Last night while I was tucking Maya into bed, I told her how many people had read her story here, so far. She choked up. "That makes me feel very special," she said.
I've been astonished at how widely read and Tweeted and linked that post has been. I think it's the most astonishing traffic spike I've had since that one time I called out Campbell's for being pro-ana and got picked up by Salon. So naturally I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what happened to Maya, and how I feel about it, and about why this story has rung like a gong for so many of us.
It comes down to her painfully honest statement. "I don't like cars because I want other people to like me." It's a horrible, stabbing observation, and the whole problem is that she's not wrong. The heartbreak here is that at her tender age, she's perceptive enough and articulate enough to state that ugly, ugly truth.
I'm a semi-professional strident feminist. I give talks about sexism! I talk honestly to my kids about sexism, racism, homophobia. I've tried so hard to be a good role model. My daughters see me wear pretty shoes and bright lipstick, but also cleaning the rain gutters, swapping out the guts of toilets, playing video games -- making games, traveling the world for my career, doing what I want to do as fearlessly as I can.
I've been fighting this battle on behalf of my daughters all their lives. And no matter how much I talk and do, there simply is no way to protect them from the great wide world and the people in it who will try to limit who they are and what they can be.
If even I can't protect them from those ideas, even with all of that... what does that mean?
So Maya's storied filled me with a kind of despair. My example isn't enough. And that's why I reached out to you. Because Maya's not alone, and I'm not, either. And it was about time I showed that to her. It's meant a lot. Maya's still little enough I can see the wheels in her head turning when I read a comment to her and she comes across a new fact and has to fit it into her world view. Thanks to all of you and your comments, her world got a lot bigger last night.
This morning, on the way to school, I asked if she had anything she wanted me to tell everyone for her. She thought for a minute. "I'm going to tell everybody in my class." Did she want to say thank you, maybe? "Yes. Tell them I said thank you to everyone." And did she feel a little better now? "Yes, yes, yes!"
Thank you. Really, so much, thank you. I'll keep you posted on how she does.