Hush Now Wildflower Girl
Updated: Jul 23, 2022
Stepping contentedly on the path, I knew I had timed my hike well. I would reach the lake tucked into the basin of the mountains in time to enjoy its end-of-day beauty. Brother Sun would gracefully descend while I watched with admiration. Then I would gingerly walk back down the mountain in moonlight. I was pleased with myself for getting out the door and on the trail during wildflower season.
Others were coming down the mountain at close of day. One sevenish-year-old girl with bushels of brown curls trailing over her shoulders bounced a few steps ahead of her dad. As she stepped into the shadows of trees she exclaimed, “I’m cold!” It was a straightforward declaration. And it made sense. It was evening; she was in a tank top.
“You’re not cold,” her dad cheerfully responded. She quickly furrowed her brow and clenched her fists, as she continued to plod downward.
“I am too!” she demanded. “I know what I feel.”
“You’re fine,” he countered. “It’s beautiful out here!” Because she was ahead of her dad, I saw her face grow angrier. Twice she stated her feeling, and twice she was disregarded and dismissed.
“And so it begins,” I thought to myself. I had just witnessed how girls, even bouncy little hikers with attentive daddies, are invalidated and silenced. And for what?
Why couldn’t she notice a feeling and express it? She felt cold, for Christ’s sake! She’s not allowed to feel cold? I quickly tried to make some sense of this. I guessed the dad’s notion of paternal protector might be threatened by the fact that his daughter was experiencing a moment of discomfort. Or that their shared outdoor experience might be spoiled if she felt something different from him. None of it made any sense at all.
In this moment of nonsense that I was witnessing, I saw the seeds of domination and doubt being planted. Not over nuanced ideology, or simple preferences, but around direct, first-hand, interior experience in her own body. She was not permitted to say what her own body felt.
If she was being trained to shut down and shut up at such an early age over such a simple experience, how would she gain confidence to know herself and speak for herself when the scenario was more complex?
I hiked on, wondering differently about the approaching darkness.