Navigating Girl World: Advice to My 2nd Grade Self


ColumnReading my 2nd grade diary, I was confronted with myself navigating girl world—and I have some words for Libby, Age 7.

I write a lot about the world today’s American girls are growing up in and how they are navigating girl world. The Disney princess-ification of girls’ toys, what advertising like Dove’s Real Beauty campaign tells them about femininity, what the dangers are of being a woman, slut-shaming and rape, to name a few. I usually don’t think about my own feminist views in terms of who I was as a girl.

However, on a recent trip to my parents’ house, I unearthed my 2nd grade diary, The Ramona Quimby diary. Based on the popular series of books by Beverly Cleary,  the diary was designed for young kids. It featured bits of the Ramonastories and fill-in-the-blank Q+As along with blank pages. 

Thankfully, my spelling has improved since I was a kid (or maybe it’s that spell check was invented), but, reading my own words, I can see that the core of who I am is kind of the same even though girl world is now, more or less, a woman’s world. I liked my friends, reading, writing, tumbling and drawing. I hated math and mentioned that a food I never even wanted to try was mayonnaise. All still true.

In the All About Me section, I reported that I had brown hair, green eyes, was 4’1” and weighed 48 lbs. Half of those things are still true. I said that if I could have a pet it would be a dog—and that I would name it Today. I can’t be sure if I meant that I would hustle to give the pooch a name quickly, or if I thought Today would be a good name for a dog. Given that I named our current dog Bucket, I feel it may be the latter.

When asked what I like about myself, I wrote that I am nice to people (piple) and that in the coming year I would like to be even nicer—and meet Cyndi Lauper (spelled correctly and the first of MANY Cyndi references).

A month later, I report that I get mad when my friends don’t do what I say, and that I spit in someone’s face after she spit in mine. I answered the question: Sometimes I feel sad because: Jess starts a fight. And responded to the prompt: When that happens, I cheer myself up by: Killing her. Yes. I really wrote that about Jess, a girl in my class who, in modern day times, I’d describe as a frenemy.

I see the mean girl version of myself emerging in these pages, replacing the nice kid I was at seven. I see myself being bossy and starting to rank friendships. I can also see how others were mean to me—and, thankfully, that on many days I was actually nice to people. My friendships were essential and ruled my emotions every single day. And 29 years later, my friendships with women are still central to my world.


I also found my favorite shirt. Thanks to the fact that we all wore giant clothes in the ’80s, it still fits—and goes well with the Dancin’ hat I often paired it with.

If I could talk to the second grade girl that I used to be, I’d tell her to take the bitchiness down a notch because if she doesn’t, others will do it for her in junior high and she’ll find herself friendless and lonely. I’d tell her that putting people down doesn’t bring her up. I would tell her to be more confident and do things even when she sucks at them—and to start yoga sooner rather than later. I would tell her that supporting other women is an important part of being the feminist she will become.

I would also mention that in 1993 she touches Cyndi Lauper’s hand, and though she just misses the chance to interview Cyndi in 2006, she hasn’t given up hope for a true meeting someday.

It’s an odd feeling to a glimpse into my own tiny head and realize that what I wanted then was pretty simple and matches up with what I still want: time with the people I care about, cookies and for people to be nice.

At the end of one month, the diary asks: What do you want next month? I wrote: A good month. At the close of another, the question is: What do you want to do next month? I wrote: I hope I do good. Still sounds about right.

Images: Libby Lowe