Surviving Ophelia: Mothers Share Their Wisdom in Navigating the Tumultuous Teenage Years

By Cheryl Dellasega | Go to book overview

5
The Contrary:
On Being Smarter, Prettier,
or More Unique Than Others

Not long ago I was reading about Native American culture and came across an explanation of the "contrary," a person within the community who does things in unusual ways or appears rebellious. However, the contrary is not viewed negatively but rather as a helper because he or she illustrates alternative ways of approaching problems and issues.

In our society, being different is usually a liability rather than an asset, especially for adolescent girls.

"When my son let his hair grow long and refused to wear brand name clothes, he was admired. My daughter tried dressing and acting different, and ended up losing her friends," the mother of a teenage girl told me.

Her comment led me to realize that my sons, too, had faced far less peer pressure when it came to appearances than Ellen or the other young women I knew through my years as a swim coach and teacher of nursing students. Girls face the challenge of trying to conform to an impossible role model: the bright-eyed, clear-skinned, shiny-haired, perpetually smiling young woman with a slender but

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