Earlier this month, Jay and I were at a family reunion in a Northern Ontario town. One evening a bunch of us decided to go for a walk at sunset along the shore, but had to cut through a few neighbourhoods to get there. On the way we came across two teenage girls waiting at a bus stop, both holding adorable puppies. It is nearly impossible to restrain me from petting adorable animals, and I charged ahead to say hello.
What happened in those next 30 seconds deeply grieved me.
As I was being kissed all over by the two sweet canines, one of the girls said, “I’m dressed like this because I work at a club…you know, more tits more tips.” As I was still processing this, the other girl, who was dressed in flip flops, a sweater, and track pants, looked at us and immediately began to apologize for the way she looked, explaining that she didn’t usually go out in public wearing slobby clothes like that.
We chatted with them for a little but and went on our way, all of us reflecting on what we had just witnessed. I am grateful to have a husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law who deeply value and respect women, and we began to talk about the encounter.
I was saddened by the fact that the first girl, at such a young age, had a job being ogled by men at a night club. I was sad that her dreams were being bought out by tips for exposed skin instead of being honed and developed in an environment of true love. Jay was most saddened by the fact that the second girl felt she needed to apologize for the way she looked. He felt sick that a beautiful girl would feel shame in his presence because she was wearing comfortable clothes and no make up.
In hindsight, I wish I had stopped for longer. Learned their names. Heard more about their lives, their dreams, their fears. Spoken encouragement and truth into their lives. Told them they were beautiful and had so, so much value. But the moment had passed. I am trying to get better at catching these moments, not letting an opportunity slip by to speak a word of love into the life of another.
On some level we’ve all experienced feelings of inadequacy, insignificance, or worthlessness. Instead of being part of a society that promotes these, how can we become shapers of culture who break these down? What can we do to ensure that girls and women do not base their value on how much skin they show or how much makeup they use to hide their true selves?