I was one afternoon walking down a sunny street, past a mosque. A few children were playing and running about gleefully under the gaze of the adults. Then an old woman said something that made me really angry. As I passed by, I heard her tell a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old (who I presumed to be her granddaughter), “You know,…girls? – girls, they do not run.” She was not expressing an opinion, like “girls should not run” ; she was just casually indoctrinating: those who are girls simply do not do this. Just as “boys don’t cry,” so, girls. Do not. Run. I felt like giving that woman a good slap.
Rest assured, I did not do it. Should I have? I mean, “younger-people-do-not-slap-older-people” seems like a fine doctrine to me. Much better than “girls don’t run,” at any rate. I mean, within a mere five seconds, a stupid mentality, probably inherited from many generations, was revealed to me, and I knew better than to get into an altercation with a plainly stupid person. Should I give her the benefit of the doubt? Maybe it was her sense of humor. Oh, nevermind, still stupid.
The point is, I feel sorry for that girl, who will most probably grow with that same backwards frame of mind. It got me ruminating on “boy” as opposed to “girl.”
What makes a boy a boy or a girl a girl? Obviously their bodies differ. Is that enough grounds for dichotomising the whole lot of humans? If yes, what does that say about a society? It’s a shame that every person has to be categorized as one of them, and then treated in absolute terms, that is to say, “Girls behave in such and such ways, boys do such and such things; nothing in between.” The brain likes black-or-white thinking. The result is stereotyping. The problem with this is that we do not reach our potential for communion. An intimate, meaningful relationship (one that actually matters, one that you will remember on your deathbed) rests upon having a fresh perception of the other. It certainly requires care, attention and time to develop this friendship, but it is infinitely rewarding. Familiarity will breed contempt only in a stale relationship, where you have only a version of the person in mind. Rather than communicating, you bounce off your responses against your version of the person, which is probably completely different from the real person.
Name-calling and typecasting are unrefined attempts to leverage and gain control. In a truly free community, would it be necessary that one be classified in absolute terms, for example, have a birth certificate? Would identity matter if we acknowledged that we all define each other? In essence, we are all mirrors. Some mirrors are broken, some cracked. They are mired in grief. Some are kaleidoscopic, bringing smiles and laughter wherever they appear. Unfortunately, some mirrors are stained too. If you look at them, they reflect poorly of your self-esteem. There are a few clear mirrors. You may at first be afraid of them, but take that as a positive sign.
You have been told before and you know it for yourself: your greatest development lies where your fears are. The clear mirrors will be kind enough to not peddle your ego, but reflect yourself. They will show you your beauty without clinging to it and they will also show you your dark side without repelling it. The clear mirror is a treasure in your life and you can gift it to others as well.
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet