I went to a dinner party at a friend’s home last weekend, and met her five-year-old daughter for the first time.
Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, “Maya, you’re so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!”
But I didn’t. I squelched myself. As I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.
What’s wrong with that? It’s our culture’s standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn’t it? And why not give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem? Because they are so darling I just want to burst when I meet them, honestly.
Hold that thought for just a moment.
This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers. This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart.
Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.
That’s why I force myself to talk to little girls as follows.
“Maya,” I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, “very nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.
“Hey, what are you reading?” I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I’m nuts for them. I let that show.
Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expression gave way to genuine excitement over this topic. She paused, though, a little shy of me, a stranger.
“I LOVE books,” I said. “Do you?”
“YES,” she said. “And I can read them all by myself now!”
“Wow, amazing!” I said. And it is, for a five-year-old. You go on with your bad self, Maya.
“What’s your favorite book?” I asked.
“I’ll go get it! Can I read it to you?”
Purplicious was Maya’s pick and a new one to me, as Maya snuggled next to me on the sofa and proudly read aloud every word, about our heroine who loves pink but is tormented by a group of girls at school who only wear black. Alas, it was about girls and what they wore, and how their wardrobe choices defined their identities. But after Maya closed the final page, I steered the conversation to the deeper issues in the book: mean girls and peer pressure and not going along with the group. I told her my favorite color in the world is green, because I love nature, and she was down with that.
Not once did we discuss clothes or hair or bodies or who was pretty. It’s surprising how hard it is to stay away from those topics with little girls, but I’m stubborn.
I told her that I’d just written a book, and that I hoped she’d write one too one day. She was fairly psyched about that idea. We were both sad when Maya had to go to bed, but I told her next time to choose another book and we’d read it and talk about it. Oops. That got her too amped up to sleep, and she came down from her bedroom a few times, all jazzed up.
So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling. Will my few minutes with Maya change our multibillion dollar beauty industry, reality shows that demean women, our celebrity-manic culture? No. But I did change Maya’s perspective for at least that evening.
Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. Ask her what she’s reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You’re just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand? You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman says and does.
You could say that there plenty of not-so-bright people walking around, but it’s not that there are so many of them, it’s just that they are usually the loudest. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people out there, but they simply don’t advertise the fact that they are smart. It comes natural to them, and they try to live their lives freely and without consciously drawing attention to themselves. You can call it modesty or plain old good manners, but these people tend to look and sound quite average, until they surprise you with a gem of wisdom. Here are some of the tell-tale signs that you might be one smart cookie, without appearing so.
1. You’re a night owl
As recent research suggests, those who prefer to stay up late, and do their best work at night, average higher IQ scores than morning people. That being said, staying up late won’t magically hack your brain into being smarter – smarter people are just more likely to work and party during the night, and sleep in. While all your friends are fast asleep, you are browsing the web for information, reading, learning to play the guitar and finishing up different projects – since this happens behind the scenes, your knowledge and skills will often be a surprise to people.
2. You’re the silent type
You’ll find plenty of misconceptions about quiet people, e.g. being labeled as introverts, socially awkward and so on. This isn’t necessarily true, and while not all quiet people are necessarily smart, highly intelligent people will often refrain from speaking if they are accessing a situation. They will take some time to think about what was said and prepare an adequate response, and they find silence better than pointless small talk.
3. You face your problems
You may find yourself faced with a bunch of difficult problems, but a smart person won’t let that bring them down. A very smart person will know how to prioritize and deal with problems as they arise, before things even get a chance to start spinning out of control. If you are the type of person who faces problems and welcomes challenges, always dancing on the age of your comfort zone, chances are that you are fairly intelligent.
4. You hang out with smart and creative people
The company you keep is a good reflection of who you are as a person. Exceptionally smart people will tend to hang out with people like them, i.e. smart, creative and cultured. There are always some exceptions, but if about 80% of the people in your life are intelligent and interesting, you probably fit that description as well.
5. You strive for perfection
There might not be anything that hints at great intelligence in your appearance or speech, the way you conduct yourself is an excellent indicator. Intelligent people always strive for perfection, so each time you see them you’ll be able to notice a few small improvements. They are always a bit different than before. This perfectionist mentality is applied to all aspects of life, from trying to look their best or working on being a great speaker, to spending hours practicing their golf swing or dart throw.
6. You tend to be quite self-critical
There are plenty of narcissists out there who sometimes lie to themselves and others about how good they are at something, so it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone being self-critical and accepting critique. Although someone might not be actively trying to impress and come off as smart, the ability to acknowledge one’s own faults and the willingness to work on correcting them can give their intelligence away.
7. You like to stay informed
Intelligent people like to be up to date with the latest development in a number of different fields, always trying to improve themselves bit by bit. A smart person will stay up to date with local and global news, as well as try to learn all he or she can about topics that are directly related to their life or are interesting to them. Gathering information, learning new things and developing useful skills is a lifelong goal for highly intelligent people, and they will always have a way of keeping themselves busy.
8. You’re constantly occupied with tons of different projects
Speaking of keeping busy, a good indicator that you are dealing with a very smart person is the fact that they always have a few projects that they are working on. They might be brushing up on their French and learning a few useful Mandarin phrases, reading up on DIY home repairs, taking dancing lessons, working on some new recipes in the kitchen, or compiling a book on early medieval architecture. While a lot of people like to keep busy, a smart person will fill their free time with activities that help them improve in one way or another. Not all smart people are very productive, but it can be a good indicator of higher intellect.
9. You ask all the right questions
When talking to a smart person who doesn’t blow his or her own horn, you’ll notice that they don’t try to hijack the conversation or start long monologues. They will actually sit there quietly and listen to what you have to say, allowing for a few moments of silence here and there as they think things over. However, once they ask a question it really hits the spot. They actually give helpful advice or even get you to come to the right conclusions on your own. If your friends enjoy talking to you and tell you that you are a good listener, you are probably a good friend, and an intelligent one at that.
10. You don’t think that you are exceptionally smart
Due to something called the Dunning-Kruger effect people with a low level of competence will tend to overestimate their abilities, whereas highly competent people will tend to sell themselves short. This is due to the fact that the more intelligent, informed and skilled you are, the more you realize just how much space there is to further improve and you are not satisfied with your current knowledge or skill level.
True intelligence cannot really be hidden away or masked effectively, nor is this the point of exceptionally smart people who appear seemingly normal. They wear their intelligence proudly, but they don’t flaunt it, although these ten signs are a dead giveaway.
The day I started hormones was the best day of my life. It was also a day I had to wait almost two years for, due to waiting lists here in the U.K. Sadly, the struggle to get onto hormones and begin transitioning is something many transgender people face — whether it's due to waiting lists, financial issues, or unsupportive families, this can be extremely detrimental to our mental health. As Jay Stewart, PhD, the founder of Gendered Intelligence, explains, “It is so important for young trans people to express their gender in the ways they feel is right for them."
Before I started my hormones, I felt depressed, but what got me through it was finding ways to make myself feel more feminine (at least, according to what my own definition of femininity is) and like I was progressing in my transition. Of course, everyone’s transition is different and everyone’s idea of femininity is different. But here, I share some of the things that helped me, as well as some of my top tips if you're going through a similar time.
I grew my hair!
This was the easiest and cheapest way to progress in my transition because it cost no money at all and I could do it without even thinking. (Of course, I realize that not every girl wants to grow out her hair, but this was something I wanted to do.) Caring for your hair with nourishing treatments and oils can help to make it grow, but the best part about this extra hair care is that I was able to give myself some self-care, too.
Body hair removal
On the topic of hair: As well as growing it, there may be hair you want to remove. Everyone has different preferences to body hair, but my body hair always made me feel dysphoric. So even though I wasn’t living full time, I’d still do things like shave my legs so I felt more feminine. If you want to also have your hair removed, you can consider laser hair removal on your face (and consider that it's a process that can take time).
Moisturizer is everything
I took time every day to moisturize my body from head to toe, and I don’t mean just slapping it on in a rush! I really took time to connect with myself — massaging it into my skin, showing my body some love. This really helped me battle my body dysmorphia and it improved my skin; win, win.
I painted my nails
Similarly to the moisturizing routine, this was a way of showing my body and myself some love. Looking down and seeing a feminine hand is a small but significant way I would affirm my gender to myself during this period where I wasn’t allowed or able to express it to the rest of the world. I wasn’t confident enough to go for a bold color during this period, so I’d just keep them filed and buffed with a coat of clear gloss, but this was enough to keep me feeling feminine during this hard time. Try it!
I practiced my voice
I began working on my voice. Sadly for us transgender girls, unlike transgender guys, hormones don’t do anything to our voices, so if you want a more feminine one (not everyone does!) you’ll have to train it yourself. There are loads of YouTube videos that will teach you how do this. It takes time and practice, though, so if this is something you want for yourself, get on with it as soon as possible. Alternatively, if this is something you don’t care about, good for you — that’s one less thing to worry about.
I practiced wearing makeup
Firstly, let me say that no, you don't have to wear makeup to be a woman. But if makeup is something you want to use, it does take some practice! I've realized that this waiting time is the perfect opportunity to perfect the craft. One way to start learning the basics is to look up "morning routine" videos, where makeup artists show you their daily makeup routine.
I started my wardrobe
I started building up my female wardrobe, which helped me feel like I was progressing. If you're tight on money, I suggest making a Pinterest board of clothes you want to (and will!) wear.
Eat well and exercise
Eating well and exercising is something we should all be doing (I ain’t judging you, I can’t talk!), but it's extra important to do so during this time period. There are certain exercises you can do to create a more feminine figure if this is something you want. Squats, for example, will give you the ass of your dreams, no hormones required. Exercise, as we all know, is great for your mental health, too — so that's an added bonus.
Started saving money early
I started saving my money. Transitioning can be expensive, especially if you want any surgery (though not everyone does, which is totally OK). But even the things like laser hair removal, makeup, and a new wardrobe add up. Saving money means you’re still progressing toward your goal and not staying stagnant during this period of waiting.
I learned to love myself.
This is the hardest, but most important, tip on this list. You don’t have to be on hormones or living full-time to start learning to love yourself. All the tips on this list have focused on changing yourself physically, but if you don’t learn to love yourself first, you will keep changing yourself until you’ve lost yourself — and even then, you still won’t love yourself. Start from within. If you tell yourself you’ll only be able to start loving yourself once you’ve transitioned, that’s not truly loving yourself. To love yourself means to accept yourself, wholeheartedly, as you are. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you necessarily like everything about your body, but it means you wholeheartedly accept everything about your body, and there’s nothing more beautiful, powerful, or important than that.
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There I was, 7th grade, sitting oh-so-close to one of the prettiest girls in school. She had long, wavy blonde hair, and for the life of me I couldn’t stop staring at her legs. I wanted nothing other than her.
That was my math class, every single day, 5 days a week. And I knew that it was on me to figure out how to get her every bit as excited about me as I was about her. I had to figure out how to get a girl’s attention.
And so I did. In “How to Attract Women,” I spoke some about how I learned to attract women later in life. What I want to talk about in this post, though, was how I learned to get women’s attention; how I learned to make women take note of me, start keeping track of me, and begin to become intrigued. Because it was those early lessons in middle school, as well as the ones that were to come years later, that allowed me to today find it quite easy to get girls noticing me seemingly (from their points of view) before I’ve noticed them, and it’s an important element of getting them to chase.
If you can learn how to get a girl’s attention, you can learn how to captivate her. And once you’ve mastered those two things. let’s just say everything else is a snap.