Sara Pauff: Being girly and being smart

November 14, 2011 

If there is one portion of my life I would never choose to return to, it’s middle school.

I’m sure lots of women would agree with me. The three years you spend trapped in those halls are confusing, painful and the source of a lot of awkward memories. To all of the 13-year-old girls currently struggling through these years, you have my sympathies. I’d tell you it gets better, but you probably wouldn’t believe me.

In middle school, you sometimes think you can either be one of the “smart girls” or one of the “pretty girls” at school. You can be the girl that everyone wants to partner with for science lab because she pays attention and knows all the answers or you can be the girl that loves to dress up and gets invited to the school dance. You can’t be both.

I picked smart girl. I took pride in the fact that I wasn’t a cheerleader, didn’t care about makeup or clothes and chose the library over the mall. I’d always been told that being smart was better than being pretty anyway, and I believed it.

I still think being smart is better than being pretty, but really, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to choose between being the smart girl or the pretty girl. You can care about your appearance and care about your education. You can have too many shoes in your closet and too many books on your shelves. You can go shopping for a new winter wardrobe and then come home and watch a marathon of historical TV dramas (which is exactly what I did last weekend).

I think girls and women need more role models that aren’t pigeonholed into being just one thing. Women that are pretty, smart, funny, unique and maybe a little weird. Women like Mindy Kaling.

You probably know her as Kelly Kapoor, the ditzy, celebrity-obsessed chatterbox on the television show, “The Office.” Kelly is not known for being smart. She’s pretty and into “girly” things like romantic comedies, clothes and Beyonce.

Kaling likes these things too -- she has a blog where she frequently posts about clothes and make-up. In a recent interview with the Guardian, she said that because of her love for girly things, people often think she’s dumb.

Kaling is far from dumb. She graduated from Dartmouth College and joined the writing staff of The Office when she was just 24. She’s written and directed several episodes of the series and she’s just finished a book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). I haven’t read it yet, but from the reviews it sounds like one of those witty books that make you laugh out loud in public places.

I like Kaling’s unabashed enthusiasm for make-up and fashion, as well as her hilarious work on The Office. Being girly should not be synonymous with being dumb, because women aren’t dumb. We’re smart and we’re pretty.

Contact Sara Pauff at 706-320-4469 or spauff@ledger-enquirer.com. For more commentary, read her 20-something blog at www.ledger-enquirer.com/sara.

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