Ten-year-old me, walked in a bookstore with my mum. Walking around the isles filled with bookshelves 12 metres taller than me definitely felt overwhelming and daunting. I went to the girl’s section of the children’s books.

To my disappointment, it was filled with the Rainbow Magic series; you know, the ones with the fairies, which I had read when I was younger. After several minutes of browsing, I came along a book that definitely caught my eye. The exact title of it I cannot recall but it was something along the lines of “how to be a proper lady” or “how ladies should act”. On the front cover, there was a girl in a dress with a crown on her head. Dazzling eyes, long blonde hair. Sparkles. I thought it was dumb, but I bought it anyway. I am guessing that my 10-year-old self needed tips on how to act more like a girl, and do more girly things instead of playing soccer every recess and lunch and disliking most of the girls in my year level.

I am not saying I was a tomboy. I’ve always been a mixture of both. Not girly enough to be a girl, but not tomboyish enough to be classified as a tomboy, in the true sense of the word. So I went home, and started flicking through the book that seemed to be keeping all the secrets a 10- to- 13 year old girl should know in order for her to be a “true lady”.

This book talked about putting your hair up in a pony tail, shaving your legs and using nice vocabulary. Sitting cross legged and wearing socks with frills. Bringing a hairbrush to school, a tiny pocket mirror and pink eye shadow. Making sure that you never ever blow your nose in front of any boys, or burp. How to hold your fork properly and how to impress everyone through your use of small talk.

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I think it would be safe to say that little ol’ me had what most people refer to as a “midlife crisis”. At 10. Years. Of age. Up until that point, I thought I was doing everything right. I thought I was able to sit correctly, chew my food the right way, flash a cute smile, but hell, even the way I breathed turned out to be wrong. I was gobsmacked.

After days, even weeks of deep contemplation I decided to bury away that book in the deepest, darkest corner of my bookshelf and forget all about its contents. Thinking back to the incident, I wholeheartedly think it made me discontent and blue. All these rules and expectations made and still make me sick. They stuck by me, nonetheless, and the older I get the more I start recognising them in every woman around me. It is rather sad, thinking about the amount of expectations the world around us has for women. What is even sadder, though, is that they are enforced upon children. Young girls.

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I made a decision for myself on that day when I put the book away. I decided that I did not wish to abide to these rules. To this day, I do not uphold the “values” described in that book. I do not think that these things make a woman “well-liked”, “adored” or “accepted”. How about teaching young girls, how to be decent human beings? How about teaching them about being authentic, true to themselves? How about making known to them that true beauty and grace stems from the inside? Showing them that all the makeup and glitter and sitting like a lady mean nothing if they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin? Representing their own uniqueness and sense of beauty?

  • Stavroula Lampropoulou is a Year 12 student at Presentation College Windsor. 
  • Are you interested in writing? Neos Kosmos welcomes contributions to our opinion pages and letters to the editor from all community members, especially young people like Stavroula wishing to express their thoughts, needs and to also raise their concerns about what is happening in the world around them. For English stories, email mary@neoskosmos.com.au