30/11/2012

JUST A GIRL

I belong to a school that is two hundred years old. For a simple seaside town on the south coast, that's considered pretty old. I've never really given it much thought, but I guess Worthing feels the town is very integral to itself and that my school has churned out generations of young women with an imprinted identity. Except for the fact that they call us Davison Girls.

And that's the pertinent question: when will I grow out of being deemed a girl? I'm sixteen, reaching 5"9 and have a clear idea of the world around me. I can talk, walk and use chopsticks. I can list off other attributes or achievements but that would be egotistical and I realise that. I am not the five year old to whom you also pin the word 'girl'.

So, with that said, I wish to address the person who accosted me underneath their breath in the queue of Marks and Spencers. If it was important, he was elderly and male, but I think both gender and age is irrelevant here (and to be honest, always irrelevant) and I don't wish to judge him. For that would be sinking to his level and retaliating to provocation.

Dear the person behind me as I queued to pay at the self service checkouts of a popular retailer,
I am sure you thought you were being helpful by trying to direct me to the nearest self service checkout and, upon getting me to turn around in acknowledgement, were probably disappointed to find that - on closer inspection - it was broken. You apologised and I nodded before turning around to wait for another machine (and whether that lady in front could pull anything else out of her seemingly bottomless shopping trolley - who goes to self-service with a full trolley anyway?). My behavior did not require you to make a loud, pointed comment about "what a lovely smile that girl gave me.. honestly not an advertisement for the school at all. What ever happened to 'once a davison girl, always a davison girl?'" and continue to grumble incomprehensibly behind me. I was thoroughly embarrassed. Not in an "oops my ankle length skirt (navy blue and obligatory) is twisted into my pants" embarrassed, but in an abjectly isolated and insecure way. Who gave you that right to assess my attitude on the Friday afternoon of a disastrous week?

Was it my uniform? Was it the fact that I didn't thank you or smile? Was it that I'm a young person? I don't owe you anything for walking around in an instantly recognisable blue uniform. The school I belong to has absolutely nothing to do with my personality, it's not interlinked with my identity in any way. You can not generalise every female teenager simply because of what crest they have on their breast. If I was in the school uniform of the all-boys school would you expect me to be constantly smiling? Because I am not going to be gracious and thankful all the time. I won't be apologetic or ashamed that I have an equal right to be in this line next to you without being judged more harshly than any other woman in the vicinity. Being smiley, unassuming or immediately loving/trusting is not a debt I have to pay to anyone for occupying the space marked 'girl'. I don't really mind if you call me 'girl', but I have the biggest problem with you treating me like a child; like I am less important than you and doing something wrong by just being there and existing. I refuse to perform because you have a nostalgic image in your mind of who I must be because of what I wear, or any way in which I present myself externally.

Lastly, accept my apology if you were having an bad day. Yet, somehow, I doubt it. I feel like I'm not the first person you thought needed your opinion on how they act and how that makes you feel.

Sincerely, me.

This may be hypocritical, for I expressed my opinions here at the expense of someone else and maybe I did retaliate. But I really needed to. I kept quiet at the checkout because I couldn't condense my indignation into something coherent and polite; and I don't regret that because I don't need to justify why there is or isn't a smile on my face or a skip in my step.

If I was Taylor Swift, I would write this down in a song but, unfortunately, I am me and this is the best I can do.

Have a lovely weekend.

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