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Recipe for Real Girls
A question lingering in my mind after today's show: Does Rachel Simmons' prescription to break the "Good Girl" habit just set young women up with another model of unattainable perfection? On page 10 of The Curse of the Good Girl, she describes a "Real Girl":
A Real Girl stays connected to a strong inner core of her thoughts, feelings and desires. She is able not only to listen to who she is but to act on it. She maintains a critical balance: she can manage the needs of others without sacrificing the integrity of her own. A Real Girl can defend her interests in a relationship or advocate on her own behalf. Where a Good Girl might meet someone and automatically hope she is likable, a Real Girl will reflect on what she thinks and feels about the other person before deciding what to do next.
A Real Girl also maintains a balanced self concept. Her aspirations unfold within a realistic awareness of personal limits. A Good Girl, whose identity is defined by appearances, tends to expect the unreasonable. She is often shattered by a mistake. Her investment in image curbs a taste for risk and adventure. A Real Girl, by contrast, can face her own blemishes, however painful; her limits and mistakes are as much a part of her as anything else. She has, quite literally, a sense of self.
I caught Rachel on her cell phone between blog interviews and asked her whether holding up a Real Girl as an ideal brings its own perfectionist pressure. She says no; Real Girls are messy:
I think there's a real messiness in balance. And I think the curse of the Good Girl expects girls to orient in a complete sense towards other people and what they think and what they want. And I think as soon as you use words like balance and think about negotiating what you want, what other people want — when is it appropriate to speak my mind? when should I maybe keep things to myself? — you're quite naturally going to have a little bit of a mess. I also think that part of what a Real Girl is having a sense of humor about your mistakes. So for me by very definition being real is about being messy and is about being able to make mistakes.
She did allow that being a real Real Girl is a tall order! The mp3 of our full (brief) conversation is here.