Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why It's OK To Act Your Age

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I’m obsessed with Christie, you know the black Barbie doll. Me, a married, sometimes spoiled, all right often self-spoiled 41-year old African-American mother of four. So far, no one has stepped up to claim one of my other favorites, Smurfette, nor have I seen a celebrity cooking with an Easy Bake Oven or crazed with my o.g. love, Betty Boop. Let me first start by saying that I make no apologies for loving all of my childhood icons. I’ve collected many of these favorites since my teens and have no intentions of stopping. That being said, with Hello Kitty seemingly taking over the world by way of Target, Walmart and Apple products. I’m growing a bit concerned of the messages we are sending to our young girls.

As a population that is already bombarded with mixed messages, our young black girls need consistency from the women in their lives more than ever. We constantly tell our girls that it is not appropriate for them to dress too old, too fast, too grown up or like us, yet it is perfectly okay for us to dress like them? I don’t think so. On some level it may be cute to dress like our younger counterparts, but outside of Halloween we shouldn’t be clothed like someone we are decades older than.

Read: A Black Girls Guide From Fear To Freedom

Everywhere I turn I’m slapped in the face with an image from my childhood on a grown woman, her car, her phone, or of her talking about one of the figures. For a minute I thought it was cute, but no longer. As one of these very women that refuses to lounge or go to bed without my Hello Kitty stuffed cat touching my body, I get it. I just worry that we are confusing our young daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins and friends. How are they ever supposed to learn what is age appropriate if we keep blurring the lines?

Imagine how confused our girls might feel when one minute we say, “your top is too tight or your pants sit too low on your waist,” while we are parading around the house in character clothes head-to-toe. And the marketing of the products feeds right into our adult mindset of wanting to be both youthful and sexy. This explains the low v-neck shirts and the barely there shorts or second skin loungewear pants with the character images strategically placed. If you are not paying attention it’s easy to believe you are buying an innocent article of clothing. You are not. The very person you’re trying to instill proper values in is carefully watching you and how you look in these so-called innocent clothes and suddenly you might as well have on the same tight outfight you told her she couldn’t buy a few weeks earlier.

Read: What Message Are You Sending Little Girls?

Everything in life has a cycle. If you rush through the cycle you are bound to repeat it. Sure it may look like fun to be grown and play like a kid, but I would much rather to have completed my cycle as a young girl and had a lot less spinning as an adult.

This is a case of just because we can buy something, doesn’t always mean that we should. I know it’s fun and tempting to pick up adult sized Hello Kitty items in the store. And, what former fan wouldn’t fantasize for a moment about having an all Hello Kitty kitchen or bathroom? But the truth of the matter is my time for that has passed. I don’t want to send my daughter mixed messages, so it’s best I don’t buy it for myself. Every moment is a teachable moment the same way you can learn something daily if you are open to it. I will remind my young counterparts that I rushed into womanhood to soon ditching my Barbies, Hello Kitty, Smurfette and Easy Bake Oven. I won’t be returning anything to the store and I’m still going to rock my pajamas.  But, what I will do from now on is pay close attention to what I am buying and the message it could send to the young girls in my life.

Read: A State of Emergency For Black Girls

-Sharisse T. Smith

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