Last night I met Teefah and three Little Goddesses for dinner at Maggiano’s. The Little Goddesses had just completed the Her Voice program to prevent teen pregnancy and this was the first time I was able to spend some one on one time with the girls. I sit on the board and I have spent time with girls at fundraising events, but Teefah invited me to come along last night so I could get to know some of them better.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Most of these girls live in group homes and have been in the foster care system. Most of them are black or hispanic. Many of them are angry and kind of scary the way that angry women can be. I was absolutely delighted to meet three girls, all very different, but all very charming and funny and excited about life despite the challenges they’ve had to endure.
They wanted to know about me; like did I know what I wanted to be when I was there age. I had no idea and there are days when I feel like I’m still clueless. I know what I love to do – write and work with people – but as far as how that works into career? I’m still trying to figure it out. I was so curious to know about them but didn’t want to hear stories about abuse and horrific childhood trauma because I didn’t want to define them that way.
I was circumspect in asking questions. I wanted to stay in the present moment so I asked if they knew what they wanted to be. They all nodded emphatically. Ms. J wants to be a chef, Ms. C. wants to be a CSI lab tech. Well, she really wants to be a cop, but she’s been told that it’s too dangerous. Ms. P wants to be a lawyer despite the fact that she’s only been in this country for three years and is still learning to speak English. She understand and reads more easily than the speaks and writes and she’s only 16 so I’m sure by the time she’s ready to go to college she’ll do just fine. In fact, I’m sure that she will be able to do anything she wants to do because she left her home in Central America at the age of 13 and, traveling alone, without her family, got herself into this country.
I could barely get myself to beach on the bus when I was thirteen and thought my mother was horrible for not driving me. And I showed her by hitchhiking which is another story, but an experience that makes me fairly certain that I wouldn’t have been able to get myself across a whole country.
The stories of their lives came out, but mostly in context with their dreams for the future. Both Ms. J and Ms. C lost their mothers to illness when they were around 10 years old. Both of them have had people die right at their feet. They go to the same school and have friends who “bang,” though they don’t date boys who do. We had quite a discussion about how fine thugs are and we all agreed that 50 Cent has a rockin’ body but his face isn’t as cute as Nelly’s.
Ms. P goes to a rival high school though they all live in the same group home. We had quite the discussion about boys and babies. They wanted to know why I didn’t want to have children. I told them I’d rather adopt a child that’s already here, preferably one with verbal skills. They kept pressing and it made me think until finally I was able to articulate that while I really wanted children when I was younger I was never with a man that I thought would be a good father and that I think one of the first things you do to be a good mother is pick a man who will be a good dad. For most of my life my picker has been broken when it comes to men. I talked to them about what makes a man a good man, a definition that has evolved and changed for me over the years.
What I told them, I wish someone had told me when I was there age, that it’s important to know what makes you happy and to find a man who wants to know and will do whatever he can to make you happy. If a woman is happy in her life then she will put her energy into making those around her happy, her man, her family, but if she’s busy trying to make them happy without taking care of herself it’s not going to work because she’s going to get pissed off.
And a pissed off woman is scary.