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June 25, 2011

The apple fell far from the tree, but I love her for it

This will come as a shock to exactly no one who knows me, but I am not the girliest girl on the planet.

Given a choice, I'd live in jeans and T-shirts, with the occasional cardigan thrown in for kicks. It's been years since I've worn makeup; the last time I wore it on a daily basis might have been high school. I shave my legs only in the summer, when the odds are better that someone who doesn't live in my house might see them.

In short, if you were looking for a grown-up representation of what it means to be stereotypically female according to our cultural expectations, I am not who you want.

This doesn't bother me in the slightest, by the way. Plus, it saves a lot of time in the morning.

I wonder if the Diva senses the household girlieness void. Her brother and father aren't helping, even though the Boy will watch "Cinderella II" with her. Even our cats are male.

I'm clearly falling down on the job. So, perhaps, her subconscious feels the need to compensate for us all.

This isn't a new development. Even as a wee child, she was hypnotized by all of the tulle and bedazzling that hangs from the racks at kids' clothing stores. As she's gotten older, her taste has grown more subtle but continues to lean toward the hyper-feminine: Skorts are preferred over shorts; strappy tops rather than T-shirts; Easter-egg colors rather than primaries.

She's taken to sketching out dress designs and she has decided that this year's birthday party will have a fashion theme. When I wear a skirt or a dress, she has nothing but praise about how lovely I look. The "for a change" is implied.

This doesn't bother me in the slightest, either. It tickles me that someone who is not especially girly could produce someone who so emphatically is.

Which brings me around to this year's Girls on the Run event, held at the beginning of June.

GOTR is one of my favorite organizations because it encourages young women to move and accept their bodies, no matter what they may look like or what popular opinion would like them to be. After 10 weeks of activities, the program culminates with a 5K, which was run this year at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.

More than 1,000 runners ran and the vast majority of them were tweenaged girls. The race wasn't timed. The one goal was to finish. The secondary goal was to have as much fun doing that as possible.

We made the day a family affair, dragging the Boy along with us to watch his sister cross the finish line. She seemed more eager to find the station where they would put pink and green streaks in your hair. The race itself was an afterthought.

I wasn't entirely certain that she'd manage the race, mostly because she did almost nothing but complain about the practice runs they'd been doing twice weekly after school. I am well aware, however, that complaining is no indication of dislike. Someday, I'll tell you about the shoes I gave away that were a source of endless complaint but turned out to be her favorites.

(Actually, I just did. It's not a long story _ and it ends like so many kid-related stories do, with me being the worst mother ever because I didn't understand what was going on.)

When the run started, she took off with the rest of her group. About 20 minutes later, a few girls started to trickle in. Then the trickle became a flash flood.

It was hard to keep track of the returning runners. The finish line was a remarkably polite mosh pit of parents waiting for their offspring to return, which made it hard to search for your own kid. I was waiting and watching with another mother from the Diva's school. Her daughter managed to cross the line, eat a cup of yogurt and drink a bottle of water before she and her mom were reunited.

My husband and I weren't overly concerned about spotting the Diva right away because of the sheer number of kids made that tricky. But the time wore on. More and more of her pack came back.

We started to worry. We also started to ponder the etiquette of sending out a search party.

"She's probably just stopped to pick some flowers," my husband commented. The Diva has always been a meanderer and never fails to return from a walk with some trinket picked up off of the path.

Sure enough, the Diva made it back a few minutes later, a paper cup of wildflowers and a bonus snail clutched in one hand. She'd also accumulated some fashionable accessories along the route, including a fake flower lei and a beaded necklace, in faux gold.

I know that her love of all things overtly feminine could change overnight. Or is could only grow more intense during the next few years. She is who she is, and I love her for it. But I still shake my head and wonder how it happened.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest," last year. Her columns can be found at

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