A few years ago, when I was still an avid Seventeen Magazine reader, I came across an interview spread of Drew Barrymore (who I was too pretty obsessed with.. I mean, Drew Barrymore is a babe and a BAMF).
Anyways, I can't recall much of this interview but what I do significantly remember is a part when the interviewer asked about a Pippi Longstocking picture hanging on Drew's wall, in which Drew confidently remarked as her idol. A successful, grown woman being interviewed by a magazine for teen girls A.K.A. me was telling me that Pippi Longstocking held "role model" credentials. So I had to wonder why.
And I did, for a very long time, until I started to make brief visits to my library to maybe read a bit of these Pippi Longstocking books. And maybe watch a few clips from the show/movie on Youtube. And maybe I started applying Pippi's own ideologies to my own life. Until I became obsessed and Pippi Longstocking was now, too, my role model.
Here's an essay I wrote a little less than a year ago, mostly on Pippi, but originally as a personal statement draft for Universities. No, I did not use this as my personal statement, but I still am damn sure proud of it.
I am a girl. I was born a girl, raised as a girl, so therefore, I am a girl. Along with what it “means” to be a girl, I was raised with Barbies, frilly pink dresses, and the expectation to always stand up straight and sit with my legs crossed. Growing up, these are some of the things that defined me as a girl. I was never told to fight—that was boy’s play. I was never even told to stand up for myself, in fact, I’m pretty sure that the idea of being a damsel in distress was imbedded into my mind early on in my childhood. I had brown hair, brown eyes, fair skin, and a mouthy attitude that seemed to be the only flaw—to adults—that distracted from my “almost perfect” female persona. I knew I was mouthy, and I was perfectly fine with that. I was endlessly asking questions and wondering why I had to behave a certain way. Was I trying to impress anyone? Or was I being told to behave a certain way for my own benefit? Confused and stripped away from my youthful joy, I was confined to being this “girl” that the adults around me had already defined for me, without letting me make my own definition of what it was exactly, to be a girl.
Not only did I spend the majority of my childhood playing with dolls and obsessing over puppies and kittens, but my mother also gave me the privilege to spend hours on end watching old TV shows like Shirley Temple, Pippi Longstocking, and The Little Rascals. Although I used to loathe my mom for not making me get “active,” and letting me sit in front of a television screen all day, I now appreciate this because without it, I wouldn’t have been able to embrace the character that is, Pippi Longstocking. Pippi was a girl, she was a child, and she was mouthy, just like me. All of a sudden, she felt the most relatable. She was fearless! She had spunk! She never wanted to grow up! I admire Pippi for all of these things, and as I grew older, so did my fear of adulthood and my fear of losing my “spunk”—the same spunk that Pippi had.
At sixteen, I’ve already lost a few remnants of Pippi. She seemed to have dithered away as I slowly replaced childhood girl power with irrelevant teenage dilemmas. But once in a while, I’m caught in situations where I do ask myself, What Would Pippi Do? And even though it may seem silly to call upon a childhood hero for comfort, confidence, and spunk, my childhood hero is really the only thing I can rely on as a teenager to keep me from turning into the vapid adult that was so constantly depicted as the enemy in the Pippi Longstocking series.
So often as a teenage girl, I am being told what to do by adults. I am being told what’s right for me without actually knowing why they are right. I am constantly not being challenged and I am constantly being tamed for how I feel. Every day I see my fellow peers just trying to survive one day without being humiliated or being alienated. The more I encounter these daily endeavors, the more frustrated I become with not only myself as a teenage girl, but with what the people around me are letting themselves become: fearful.
Through Pippi, I have learned that it’s okay to make fun of myself once in a while. Sometimes, taking life a little less seriously actually brings out a whimsical attitude I didn’t think I’d find in me. Pippi has taught me that my feelings are valid, and that I’m allowed to feel anything I want to feel, without having anyone tell me that it is wrong or that I’m “too emotional.” Sometimes I forget that I am entitled to my thoughts and feelings when everyone else around me seems to feel a certain way and I’m left feeling isolated and cast away because of a different point of view. But this extremity in opinion that Pippi has carried over onto me is exactly what gives me back my childhood girl power. And yes, I still say childhood, because like Pippi, I should never have to grow up. And by that I mean, I should never have to lose my spunk.
The idea of turning into an adult has a dreaded reputation that even Pippi Longstocking probably won’t appreciate. But for me, and from what Pippi has taught me, being an adult now means doing what is right for me with no fear by being able to outstand any situation… with spunk! Adults can keep telling me how to be a girl, how to be an adult, and how to be successful, but my choice to define who I want to be and how I’m going to achieve being that person is really the most important thing for me to focus on during these loathsome teenage years.
I am no longer the damsel in distress that has been taught repetitively to hold myself back, and to tame myself to be lady-like. I now proudly say what I want to say with no regards to anyone’s approval. I challenge myself daily and I persevere through any sticky situations, just like Pippi has shown me I can. I define being a girl as someone with an intense boldness, a moving voice, control over choice, and most importantly, spunk.
“Don’t let them get you down: Be cheeky and wild and wonderful!”