Ah, elementary school! The carefree days of youth when my biggest concerns were the ingredients in the cafeteria’s “special” lunch and whether the boy sitting next to me did, in fact, have cooties. Sure, those concerns seemed weighty at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, I know those were halcyon days indeed.

At the risk of sounding like a old crank, I have to wonder if young girls today are missing out on those years of blissful ignorance. A new book, published here in Japan, suggests that the weight of the world may be falling on the shoulders of elementary school girls much earlier than it did for girls of my generation.

Being a Girl collects a variety of concerns expressed by elementary school girls and offers advice from doctors and other specialists, and you might be surprised what secret worries burden young girls’ hearts.

For example, one commonly expressed concern was about the condition of their skin. Children are supposed to play outdoors without worrying about how the weather will affect their skin, but girls talked about the drying effect of cold weather or the danger of peeling if you get a sunburn. Apparently, lip balm and sunscreen have become must-have items for the lunch box and ponytail set, not because their parents nag them, but because they want to protect their skin. I suppose it is good for them in the long run, but there is something strangely precocious about a 9-year-old wanting to prevent wrinkles.

Many of the girls also seemed overly concerned about what kind of woman they would become, not in the sense of whether they would be successful or happy, but how they would look and even smell. “I want to have nice nails”, “I want to smell nice”, “I want silky hair”, and “I want to get rid of body hair” all made the list. Of course, I don’t think it’s unusual for young girls to want to be pretty, but focusing on such minutiae as the condition of your nails or the way you smell seem like much older concerns to me. Even as schoolgirls, they are trying to construct a glamorous older version of themselves.

Another category that surprised me had to do with bodily functions. Apparently, schoolgirls want to know how to cure constipation and go to the bathroom less often; goals which are perhaps counter-effective. They also wanted to know how to improve their poor singing skills for karaoke.

These worries don’t seem terribly specific to girls or to young people. The advice of the experts, for example on the correct way to shave to deal with body hair or what kind of exercises get your digestive tract moving, are useful for anyone to know. There’s even advice on preventing anemia in the book.

It’s not that this isn’t good information to know, particularly if these are really areas of concern for young girls, but there just seems to be something very sad in the fact that they are concerned about them at all. It’s cliche to say that young women are growing up too fast, but it’s a hard world out there for women, so shouldn’t your age be at least in double digits before you have to start worrying about how the rest of the world perceives you? Wouldn’t it be nicer to have a few more carefree years of childhood? Maybe that’s just the old crank in me talking.

I suppose it’s pointless to tell someone what they should or shouldn’t be concerned about, but take it from me, girls, you’ll have the rest of your lives to be an adult and worry about your place in society and the inevitability of aging and death. I’d take cootie prevention over that any day.

Source: NicoNico News