Woe Is Me! “My Parents Mock Me for Not Being ‘Girly.’ How Do I Cope?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I am a girl from a so-called ‘normal family.’ My parents always keep mocking me for how I dress or how I do my hair. They’ll tell me I don’t have any girly traits. My only fault is that I am different; I don’t want to keep any hair or dress “nicely.” If anyone just wants to be my friend because of how much hair I have on my head then I don’t want them, I don’t need them. But my parents keep forcing me; it really affects my mental health.“
— Your normal isn’t my normal
RN: You’re right, it’s really weird if someone wants to be your friend for the hair you have on your head, and I would question them rather than the hair owner about this. I relate to your desire to not be perceived — unfortunately, society wants girls to be very much perceived and much more to boot. The clothing choices available in the women’s section don’t help matters — we are condemned to outfits that are either skintight, flowy, frilly, glittery, bright, or otherwise highly visible in some shape, form, or color. It’s unfortunate that wanting other options means being reprimanded for not being “girly” enough. I don’t know if your gender is something you’re trying to figure out, but let me just say that if your femininity is important to you, you don’t have to define it with the clothes you wear or how you wear your hair either.
There’s so much more to what it means to be a girl than just these things. Your parents may not understand right now, but I hope they’ll eventually come around to seeing you for the complicated person with depth that you are, rather than insisting on keeping up random appearances. You may not be able to do much about them unless you go the full rebel child route. If that’s not something you want, maybe for now you can focus on what makes you “different” as you say and find a way to understand yourself better. You can draw clearer boundaries once you know where you’re coming from and what you want — but don’t for a moment feel like you need to present a certain way because others expect it of you.
DR: Based on what you have described, I can see how it might affect anyone’s mental health. How you choose to express your gender is completely your prerogative — but you know that already, perhaps. The question, however, is how to shut your parents up and stop them from forcing their ideas on what a “girl” should look like. I may have a solution for you: malicious compliance! Why don’t you place an order for a whole assortment of the most expensive make-up products and the pinkest of clothes, and ask your parents to pay for it? Tell them it’s because you’re simply following their orders. Just keep two things in mind: the products should be returnable and must cost a LOT. If possible, don’t actually place the order — just add them to your cart and ask them for money. You can also book appointments at the most ridiculously expensive of salons, and again, ask your parents for money to get hair extensions, pedicures, manicures… what have you! Also, refuse to do most chores saying you’re too “delicate” for it. Sleep around the day telling them you’re trying to catch up on years of “beauty sleep.” Refuse to even get a glass of water for yourself saying you can’t afford the coat of transparent nail paint on your fingernails to get smudged.
Basically, just do everything you can to inconvenience them — and not mildly so — while pretending you’re doing exactly what they asked for. If this doesn’t dissuade them, pair the most ridiculous of your new outfits together, and apply combinations of make-up that you know are going to exasperate them into giving up. Also, from time to time, keep commenting on their actions too, saying things like: “Oh, I didn’t think a man/woman would do that! I guess, I have much to learn…” I hope that you don’t need to do as much, and are able to give them a taste of their own medicine with much less, but well, let’s be ready for the long haul, which I strongly believe would still be shorter than enduring their comments for years.
QG: When we don’t fit into people’s preconceived notions of “right” and “wrong,” they tend to mock us quite cruelly. It’s a terrible thing for anyone to deal with and I’m so sorry that you have to face that too. How you dress or how you do your hair is an expression of your individuality. Please don’t let them quench that. You can maybe try to have an honest conversation with them so they know just how badly their continuous mockery affects you. I know it’s easier said than done but it’s worth a try, isn’t it? You can also try to surround yourself with people who understand you and like you for who you are. If not your friends, you can reach out to a trusted relative or a teacher- anyone who you think might understand where you’re coming from. Having some sort of a community that supports you does wonder. And lastly, the way you say that you don’t want friends who don’t like you for who you are, is truly amazing. A lot of the time, when faced with mockery, we tend to believe what the other person tells us and this sentence shows me that you don’t believe your mockers, which is an incredible thing. It shows that you do stand up for yourself despite all that they say. You must continue to do that. You must have your own back and to be honest, at the end of the day, that is all that matters.
BG: Firstly, I’m glad you recognized what you like to be and don’t like to be. I think in some way the things that your parents are projecting on you are influenced by their own past and conventions that they had to follow back then. So I would suggest you have an honest conversation with them and try to make them understand why you make the choices that you do and how it helps you to truly express yourself. If they are unable to understand, then you must realize that they come from their own set of insecurities and fears, and by breaking away from your parents’ expectations, you are not being a bad person but simply just exploring your own path.
AS: Parents tend to have comments on how we look and dress, and it can be most frustrating. In your case, they seem relentless and I’m really sorry that you’re being pressured in this way. I don’t have advice on how to make them stop — that itself might be more taxing on your mental health and it really won’t be worth the effort. I think if you maintain your steadfast confidence to dress the way you like, in time they might just get fed up and leave you be. If you’re able to find a way to spend some time outside of the home by hanging out at a friend’s, going for some volunteer work, to college, or for a job, it might help you find space away from them and their mocking.