I had even asked her how she met her husband and she told me that he had come for an interview after reading an article about her school and what she thought about the problem was with young Canadian girls. What she did not tell me, or to be honest I may have forgotten, is that she had written the article herself!
Imagine my delighted surprise when just this week I found that article that changed her life! This was found in the The Winnipeg Evening Tribune, October 1, 1955.
I came face to face with this country’s teenager three years ago when I, as a Canadian, returned to Canada after five years in England. Suddenly I found myself at Rothesay, N.B., as the new headmistress is Netherwood Girls’ School.
I was a little frightened at first of the sophisticated, teen-age Netherwood girl. Looking around me at the girls who were to be my pupils and my charges, I experienced a few tremors. They all looked so grown up! I wondered for a moment if they would teach me. There’s nothing like glamour and makeup to throw a teacher off balance. The whole first year took quite a bit of adjustment.
That first experience was rather a shock to me, the more so because I had become accustomed to the girls in England, who were not quite so sophisticated. Frankly, I feel the trend in Canada is all wrong.
I’m quite sure this isn’t any purely local problem. The teenagers I have encountered came from many parts of Canada. So, I do not refer specifically to the girls at Netherwood, although they form a part of the general pattern.
In reality, I have found that the Canadian teenager is not nearly as grown-up and confident as she appears. It’s a veneer. Wash off the makeup and put her is a school uniform and, once more she becomes quite young, very impressive, and very sensitive.
The teenager’s immaturity was illustrated to me by a simple incident soon after my arrival. I had been invited to a tea at which a number of these young girls had been asked to serve. I was quite surprised to note that many of them were standing around and fidgeting. They were apparently too timid to go up and ask the adults is they would like some tea. They looked so poised to me, it had not even occurred to me that they would have to be told what to do.
In various little ways the girls have given indications that they feel insecure. This stems partly from the fact the society is pushing them beyond their years. I usually go around at night and talk to my girls. They seem disappointed if I don’t go.
What are the causes?
Well, the power of the advertiser has something to do with it. Our newspapers, magazines and the radio have opened the doors to show our teenager a glamorous new world. Slick copy writers peddle umpteen shades and brands of lipstick and fill our little girl’s head with all sorts of alluring thoughts. Beauty aids. Chic clothes. Exquisite perfumes. Our young lady receives the full treatment. The pedestal is ready made for her. No wonder she climbs upon it and dreams of her knight in shining armour.
Advertising is much quieter in England. There’s considerably less emphasis on cosmetics and clothes. Without this distraction, the English teenager has a chance to be more natural and to develop her won individuality. Consequently, although she may appear to be more of a little girl, the teen-age English girl is usually a more mature person than the Canadian girl of the same group.
But the advertiser isn’t the real culprit. Not by a long shot. Much of the blame belongs in the home. Father is apt to say, “She is only a little girl yet.” But mother quite often has different ideas. She’s really quite keen about daughter having her first date and her first high heels. She’s so anxious for her daughter to be a success that she may aggravate the problem rather that help alleviate it. In her desire for her daughter to be popular, Mother may push the child across the threshold of her youth. The danger in this is that Daughter may not quite measure up to the popularity standards and may develop an inferiority complex. It may take her a good many years to get rid of this and she may never completely succeed.
I think we are quite easy on our teenagers. We give them their head a little too much. The authority of the home has gone down. I don’t believe its right to force your will on the child. She has got to learn to make her own decisions. But she needs more guidance that she is getting. I’m sure many teenagers feel that they know considerably more than their parents and teachers.
There’s nothing particularly new about this business of pushing children into an adult world before they’re ready for it. As an adolescent in Canada, I fought against it myself. Then I had an opportunity to go to school in England. It seemed to me that in Canada everyone wanted to be an adult. In England it didn’t matter. I felt more secure in England, where “going with the crowd” and the Saturday night date seemed unimportant.
How many young woman today rush into marriage just to get married – that is, to keep up with their friends – and arrive all too soon in the divorce courts?
Too many I’m afraid. I believe that if parents and teachers worked together on this problem they could do much to stem this tide.