As a teenage girl, I approached "The Curse of the Good Girl" by Rachel Simmons with some skepticism, regarding it as another one of "those parenting books." But, as I began to read the first few chapters I recognized most of the described behavior, and realized that some of it was my own behavior. Reading "The Curse of the Good Girl" opened my eyes to situations and mind-sets I formerly believed only happened to me and my friends but are universal to all teenage girls.
The behaviors described in the first part of the book include repressing emotions, relationship assumptions, fear of confrontation, inability to handle negative criticism and the effect these traits have on girls who eventually become mothers. All of these "Good Girl" traits limit the potential of girls at some point in their lives, whether in their future workplace, home or athletic field. Not all girls fall victim to these personality pitfalls but most do, and in reading "The Curse of the Good Girl" and realizing these setbacks, girls can begin to move away from them.
The "Good Girl" description in the book applies to all girls in one form or another. The "Good Girl" pressures not only come from the media, but parents, peers and girls themselves as well. Simmons addresses these pressures and their sources through long-term studies with teenage girls, helping parents raise secure daughters.
In my middle and high school career I have experienced and witnessed many conflicts between girls based only on assumption. Best friends who have known each other their whole lives stop talking to one another because of an assumption made by one friend about what the other thought of her. Most girls do not realize they are jumping to conclusions when they take an ignored hello as a sign of a fight. But guesses like these end up blowing up and fuel the "dramatic" girl stereotype. If I had not read the chapter on assumptions in "The Curse of the Good Girl," I would have thought that most of these incidents only happened to me and my friends. But this book makes these types of "Good Girl" issues widespread, and puts in the open what holds girls back.
Along with assumptions, avoiding confrontation is a handicap to girls in today's society. Because girls who are "confrontational" are labeled as bossy or hard to handle, most girls stay away from conflicts as much as possible. But by refusing to acknowledge problems, the problems are escalated, again adding to the drama of teenage girls. Simmons demonstrates healthy and intelligent conversation steps to handle conflict between teenage peers and also daughters and mothers. These steps can be some of the most useful information for both a teenage girl and her mother.
Visible everywhere from the athletic field to the classroom is the widespread belief of girls' inability to handle criticism. The "Good Girl" strives for perfection and when she misses the mark, the result is devastating. I myself have received a bad grade on an important test and the first thought in my mind was, "I'm never going to get into college." This sort of thinking limits girls from learning from mistakes and growing as individuals. By identifying this problem and teaching the reader that mistakes are necessary for growth, "The Curse of the Good Girl" can solve one of the most crippling problems for girls.
Girls who grow up in the "Good Girl" mind-set and become mothers can be caught up in the "Good Mother" trap as well, according to Simmons. By teaching conflict aversion and soft voices, the curse of the Good Girl and Mother becomes an unbreakable cycle. But, mothers who read this book are given the tools to apprehend and break the disastrous cycle.
"The Curse of the Good Girl" is an intelligent and enlightening read on raising real girls in today's society. I not only recommend mothers of teenage daughters to read this book, but teenage girls as well.
THE CURSE OF THE GOOD GIRL
By Rachel Simmons
Penguin Press HC, 288 pages, $25.95
Katie Burke attends the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.