which I wasn't prepared at the Derby: 1. There are honest-to-goodness craft booths at the derby. Imagine an ice rink with no ice but in the middle, a bunch of super strong women with adequate padding on rollerskates playing a dysfunctional game of ring-around-the-rosy. You picturing it? At the far end of the rink is a farmer's market but the only goods from the farm are the maple on the maple doughnuts. But around the doughnut table are all these little craft tables. Selling bits and bobs and other notions for dogs and ladies. I DIDN'T KNOW ETSY WOULD BE THERE. I was not prepared for all the merch. Also, there were a couple of great food trucks outside the rink, which is a welcome improvement over your usual sporting event concession fare. Next time I'll know before I go.

2. I was not prepared for the poor audio vibe. I don't know what was happening with the sound in the Simoni Rink but we could not hear anything from the announcer's table. I believe there was some hype music playing throughout, as well, but it was heard at a very low din. I was really hoping there would be some Jock Jams dialing us back to 1993, but we sort of had to make our own good vibrations in the bleachers with our fellow fans. That was my only critique for the event.

3. I was not prepared for how much Daughter would fall head-over-heels in love with Roller Derby, and if her heart was not fully committed by the end of the first bout, this encounter with Tara N Tula of the Harbor Horrors  pretty much etched it there in wet cement. We were both completely enamored of Tara N Tula who promptly told Daughter that she was so hungry after playing so hard that she was prepared to "eat all the pizza and hamburgers and tacos." J'adore!


We can't wait to go back to cheer at the championships in June. Thanks, Boston Roller Derby.