10/19/17

You Do You

Lessons in Bravery and Batwings

Written By: Pauline Campos

When she was five, a little old lady complimented my daughter on being “such a beautiful princess.” We were in line at Target in the middle of any month other than October - me in capris, flip flops, and a tank top, and my daughter in a full, floor-length gown partially covering her red cowboy boots, a sparkly crown on her head. This was her normal. 

Had she said nothing while the little old lady expectantly waited for a sweet-voiced “thank you,” all would have been fine. I’d have smiled politely, muttered something about my little girl being shy as an excuse - although nothing could have been further from the truth - and we’d have quietly been on our way. What happened instead was not quiet. It was loud and caused heads to turn. When the sweet little old lady called my daughter a princess, she had assumed my daughter was making believe that she was one. This is when my princess scrunched up her face, glared at the sweet little old lady, and corrected her in the same tone I’ve used when asking restaurant managers what they plan to do about my husband having a reaction from the supposedly gluten-free food that wasn’t. It was practically a growl. 

“I’m not a princess. I’m a girl in a princess dress, okay? That’s different.”

Sensing this was going to get worse if I gave the sweet little old lady time to get over her shock and reply, I apologized, paid as quickly as I could, and almost ran the cart with the Not a Princess Girl to my car. Sighing, I told my daughter she was grounded from dressing up from her costume box outside of the house until she could either say “thank you” or nothing at all when complimented by elderly strangers. 

She’s older now. We sometimes still leave the apartment with fairy wings and princess tiaras, and that’s okay with me. But I’m not worried about the little old ladies anymore. It’s what people - adults and kids her age and older - will think when they see a nearly five-foot tall ten-year-old dressed up in public on any given day other than Halloween. But my job isn't to tell her that she will be looked at for being different. It isn't to make sure that she gives a damn what other people think about her quirks or her style. Positive or not, when we decide to stand out, we better be prepared to be seen, because we will be. 

That damn she isn't giving right now? I’m giving it for her. 

I am fully aware of the fact that I shouldn’t be. I should not be afraid she will be made fun of for not blending in. I should not use that fear as the basis for shattering her confidence and her sense of self. That was my childhood.

My childhood. Not hers. 

When she was five, red cowboy boots with a pink tutu and a super hero cape just meant it was time to go to the grocery store. She went to preschool more times than I can count in her Snow White costume dress. That was just par for the course. The other kids at school ignored the normalcy of a preschooler dressed up for the sake of dressing up because they themselves weren’t doing it today, they would be tomorrow. 

This was our normal. 

We decided to homeschool when kindergarten started. We didn’t know she is on the spectrum then, but we did know that she was melting down in class, and developing a severe anxiety that caused her to lose sleep and shut down in school. When she was diagnosed last year, our decision was validated by the developmental pediatrician that handled the evaluation. My daughter, she said, thrives in a one on one environment, and being gifted and high-functioning autistic presented a unique paradigm many schools and teachers would not be prepared to handle. She suggested homeschooling through graduation, if possible, and that’s the plan. I know what some people think; that she isn't “socialized” and that she needs to be in a public school setting in order for that to happen. Maybe that's why, I think they may be thinking, she's 10 and wore the batwings just because she could until she outgrew them. Maybe that's why she likes the music she likes and watches the television shows that she watches on Netflix. Until last year, our car radio was permanently set on Kids Place Live. She still watches Sarah and Duck on repeat. Because she isn't around other kids her age and has never experienced peer pressure to let go of that which she wants to hold onto because it’s considered “babyish.” Because she's autistic. Because she doesn't know better. 

Wait. Scratch that. Because she doesn’t know different.

I stop myself when I get on this train of thought, because I eventually realize the only issue here is my own emotional baggage. I'm the one who is always hyper-aware of the fact that I wonder what other people are thinking of me. I'm the one who always felt like an outsider in school, not sure where to sit in the cafeteria or which group to approach in the hopes of being invited to play during recess. I'm the one who declined softball tryouts in high school only because I couldn't possibly wear that uniform in public if I made the team. It was too form-fitting, leaving me no place to hide the curves that made me feel so out of place. At 15, I had hips and large breasts. Male customers twice my age assumed I was older, asking me when my shift was over at the restaurant I worked at. No matter how good I thought I’d be, I could only think about my body in the softball uniform what others would see, and that was enough to even keep me from trying out.

I’m also the one with the eating disordered background, the depression, and an attempt to take my own life while in college. 

I am the woman who became a wife who became mother who sometimes still doubts my own worth. I love or hate my body, depending on the day. And I will wonder what others will think of me and what I am wearing whenever I step out my front door. 


None of this will factor into the childhood memories she will look back upon as an adult. When she decides what to wear, the only factor behind the final choice each day is solely what will make her happy. I’ve got an appointment with a therapist in a few weeks. I am the one with the baggage. 

She’s the one with the batwings.


A few years ago, I read an essay in which the writer made fun of her homeschooled teen babysitter for skipping through the sprinklers on her walk home. I remember reading and thinking how I wished I had been that teenager and wondered why the one thing we value as adults - individuality and creative spirit and an unshakable sense of self - we try to crush out of our children. What’s wrong with skipping through the f*cking sprinklers? I wish I could stop thinking about how others see me long enough to do that myself. 

But this isn't just about my kid rocking her bat wings in public because it makes her happy; it's also about making sure she understands there's a price to pay for choosing to skip through the sprinklers. My job is to make sure she understands that being her own person comes with responsibility and self-respect. You do you, baby girl. People may look. Sometimes they may point. Maybe they say something mean. Maybe they high-five you because they like to grocery shop wearing bat wings, too. Others may dance when they think nobody is watching. But not you. You create your own music and dance knowing that people are, baby girl, and that makes my heart sing. Always hold your head high and handle yourself with grace.


And never, ever, stop marching to your own beat. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pauline Campos is a freelance writer & artist living in Minnesota. She is the author of "Be Your Own F*cking Sunshine: An Inspirational Journal for People Who Like to Swear". Find her on Twitter @Pauline_Campos and at aspiringmama.com.

Featured image: Stock photo / Other images provided by: Pauline Campos

share this article



you might also like

Why You Should Please Yourself on Valentine's Day ❤️

Don't ever be ashamed of showing yourself love.

When Motherhood Didn't Match My Picturesque Pregnancy

There isn't an Instagram filter glowy enough to hide the realities of being a mom.

Grieving My Grandmother Through Gifts She Left Behind

Her love is everywhere.

Why I Never Went Camping with My Husband Again

When you gotta go in the wild, not even the fear of a bear can get in your way.

Lessons in Bravery and Batwings

"What’s wrong with skipping through the f*cking sprinklers?"

DIY Crafts for the Non-Pinterest Pro

You won't buy overpriced soaps and candles again.

The Sisterhood of the Bar Bathroom

Sol-dar-i-pee is ageless. 💦

A Nurse's Gushing Ode to Her Job

There are priceless perks to loving your work.

Southernmost Exposure

This brave woman didn't let a full bladder dampen her Florida Keys adventure.

Dear Sheilah: On (Mom)umental (Mom)ents

When the *mothership* hits the fan, Sheilah's got answers.

Can Changing Your Footwear Change Your Mood?

The great Crocs debate.

Dear Sheilah: On Painful Politics

When partisan issues become parental pain points.

Meet Our Models

Our (pee-proof) underwear models aren't new to disrupting the status quo. 

New Year, New Pelvic Floor Gear! 🎉

Self-care splurges to lessen your urges.

Dear Sheilah: On Saving Moolah

You can't spend what you don't see. 💰

Dear Sheilah: On Grooming

Hate haircuts? Procrastinate pedicures? Forgo facials?

Dear Sheilah: Wanderlust, Cheating & The Language of Love

"I was brainwashed into this whole 'marriage' thing. I was Betty Crocker with a joint."

Dear Sheilah: On Self-Sabotage, Raising Daughters & Callings

"...but then I remembered I had hidden a Magic Mushroom."

Dear Sheilah: On Hindsight, Granny Mistresses, and Superpowers

Sheilah flips the script by giving advice to her 25 year-old self.

Dear Sheilah: The Good, The Bad & The Healthy

Alright stop, collaborate, and listen. Sheilah's back w/ a brand new edition.

Dear Sheilah: On Guilt, Anxiety & Excitement

Golden showers of wisdom from a non-certified advice giver.

Bra lala lala!: A Roundtable Discussion on Bras

Over the shoulder bolder holder: oppressive tit-sling or breast friend?

Introducing: Dear Sheilah

If Dear Abby looked like a Real Housewife and toked up like Cheech and Chong. 

My Body Can

An homage to our weird and wonderful bods.

Pickin' Up Good Vibes

With only 5 days left in May, our National Masturbation Month post is a real buzzer beater (heh).

A Fresh-Faced Feminist

Never look a gift horse in the mouth. Even when it's your mother.

Self-Care as a Single Mom

In the midst of all the hustling, self-care is salvation.

Get Your Freak On

I wanted to be pumped up when push literally came to shove and I was expelling a human out of my vagina.