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Updated: July 5, 2010 19:38 IST

Where's my little girl?

Aparna Karthikeyan
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IT'S THAT AGE When the daughter's taste starts changing Photo: Akhilesh Kumar
THE HINDU+SEP+THE HINDU IT'S THAT AGE When the daughter's taste starts changing Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

Something happens the moment the daughter turns 13 — she becomes a woman with an opinion on everything from fashion to books.

One minute, she's your little girl, with fat pigtails and great big eyes that look up to you adoringly, waiting to please you, your every wish (well, almost) her command. The next?

Well, the clock strikes 12 on her 13th birthday, and in a matter of hours, your little girl wakes up, with all the long-limbed grace of a filly, tosses her hair insouciantly, and tells you that now that she's a woman, could you kindly give her some privacy and shut the door behind you when you're gone?

Now this, let me tell you, comes as a complete surprise. Especially to poor parents who put a wee girl to bed, only to have a sophisticated young woman wake up in her place. Who, moreover, delivers a lengthy talk about her new womanly ‘rights' — to style her hair as she pleases, paint her toe-nails a vivid shade of green, go shopping with friends, flatly refuse the evening glass of milk, walk around on kitten-heels, and oh, a million other things that she was simply not allowed to do until the day before.

Boys vs. girls

Really, whoever said it was easy being the mom / dad of a little girl? Parents of boys have it easy — no, really — because, when boys turn 13, they just turn 13. They don't turn into men! (In fact, I have this from every married woman — boys become men around their 40th birthday, not a day earlier!)

They do get a tad difficult — as teenagers of both sexes are wont to — but all they generally do is talk less, grunt more, and, perhaps, as an act of filial defiance, wear their jeans a notch lower. And, there's only so much worrying you can do about pants falling off from those precariously low-slung waists, isn't it? Whereas, look at the lot of the girls' parents…

Parents are warned and suitably prepared for girls to mature way faster than their male counterparts; but are usually taken by surprise when the girls leap well ahead of them in a few crucial areas of life. Such as —

Fashion — this is, oh la la, the most contentious area. Because, the little women know everything, and the parent (who, until yesterday was certified capable of choosing absolutely splendid outfits) knows nothing. ‘You can't come to school wearing that sack! Why can't you wear dresses with a cinched waist?' they ask, and when you patiently explain that you usually need a waist to cinch, they simply roll their eyes. Just as you did when they were plump little bundles, and wanted to wear the very same candy-pink fairy-costume every single day…

Music — you've usually got it all wrong here too, and no matter how hard you try, your ‘taste' is just not ‘with-it'. ‘That sounds like a scalded cat yowling into the mike' (‘Aaromale'; sigh, that haunting song); ‘why are you playing kalyana mandapam music in the car?' (There goes the shenai CD…)

Books — your taste in books has suddenly become too puerile. ‘Does that book have cute, talking animals? Well, I'll pass, thank you'. All because, the moment they turn 13, they can't read anything without the picture of an excessively handsome vampire on the cover…

Celebrations — the days of poems, singing the praises of the ‘best parents in the world' are long gone, and are interestingly replaced with handy gifts, that pointedly deliver a meaningful message (for instance, ‘most embarrassing dad' socks, ‘Don't lose your mind, lose your weight' cookbook etc…)

Clearly, this is a never-ending list. and I will gladly go on, elaborating the miseries of fellow-parents, but I have to go.

My precious girl-woman wants me to tuck her into bed, and read out a page or two of that silly pig story — obviously vampires are way too scary late at night, even for 13-year-old women…

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