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My Ugly, Brown Spice Girls T-Shirt

I’m 11 years old, in sixth grade.

I’m starting to get my height, but haven’t hit puberty or the need for a bra quite yet.

That’ll all come next year.

But I’m at school, in line for the water fountain, and I’m SO PROUD to be wearing my new Spice Girls t-shirt to school that day.

It’s surprisingly simple… a muted brown color with a subtle “SPICE” written in small block letters at the top, with stars inside them.

And that’s when it happened.

A girl in my class asked me, with a smirk on her face, “Why are your wearing a Spice Girls t-shirt?”

Because last year Spice Girls were cool, but this year they weren’t.

We were one year away from being in middle school for goodness sake, and all the cool kids had parents who let them get away with Blink 182 t-shirts.

But I didn’t like Blink 182.

They were too “bad” and “dirty” for me.

They had a porn star on the cover of their CD, for goodness sake, and to an innocent 11-year-old girl, the mere thought of “sex” is terrifying.

Her question hurt.

I knew the instant she asked it that she wasn’t asking a matter-of-fact question, but that she was trying to shame me to make herself feel better.

My best friend had the exact same Spice Girls t-shirt, and because she was witness to the event, she didn’t ever wear it to school.

But I was just driving back from the laundromat, and Daya’s “Sit Still, Look Pretty” came on the radio.

And somehow, I imagined a bunch of little 11-year-old girls listening to this song and singing along—the kind of 11-year-old girl I was—and I wept.

Like literally guys, I wept along to a candy-coated pop song.

In case you’re unfamiliar, this is how it goes:

Could dress up to get love. But guess what? I’m never gonna be that girl who’s living in a Barbie world.

Could wake up in make up and play dumb pretending that I need a boy who’s gonna treat me like a toy.

And then…

Oh I don’t know what you’ve been told, but this girl right here’s gonna rule the world. Yeah, that’s where I’m gonna be because I wanna be. No, I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty.

And I think I cried because I still see a world where girls are being bred and conditioned that their looks are more important than who they are as a person. Even though I was one of the lucky ones with AMAZING role models and parents encouraging me to think and do for myself and no one else.

This song spoke so strongly to that 11-year old girl who ADORED The Spice Girls.

She didn’t adore them because they were beautiful and all the men in the world wanted to marry them.

No, she loved them for their power.

For their zero-shame in creating a movement all around “Girl Power” and self confidence.

She loved them because they were so visibly diverse… in their looks and their personalities. And she loved them because they were all best friends that actually embraced their diversity to make something awesome… music that young girls couldn’t stop singing along to.

Sure, she adored their fashion and wore ridiculous platform tennis shoes because of their influence. (But looking back, let’s just say that imitation is the best form of flatter… Because HOW are those shoes comfortable?!?)

But regardless of the uncomfortable shoes, she wanted to grow up to be just like The Spice Girls.

Probably not a singer, but definitely powerful. And definitely unafraid to be exactly who she was.

And while I’m pretty damn confident in myself these days, there’s still that lingering part of me that gets absolutely crushed every single time someone ever-so-smugly reminds me that I’m not “doing” what I should be doing for my “category.”

That nice white girls who wear Levi’s and scarves shouldn’t have a mouth like that.

That girls who are physically healthy and in their late 20s should be using their “blessed” body by now to bring new life into the world.

That I’m not old enough to make the kind of money I do… I have to “pay my dues” and struggle first.

That I grew up in a Christian home, so I should be in church listening to a preacher diss my gay friends every single Sunday and just accept it as “God’s will.”

But you know what all these things are?

Opinions.

Opinions of people afraid to think differently.

Opinions of people who are afraid that if they stray too far outside the status quo, society will reject them and they won’t be “safe” anymore.

Opinions of people who probably secretly wish they had your balls and audacity to unapologetically be who they are, but don’t have the courage or nerve to admit it to even themselves.

And depending on how much these people with these “opinions” love you, they may or may not feel like they’re voicing those opinions to protect you.

But it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Because even when it is done out of love, it still stings like hell.

And I don’t have a remedy for you to keep it from stinging.

Believe me, I wish I did.

But the best revenge is living well. So keep at it Sugar, because I believe in you… no matter how you’re different from me or the status quo.

And I know you can do this.

But when someone does say some comment like this to you… take a moment to talk yourself through it, will you?

Because I find that when I just let it go, it stews in the back of my mind and explodes on me in the most random moments.

Heck, that t-shirt memory’s been inside ready to bust out for 18 years now. You think it hasn’t done some damage to my self esteem over the years?

So do that, and together let’s keep creating a world where it’s okay for everyone to be exactly who they are.

Where 11-year-old girls don’t have to wear Blink 182 t-shirts to be cool if they don’t want to.

And where it’s okay to like The Spice Girls.

And where it’s okay to be a girl or a woman in power.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I know we can do it.

Generations of successful women (and non-conforming men) are depending on us.

On that note… anyone know where I can get a Spice Girls t-shirt?

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