As a small child, I was dragged to dance lessons by my grandmother, decked out in head to toe pink. I hadn’t asked for dance lessons. My grandmother was always trying to turn me into something else, and apparently I wasn’t girly enough for her tastes. Since she was paying, she could dictate the pink. I don’t remember a lot about dance lessons. I didn’t particularly enjoy any of it: the pink, the emphasis on performing for others (always big with my grandmother), or ballet. When a new teacher started and had us doing more tap and jazz, which I enjoyed much more, my grandmother yanked me out and switched me to a different dance school. I do, however, remember being forced to sing and dance to a song I felt was horrible even then.
I’m a little teapot, short and stout.
Here is my handle, and here is my spout.
When I get all steamed up, here me shout,
“Tip me over and pour me out.”
After learning this in class, I was forced to perform the rendition for my grandmother’s friends, decked out in pink, naturally – the perfect, demure little girl. At the time, the entire ordeal bothered me, although I hadn’t yet connected what it was teaching young girls. Wear pink – be sweet, innocent, and demure; do what others tell you to. Be the teapot – small and dependable, always there for her husband. Don’t show emotion; hold it inside, where it will inevitably build up. Offer your handle and allow others to use you.
That may be a little extreme for some, but you can’t deny that emotion is discouraged in our society. Women, while sometimes allowed to show fear or to cry, should never be angry about anything. That wouldn’t be sweet, innocent, and demure.
I spent my chilhood like that, pretending that nothing bothered me. I carried that into my relationships when I began dating, letting boyfriends walk over me and pretending that it didn’t bother me. I ended up marrying a great man, but even then, I didn’t show that I was bothered by anything. I stored the little things that bothered me until I was so full it erupted. When that happened, we would argue and I would spout a list of things that had been bothering me for months.
We went through that cycle until I learned to air my grievances as they happened. It was okay for me to have emotion and by acknowledging my emotions as they came, they didn’t turn to anger, festering until they erupted. It took me a long time to learn that. It’s something I hope to help my children know from the beginning. Emotions are good and acceptable, no matter what they are. They are the litmus as to whether or not our needs are being met. They are part of our humanity. I hope my daughters have a healthier view of relationships than I started with. I won’t be teaching them to sing, I’m a Little Teapot.