The Girl Who Chose Vanilla
Before simple choices like lunch were published socially with witty captions, teens still hung out together with food on tables between each other. It was largely undocumented, yet still regularly occurred. Back then, if any of us gathered would have thought to take a camera out and capture a thoughtful picture of the food, well, that would be waving a freak flag. In general, cameras didn't come out much in restaurants.
I don't have to tell you that times have changed. I'm fine with it. Occasionally, I'm so enamored with the meal before me, I want to share it. Well, I wouldn't pass you my fork but you can look at a picture of my entrée, you know, we can share.
I showed Daniel a picture of Ryan and I from high school, way back when. He asked if it were black and white because that's how pictures were when I was a kid. He honestly, straight face asked me that....and lived to tell about it. It was actually adorable the way he asked, so sincere. No, pictures weren't only in black and white then. Plus, it's hard to tell here but, it's really sepia and we got it done at the mall. He asked a little more about our story. I told him how uncle Ryan liked me before I liked him...THAT way. We were friends for a long time. "So, uncle Ryan was caught up in the friend zone?" Yep, middle school is going to be really fun next year. Yay, us!!
So way back then, when my boyfriend and I got a sepia photo shoot done at the mall, no one had cell phones (we had pagers), and people didn't take pictures of their food, I went out with a group of friends for milkshakes one evening. I chose vanilla.
One girl couldn't get over that. My selection became an offense to her. Of all the flavor options that there were, I would chose vanilla? She took it a step further and too far, not letting up. In retrospect I think she meant it jokingly but vanilla became a label she put on me and vanilla wasn't fun. It was boring, forgettable, plain jane....she kept at it. Everyone in our group, and in my head, all the world was turned toward me sipping their fancy and well chosen shakes to see my response. I didn't have one. It was entirely possible and likely to me, that I was merely, 'meh.' The girl who chose vanilla. Choosing vanilla became evidence that used against myself. It was evidence that I didn't quite measure up.
I think of teens today. How they are still navigating relationships, hurts, rejections, labels. Only now, those minor life events, like grabbing some milkshakes, are documented with pictures and captions on social media. It can be about who's there (and who's not there) and what they are doing. It's all so very labeled.
It's pretty new, this social media thing and how we interact with it or not. What's not new is relating to each other socially.
In high school, my peer's opinion of me sometimes had the power to shape me. I was who they said I was, because I believed that's how everyone saw me. Vanilla. Unremarkable.
The label isn't really the problem. Being 'vanilla' isn't a problem. It's the story we tell around that word that can rip, smudge, and tarnish over time.
When vanilla means insignificant, I don't want to be that girl. When it means, uncluttered, simple, fresh, honest, and a compliment to other flavors, I could go along with that.
Let's think about that in terms of our children (students). We notice things about them. We describe them. It is hard not to label (even if just in our own minds). Really hard. It is hard not to compare. Comparing, contrasting, describing, and making connections are all ways that we learn. They are ways that we make sense of something, someone. If we are honest, we probably do that with our children. I do. It's how I come to an understanding of them. It's usually a thought that stays filed away in my head but occasionally something slips out of my mouth. Sometimes my kids pick up on what is said about them, whether by me, or a family member, or a friend, or a teacher.
Whatever the label that is used to describe the differences we see in each other's personalities, the power isn't in the label itself. The power is in the story surrounding it.
Let's make sure when we look in the mirror and think about how we would be described, that the story we are telling ourselves is the one we would offer to a dear friend. There are always things that we are going to be working out in ourselves this side of heaven but maybe we can settle the issue of 'choosing vanilla.' It's ok to be that girl. Tell a better story.
When labels begin landing on your child help them know which ones to cast off and which ones to hang on to and tell them a really good story, the true story. You know the one where they are loved to the moon and back. Remind them about how some weaknesses are really strengths in disguise.
Conversely, when they begin noticing, comparing, contrasting, making connections about others, teach them how to tell a good story about others, a positive story. We see what we look for. Tell them to look for good things.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Thanks for reading!
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