Disenfranchising Your Daughter

A six-year-old girl came into McDonald’s with her thirteen-year-old brother and her dad. Dad went to order lunch and the little girl claimed the table facing me, at a window. Her brother shot past to the second table behind me. He hollered for his sister to follow.

“I want to sit here,” she said firmly,  though not really defiantly.

I thought, “Good for you. Hold your ground.” I was really proud of her, such a little thing up against a big lard-of-a-brother. “She should do well.” It made me smile.

Dad had seen this. His approach even startled me. And he lit into his little girl. “Just who do you think you’re talking to? That’s your big brother. You do what he says!” And, blah, blah, blah. He stood two feet from me, and I felt like he included me in his berate.

The second he raised his voice she was reduced to a quivering chihuahua. Her eyes darkened, her chin dropped to her chest—tail between her legs, and she was done. She didn’t dare cry—there wasn’t a hint of tears—that lesson had obviously already been taught. She crept off toward her brother.

My brain screamed. “Some day a boy will tell her what to do, and she will do just as she is told.” And whatever the outcome, she will be blamed.

Choosing a table has nothing to do with safety. It’s about having your druthers. Just about an opinion. What if Dad had simply said to the brother, “What’s it gonna cost you to let Leticia have her way once in a while?”

So, listening to her brother at that time meant that he must always be in charge—regardless. And, following this logic, the big brother most likely learned he can count on being in control: he makes the rules! Hey, in a couple of years he can just tell a girl what to do, and she’ll do it.

You don’t agree with my simple inferences of this two-minute scenario? Just how do you think personalities are formed? How do you think people learn their patterns of behavior?

I was proud of the little girl at the outset, then I watched her fall in line just as though Dad had pulled on her choke chain. I think about it once in a while, and hope she keeps that moxxy, that strength to hold out.

It was unfortunate for the dad that I wasn’t a line-backer like Tim, a friend of mine. I might have had the casabas to tell the dad what I thought, what he’d just flushed away. He might have learned a different lesson…but then, I’m small, afraid of confrontations, and maybe a little dumb—what? Where did I learn that?

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