I’ve always struggled a bit with standing up for myself.  It wasn’t because I didn’t believe I’m worth it or that in theory I disagree with the idea.  It’s that I just wasn’t raised that way. I didn’t even realize it was an option.

So when I got these emails from Isabella, a girl in Girls on the Run, I was quite taken aback and actually thoroughly elated!

Our exchange goes a little something like this.

Isabella’s first email, 7:30 a.m.

“Dear Molly.  Thank you so much for inventing Girls on the Run.  I think I’ve learned a lot about being a strong girl.  I love the games and activities.  I am becoming stronger and am learning how not to choose the life of a girl in the Girl Box.  You are a super star.  Your friend Isabella.”

Isabella’s second email, 3:30 p.m.

“Dear Molly.  I just got home from school.  We don’t have Girls on the Run today.  I have it on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I would loooooooove to get an email back from you.  Thank you.  You are a super star.  Your friend Isabella.”

Isabella’s third email, 4:30. p.m., same day.

“Dear Molly.  One of the lessons we learned is all about standing up for ourselves and so I just need to tell you.  I feel frustrated when you don’t write me back, because I think it’s important that you write me back and I would really appreciate it if you did.”

Molly’s first email, 4:30.15.

“Dear Isabella.  Thank you so much for writing me.  I’m glad you are enjoying Girls on the Run.  It is quite clear to me that you are really grasping what the program is all about.  🙂  You are MY super star.  Your friend, Molly

Wow…assertive…to say the least.

When I was a kid, girls were sweet, which in and of itself is not a bad thing.  But when we are sweet to the detriment of our own well-being…we are talking a whole other ball game. Good girls (and add good SOUTHERN girls) didn’t rock the boat.  Shhh! Heaven forbid and bless her lil’ heart.  As our good friend Yosemite Sam would say, “Keep vewee, vewee, quiet.”  I’m not blaming anyone…I’m jus’ sayin’…this is how it was.

While standing up for myself was not touted as a needed skill set or even known as one available to me back in the late 60’s and 70’s…standing up our hair…now that was an altogether different story.

Early on, I became well aware, that it was frequently, all about the hair.  I swear if I could get a dollar for every hour I’ve spent on my hair…seriously, I’m not kidding…I’d have millions.  Farrah Fawcett was all the rage, curling irons were new and hand-held hair dryers were, according to my teenaged sister, the most innovative invention since the cotton gin.

No more sitting under one of those large upside down toilet bowls to dry your hair.  You could actually wash and dry your hair everyday.  Styling, lifting, teasing, curling all became a much simpler task.  The amount of time needed for the infamous, Southern “big hair,” while still astronomical, was much less so thanks to these daily conveniences which allowed women to take control of their hair and the time involved.  Minutes unknown to women everywhere, became available for other things.

One of those being sports.

What?  Alright, I admit it, perhaps drawing a direct line between the hand-held hairdryer and sports is a bit of a stretch, but think of it this way.

My mom was a beautiful, tall, svelte and graceful woman.  Her hair made her a good three inches taller. Every Friday, we went to the beauty parlor.  Just picture Steel Magnolias, except for mom’s beauty parlor was in the basement of what was locally known as “the Doctor’s Building.”  Men in horn-rimmed glasses were shuffling in and out of the front door, in their white doctor coats and stethoscopes, while the women were descending the stairs to have their hair “done” in what was I’m sure, at least to the men, some kind of freaky and frightening, voodoo kind of ritual.  My mom would literally spend a good 1.5 hours (or more) having her hair permed and treated by Meredith.  I used to love to go to the beauty parlor with my Mom.  We’d buy a small, cold bottle of coke and a pack of cheese crackers from the vending machine, (Mom would buy cigarettes.)  She’d smoke and I’d eat while Meredith would apply those lovely aromatic chemicals on my mom’s hair.  (It’s any wonder the basement of that building didn’t blow up with all the fumes and the cigarettes.)

All that changed, though, when my sister introduced her to the hand-held hair dryer.  All the effort in preserving the hair from one Friday to the next, flew out the window!

Women could now take charge.  Washing our hair everyday became a reality.  Baths were less frequent and showers became part of our daily regimen…AND so did sports.  Sweat was nothing to be feared, anymore.  The teasing, perming, chemicals, lifting and cranking up of the big hair could be recreated everyday now with the introduction of that hand-held hair dryer.  (Here is where I write my disclaimer that on behalf of all my African-American sisters who are now showing up in increasing numbers to triathlons, running events and other sporting activities…it can sometimes still be all about the hair.  The move toward “natural” is certainly helping my sisters of color  to more frequently experience the joys of exercise.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about…that’s okay. But please watch this…


So…about the same time, my Mom got her hand held hair dryer, she started running.  Every morning, long before our neighbors were awake, my mom would slip out the back screen door and head out on her run.  Decked out in her golf skirt, polyester collared shirt with the darts, and her tretorn sneakers on, off she would go.  An hour later, I would be just waking, come to the kitchen and see her there…her hair sopping wet and…not big.

Hours later, though, there it was again, high, big and three inches off her scalp!

Now…interestingly…it was probably less than six months after that my mom actually quit the big hair altogether.  She went for a very natural boy cut, wore dangly earrings and started to dress more youthfully.  She got sober, started working and generally transformed into, what all those around her would say without a doubt, an empowered, loving, strong woman, who stood up for herself and those around her.

Now, you may say its a stretch, but frankly, I think its all related.  The Hand-Held Hair Dryer and the Women’s Liberation Movement…I think I’m onto something.  Wonder what’s next?