The Sacrifice Survival Skills Require

Mariah is 13. She eschews Harry Potter for everything Tolkien. Just because. When her nose isn't in a book, she's mostly fused to her iPod, but can frequently be found playing the video game, Diablo.

She loves to draw. (Draws tattoos on her dog, Elle). Writes in her journal faithfully. Pages and pages. Avoids social situations as much as possible. Would rather observe than be observed, listen than talk. Seeks out quiet, secret places whenever she can. Has a few good friends, but mostly, Mariah is by herself.

She layers her clothes in odd pairings. Tube tops over tee shirts, skirts over leggings. Jewelry on rawhide. Orange is her favorite color.

Lately, Mariah's penchant for cocooning has increased. Sequestered away with Elle among her books, journals, art projects, and technology, she is perfectly content. Last summer, she would call her friends several times a week. This summer, camp and a couple of sleepovers have been more than enough. Actually, her most significant interaction of the summer was a three-hour text session with a friend who is a year ahead and going to high school. She doubts she'll ever see her again.

There is an odd Anne Frank-ness to Mariah. Almost a self-imprisonment. And yet, there is the beauty: of self well-known even as the self is being discovered; her voice and instincts clear as a bell chime on a still, fall morning.

But Mariah's mother is worried. She's not developing social skills like other girls. She's too contrarian. Too opinionated. Too eccentric, intellectual, sensitive, honest, aware.... Mariah is just too much. And when you're too much, you don't fit in. We may not want to admit it, but what we call survival skills in the 21st century actually involve a fair amount of amputation–the cutting off of self. Especially if we're born female. It's what we are required to do as the passage out of innocence. The sacrifice to end our childhood. We become less. Hide who we are. Edit our gifts. Distance ourselves from our questions and dial down our passions. All so that we can fit in. It's what society expects.

Even Anne Frank figured this out. Which is why the diary we read is third generation: Anne Frank's edit of her original, then edited by her father. Personally, I'd like to get my hands on the original. She must have been like Mary, sitting at Jesus' feet. Simply choosing to be who she was: the unedited seeker of truth, doing what was counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Listening to Jesus instead of preparing the food.

Mariah's mother is going to take her to a psychologist to help deal with her "depression." I just hope Mariah doesn't stop wearing orange.

August 03, 2007 at 12:46 PM

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