For those who don’t get the reference, “Josie Grossie” was a nickname for the character that Drew Barrymore played in Never Been Kissed. When Josie was in high school, she was definitely experiencing an awkward phase. She had greasy, frizzy hair she didn’t wash, braces that gave her a slight speech impediment, poor judgment in fashion trends, and a tender heart.
The similarities between my 10-year-old girl and Josie Grossie are almost uncanny. My daughter is a beautiful, sweet, smart girl who desperately struggles with her hygiene and manners. Her new retainer with accompanying lisp really solidifies the comparison. I blame most of the behaviors on her free spirit and ADHD.
Every meal is a challenge. There are chunks of food stuck in her hair as she’s chowing down on her dinner like a chipmunk storing supplies for the winter. The outfits she picks out are usually eccentric, giving Andie in Pretty in Pink a run for her money. Her nose has been a constant, neglected, leaky faucet since she was 3 (yes, we’ve had her allergy tested and tried numerous remedies to fix it). We remind her to shower every other day and when I ask if she washed her hair and body, almost every time she tells me, “I forgot.” Proper showering has become a focus ever since her fifth-grade teacher told her she needed deodorant. She hates brushing her hair and hates it even more when I brush it. Don’t even get me started on teeth brushing. Unfortunately, the list of hygienic offenses goes on and on.
Hygienic disasters aside, my daughter is like Josie Grossie emotionally as well. She is friendly, but incredibly shy and uncomfortably awkward. She also has the most tender and naïve heart. She only keeps a few close friends. It’s not hard to picture her being easily manipulated by some douchey crowd in high school. She would pour her heart out to them in a plea for acceptance and then end up being tricked into a cruel prank. I can see her naïvely waiting on the porch for some kid to ruin her teenage years by throwing eggs in her face.
Obviously, I don’t want that to be her future. I know that I am probably worrying about a situation that will most likely never happen. However, I don’t want her to be treated like Josie Grossie was. I don’t want my daughter to have zero confidence. I don’t want others to see her as a pariah. I want her to have a lot of friends and to be happy. I don’t want people to break her heart because she doesn’t fit a perfect mold we thrust upon our children. All it takes is one mean comment to damage a kid’s spirit and murder their self-confidence.
I know I’m not alone. I see and hear about other mothers struggling to get their girl’s to work on their hygiene. We need to start a club called Mothers of Messy Misses. We would all sit around and share stories about our girls and their grossness. We would laugh, cry and try to share tips on how to help manage the chaos of having a messy miss. We would leave knowing that we are not alone in a world that happily criticizes people who are different.
I think it is important to note that my daughter is reminded every day to work on her hygiene and manners. We tell her that good manners are great for making friends and that proper hygiene keeps others from getting sick. She has been taught all of the appropriate behaviors. What other people don’t understand is that her mind is as messy as her body. One minute she is trying to think about her hygiene and then all of the sudden she’s distracted by another thought about how funny it would be to see purple monkeys. The next second she is thinking about how to plan her birthday party and all thoughts about hygiene or manners have been forgotten.
Some people have suggested that I let her follow that path of Josie Grossie and rely on the natural consequences—let her see what the world thinks of her messy habits and it will teach her to act differently. We’ve been down that road, and it doesn’t make a difference. She has come home sobbing because someone made fun of her for spilling her drink and for having food stuck on her face. I talk to her about it, and we work on changing things. She appears to have that aha lightbulb moment that inspires change. I feel like she is ready to shout, “I’m not Josie Grossie anymore!” The next day is like Groundhog Day and there is milk and cereal in her hair as she is getting ready for school.
So what if my daughter is more like a Jan? Does that mean she deserves to be tortured by the Marcias of this world? Of course it doesn’t. I’ll do my cultural duty and try to stress the importance of cleanliness and proper etiquette. Fellow parents, please do your cultural responsibility and teach children to help, not to shame. If my daughter is looking like a hot mess, instead of standing by while other children ridicule her, encourage them to help her. If they don’t want to help, at least tell them to keep calm and be kind. They’re not helping her by bullying her. She’s not getting stronger with vicious taunts, and her behavior is not being corrected by shame. She’s only a kid; she’s not invincible.
I realize I can’t expect society or the world to change. My daughter is beautiful, smart and kind. I’m really lucky to have her. If she is treated like Josie Grossie, I will guide her through the storm of criticisms and do my best to build back up any broken parts. Even if she never outgrows her messy behaviors, I know she will blossom and become a woman capable of wonderful things.