Fierceness Written All Over Her Face

THE SHORT YEARS

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The directness with which she expresses herself—“I’m mad at you!” “My whole body is frustrated!” “I’m so excited!”—is something I greatly admire about her.

My face has always spoken long before my mouth forms a word.

To my grandma, this was known unilaterally as “the Meggie face.” Don’t like the flavor of Popsicle you’re offering? Need me to hand over the TV remote? Want my discarded sneakers placed neatly by the door instead? All occasions to break out the Meggie face.

In elementary school, this frankness brought on detention slips. By high school, however, it landed me in the International Thespian Society with a lead in the fall play. A set of the lips, widening of the eyes, the head tilt—it’s all part of having a very open thought process. (That’s what I tell myself, at least.)

As an adult, I’ve learned to channel this emotional transparency in a way that won’t send me to Human Resources. I believe in professionalism and diplomacy, and abhor rude and unkind behavior. But if you expect me to act perky when I oppose your plan completely, well—that’s unlikely. Even masks, a friend to those of us with Resting [Witch] Face, do nothing to stop that raised eyebrow.

The funny thing is that, until recently, I had little concept of my physical expressions. I knew how I was feeling, but—being the Meggie of the “Meggie face” in question—I had no idea how I actually looked.

Then I met my daughter.

I once read a quote that jokingly stated having a child is creating a miniature version of yourself with whom to argue. My girl Hadley, newly 5 years old, knows exactly who she is, what she’s about, and what she’s willing to tolerate from others—parents and brother included. She isn’t afraid of kicking behinds and taking names, and routinely stands up for herself in a way that is startling and impressive. 

Hadley is quick to anger yet fast to forgive, rapidly cycling through many emotions. The directness with which she expresses herself—“I’m mad at you!” “My whole body is frustrated!” “I’m so excited!”—is something I greatly admire about her.

Our daughter seems to have inherited much of her dad’s personality: determination, a penchant for hands-on learning, an eagerness for harmony . . . and then her mother’s expressive face. The furrowed brow, curved lips, eyes closing in joy—I watch her features rearrange with almost clinical interest, a kaleidoscope revealing surprising and beautiful patterns.

My husband once dubbed her “Little Anger,” for her tiny body burns so hot and bright. We channel it, help her work through it, but I will never chase that fierceness out of her. Every woman needs to be able to look another human in the eye and say, without fear or apology, “No.”

I don’t agree. I’m not interested. I’m unhappy. I’m unwilling. I don’t accept that. Actually, you know what? I won’taccept that.

Fierce girls grow up to be warrior women. And for all my parenting flaws, well—I’m proud to be raising one of those. 

Minus the detention slips, maybe.

But, hey—we’ll see how it goes. 

Megan Johnson is a lifelong Marylander who was writing bad poetry before mastering her alphabet. Author of the former “Right, Meg?” column in Southern Maryland Newspapers, she now writes for pleasure once again while working in healthcare communications. Meg lives with her husband, son and daughter near Waldorf. Reach her on Instagram at @writemeg.