Prom is this week at our house. As a former high school teacher, I watched Prom bring a lot of insecurities each year. The event is over-rated, very expensive, and full of drama. After the Big Event, kids either forget it or engage in more drama around the unexpected hook-up or break-up. Either way, Prom usually becomes a memory, but one that has to do with being “okay” or “not okay.”
For girls, Prom is full of pressure
- to be a knockout
- to be thin
- to have a date
- to have sex
- to get drunk
- to have the question answered, “Am I acceptable? Am I worthy to be loved?“
Three years ago, I had the privilege to watch my daughter and her friends go to senior prom. Both my daughter and best friend went solo, a commendable feat in the midst of the pressure and drama surrounding the event. While both of them could have gone with any boy, they chose to have fun with their friends instead, while doing the whole girl thing…hair, make-up, nails and sparkly dresses.
While these young ladies went with confidence and a sense of security, there was still the unspoken need for validation and affirmation they somehow would have received had they gone with a date. They know the unwritten rules for young womanhood, rules that are more powerful than words parents can offer. Having your mom say, “You look beautiful” rates up there with “Eat Your Vegetables.” From early on, a girl wants to be a princess, catching the eye of that special someone.
The same week my daughter was primping for prom, I was sitting in a Gender and Sexuality class, discussing the same unwritten rules for grown women. Women were admitting insecurities about the Unwritten Rules they had absorbed since childhood. We ended our class discussion with a concept called the “free woman.” I wondered where that concept is taught in the socialization of girls? How does a woman know what it is to be free?
But as I watched my daughter and her friend confidently attend Prom, something clicked inside my heart.
A free woman is a beautiful woman. For one night, I saw exquisite beauty in two young women who were free. Free to be beautiful, inside and out. While they don’t think it was an extraordinary task, the women watching them took notice. Even the forty-something, we still need a model of being Free.
It’s an impression that will stick, long after Prom Night.
The beauty of being free.
I wonder, how to you teach your girls to be free of the unwritten rules of womanhood?