The (Not) Dad Letter: Part 1

Today’s letter comes from Rebecca McCracken, who is (Gasp!) a GIRL!!! The mother of one and a half year old Emily can write a bit though, so temporarily excuse the shift in format to accommodate her skills. This is the first of a two part letter- we’ll post the rest later this week.

Rebecca McCracken
A resident of Portland, Oregon, Rebecca spends most of her time trying to keep her toddler not dead from dangerous games such as “Rip Kitty’s Tail Off” and “Climb the Baby Gate/Couch/Crib/Front Door Like a Monkey.” Rebecca could lie and say that in her free time she enjoys pretending to know how to cook, dabbling in photography and reading books about forensics, but really she can barely get off the couch and put on real people clothes. She definitely doesn’t want to go back to work or anything.

Part I: Where the mother side of me forbids you from wearing that skirt

Dear Emily,

There are going to be things you’re going to disagree with in terms of how your father and I raise you. We’re going to be the meanest, the worst, the strictest and you’ll hate us forever and ever. We’re going to mess up, we’re going to make mistakes. The one thing I hope we do right is shaping how you feel about yourself as a young woman.

As your mother, I have a unique perspective on this that your father doesn’t: I know how hard it is to be a girl. There’s going to be so. much. pressure. on you to dress a certain way, wear certain brads, style your hair in a specific way… And anyone who tells you this shouldn’t matter to you and it’s what’s on the inside that counts is obviously a grown-up and has forgotten what it’s like to be a child.

Luckily for you, I remember it very, very clearly. I remember being picked on for how I looked. But this isn’t about me working out my childhood issues. My point is I remember the pressure and the crippling mockery that accompanied most of my school years, and I want to help you avoid it. Contrary to what most people think, constant harassment from your peers does not make you a stronger person. It gives your adult self a giant chip on the shoulder and a propensity for burning down every bridge you see the second you catch even a whiff of betrayal from someone.

I promise you your father and I will do our very best to clothe you in a way that won’t embarrass you or make you the butt of jokes. We might not be able to dress you in the most expensive silks in all the land, but I’ll try and help you look decent. (And for those of you hunched over the keyboard, poised to pound out “BUT IT IS WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS AND SHE NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT TO BE A GOOD PERSON BECAUSE THAT’S ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS!!!”: Relax. We’ve got that part covered. It’s just not the focus of this letter, mkay?)

THAT BEING SAID: There will be some trends that we will absolutely prevent you from being a part of. Our general rule is this: If your clothing shows parts of your anatomy that can make or feed a child, you will not wear it. This isn’t so much about us trying to stifle your sexuality or shame you about your body than it is about protecting you from people in the world who unfortunately exist (re: pervs) and teaching you that your body is not a means to an end (re: your body is not a bargaining tool).

Of course, the second you turn 18, you’ll be an adult and you’ll be able to wear whatever you want whenever you want; we cant stop you. But I hope we (and by “we” I mean “me”) will have taught you how to dress in a stylish way that compliments your body type and doesn’t let everything just hang out.

I’m telling you all this because we’re going to talk about something in the second part of this letter that I need you to remember for your entire life: Despite your clothing, your look, or your style, you are not to be ashamed of your body or your sexuality, and you are not responsible for how other people think of you.



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