Photo credit: Foter.com
“Boy, why are you crying?”
“I’m not a boy!”
“Sorry. It’s a quote from – oh, never mind. What’s wrong, dear?”
“I told Kent I want to be an astronaut when I grow up and he laughed at me. He said girls can’t be astronauts. That you have to be really smart and really strong to be an astronaut and girls are weak and stupid.”
Her grandmother laughed.
“It’s not funny!”
“Oh, but it is, dear. I’m sorry. It’s not you I’m laughing at. It’s Kent. He says girls are stupid, but he’s the one who hasn’t even heard of Sally Ride or Mae C. Jemison or any of the dozens of other women who have gone up into space.”
Brittany finally looked up at her grandmother. “Who were they?”
“Who were they? You mean you’ve never heard of Sally Ride?”
Brittany shook her head.
“And you say you want to be an astronaut. Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space. And Mae C. Jemison was the first African-American woman to go into space.”
“Really. Oh, honey, don’t ever, ever, ever, let a boy tell you what you can and cannot do. He’s just trying to control you, but he can only do that if you let him.”
Brittany wiped her eyes. “Why would Kent try to control me?”
“Probably because convincing you that you can’t do anything makes him feel better about himself. He gets to feel like he’s special – like he’s better – just because he’s a boy. And he gets you out of his way.”
“What do you mean out of his way? Kent doesn’t want to be an astronaut.”
“Are you sure?”
Brittany hesitated, her face scrunched up as she searched her memory for anything that might indicate Kent had a desire for space travel.
“Even if he doesn’t want to be an astronaut, he wouldn’t have to compete with you if he can convince you to stay home while he goes on living his mediocre life. He doesn’t have to try to make more money than you or become more famous than you. I’m going to let you in on a little secret.” She leaned in close towards her granddaughter, who leaned in even closer until their foreheads were almost touching. “Men are scare of us.”
Brittany’s head jerked back, her face a contortion of confusion. “Huh? Why would they be scared of us?”
“First of all, because they don’t understand us. They write us off, so when we do something they think we can’t, it boggles their mind. They don’t know how to deal with it. Also because they know we’re tougher than they are. Not because we’re physically stronger, but because we can withstand anything. Women have spent centuries being traded and sold into ugly marriages and had to put up with abusive husbands with no one to stand up for them but themselves. It’s made us more resilient and more self-reliant than any man you’ll ever meet. And that scares them. They won’t admit it. They might not even recognize it, but it’s true.”
“So, you’re saying I can become an astronaut?”
“Baby, I’m saying you don’t need anyone’s permission to do or be anything. If you want to be an astronaut, you go out and be the best astronaut this galaxy has ever seen. Just make sure it’s really what you want. Don’t go doing all that hard work just to prove a point. That way madness lies.”
“I want it more than anything,” Brittany said so softly it was almost a whisper.
“Then get to work. You’re the only one who can stop yourself.”
To be continued…
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