3 min
March 4, 2024

When Girls Grow Up

When I was in third grade I asked Santa Claus for a guitar and he said, “Really? A guitar? How about some Barbie dolls.” 

When I was in middle school the teacher asked for “a couple of strong boys” to carry a desk down the hall. 

When I was in high school there was a competition in gym class for who could do the most pull-ups—girls were excused. 

All of it stung. I nodded at Santa’s suggestion with pursed lips. I sat in silence and looked on as two boys with skinny arms and skinny legs—just like me—carried the desk out of the classroom with huge smiles on their faces. I did four pull-ups anyway. 

I was sure things would be different when I grew up, but at 39 years old my small writers group of eight people organized a Zoom call with author Steven Pressfield. He explained how writers are like warriors. Then he said, “And for the ladies in the room,” (there were three of us) “writers are also like mothers.”

I guess women can’t be warriors… and they have to be mothers.

Even David Senra—my favorite podcaster and the person who inspired my own podcast—sat on stage at a live event in New York City and spoke into the microphone: 

“I hope that one day, when I’m gone, my kids will say—well not my daughter; I hope my son says it and my daughter agrees—that I was a badass motherfucker.”

My eyes shifted to the audience. Did anyone else hear that? Did he really just say that? Surely that’s not what he meant… right?

But he did say it. I did not imagine it. And I will not try to make sense of it. 

When I was a kid I wasn’t allowed to talk back to adults. But now I’m an adult, and it’s still happening, and I can no longer ignore it or excuse it. 

I was visiting my parents recently when my dad asked why his 2-year-old granddaughter was playing with a truck, why she had a truck at all. 

A lifetime of being told I had to act a certain way and couldn’t do certain things was suddenly being directed at my daughter. 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I said. 


This piece was brewing for five months. Thank you to Michael Dean for letting me know—very nicely—that a four paragraph tangent about the female characters in Hamilton had nothing to do with my thesis. Thank you to Sarah Stadler for asking simply and bluntly, “What’s your point?” and the 45-minute conversation that followed. Thank you to Camilo Moreno-Salamanca and Alex Michael for the spot-on pushback. Thank you to Sam, who caught me—two months after the NYC event—staring into space one afternoon and asked what I was thinking about. I told him David Senra and he said, “This is not normal for you to still be thinking about this. You should write about it.”