Last week the news went out that a 12 year old girl was missing……the news said she was probably with a 15 year old. Ok. Worry. Dread. 12 is too young to be away from home. So is 15.
The local press was not quick and not dogged in any way….No front page. Pay to read. Shabby at best. Discriminatory at worse. . It was social media that really spread the word.
Then came the picture. Then came the judgment. Light skinned, beautiful, shock of natural hair worn in a crazy fro, smile 1000 watts of shine, and a body that is well……not what society thinks of when they think 12.
180 pounds. Fully developed. The comments came quick. “don’t look 12 to me!” “She is not 12” “Wow”
But she is 12. So it IS a 12 year old body. I tried repeatedly to make this point. And to remind folks that a child has no control over his or her packaging. The comments were harsh but it was the underlying disregard that was heartbreaking. Because she doesn't look a certain way I do not have to think about her being missing. Or in harm's way. I can ignore her. And it feels like for many, that is what they did.
Our conversation about our physical appearance has to change. Puberty, adolescence, all of the natural occurrences can’t be cloaked in pet terms, sly chuckles, and blank stares. How easy is it to trivialize the age and focus on the appearance. Twelve. Twelve. Twelve. I want to scream it to anyone listening. I want to march to the paper with a sign reading only this number. I want an explanation on why she is not worried over.
This outrage sparked a distinct memory from my own childhood. I remember reading the famous line from Judy Blume’s cult classic, Are you there God, It’s me Margaret: “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!!" Such innocence. I was so surprised thinking this isn’t a conversation we have in my house. If I said this there would be trouble. That Margaret is a lucky girl. There was no comfort in what was happening during that time of physical change. Only anxiety.
Grown folks sitting at the kitchen table, “Hmmmhmmm…..she thick!” “gonna have to watch that one” On and on. Starting a shame they didn’t even know was growing.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Educated girls become empowered women. 12 comes in many shapes and sizes. The shape will be all that matters if confidence and knowledge are missing.
Update. 12 year old girl is back at home. 2 weeks gone. Praise God, the message reads.
She may be back……but somehow I don’t think she gets 12 back. I don’t think we ever let her have it.