Meet the modern Maria Clara

- Nicola M. Sebastian - The Philippine Star

Manila, Philippines -  When the HBO show Girls premiered a couple of months ago, screens were filled with not-too pretty ladies acting very unladylike, eating cupcakes in half-filled bathtubs, whining about their petty problems, and engaging in some very unromantic, I’d say almost smelly-looking, love-making. Many months before that, New Girl opened with indie sweetheart Zooey Deschanel maxing out her quirk factor as the adorably awkward Jesse, the kind of girl who makes up her own theme song, wears oversized hats of her own design, and could never outgrow ribbons, roommate to three dudes’ dudes. And let’s not forget the sitcom that also aired last year featuring an irony-clad, world-wily Max played by Kat Denning, 2 Broke Girls. She’s bored, she’s snarky, and she’s not above anything that’ll earn and/or save her a quick buck.

Throw in Lady Gaga’s blasphemous anthems and Rihanna’s social media documentation of her PG-rated frolics, and it’s enough to make some people wonder: What are girls turning into these days?

Girl, interrupted

The fiercest of them all: Even Snow White got a little tougher

I remember a time, when I had just moved here from Hong Kong, when my messy, wayward hair would draw disapproving looks from the teachers at my all-girl high school, or I’d be criticized for not being ladylike enough because my bra straps showed  not by my parents, nor even by tittering, old-fashioned lolas, but by boys my age. I remember wondering why my friends were too shy to eat with real gusto in front of boys, or why so few girls openly liked fantasy/sci-fi books, listened to “real” music, or drank beer.

Nowadays, these memories are exactly that, relics of a not-too-distant past where Filipino girls were expected to behave, think, and even laugh “properly”  slender, lily-white hand fanning out to hide one’s cutely curved smile, chin ducked as shoulders bob sweetly up and down to suggest amusement. And you just have to look at what the young ‘uns are posting in their fashion blogs these days, to see which way the wave is curling: road-weary Docs with their laces undone, shoulder-padded, ‘80s-print frocks from ukay, the requisite indie band tee, ripped tights or mismatched socks, and headwear that could top off a Cowboys vs. Indians costume as much as it could a ‘20s speakeasy.

Messy, uncombed hair has miraculously become a look, scuffed elbows from skating or any other alternative sport have become as acceptable as PMS, and a lass’s cultural tastes are expected to be as discriminating as any self-respecting lad. The girl of today is less concerned with how poised or tidy her appearance is, and more concerned with doing all the things that are fun and inspiring for her.

As far as the ideal woman’s concerned, we’ve passed through domestic sweetheart, gotten over sexy pin-up, worked out career woman, and don’t even regret the whole liberated Cosmo girl, but the girl of today’s a tad bit different from all of the above  or maybe it’s that she can choose from all of the above.

She can be a freelance hipster or a corporate yuppie, dressed like a Korean doll or a Californian tomboy, organizing her own LAN parties or cross-stepping knee-high swells in La Union, reading up on the singularity or mid-century modern design. She can even be a straight-up girl’s girl, watching party-hair how-to’s on YouTube and blogging about her latest fluoro obsession. And if she doesn’t always seem perfectly put-together, it’s because she’s not  nor should you expect her to be, because sincerity means more to her than a good impression, even if that means honestly messing up rather than pretending perfection. If anything she’s a little rough around the edges: She ain’t no Botticelli Venus emerging from an oyster, this girl’s a work-in-progress. And she may be pretty, or like pretty things, but then again maybe not.

Sitting still for photos is so, turn of the century, wouldn’t you say, Maria Clara?

Girls gone wild?

That’s not to say that girls weren’t behaving like this in decades prior. Icons like Theda Bara, Virginia Woolf, Kate Hepburn, and dare I say Madonna have always done their own thing, with or without public approval. But never before has the offbeat, the weird, the cult, the individual even, been so celebrated in the female ideal. And, taking another written chance, never has it been so, well, mainstream. An individual quirk is not a declarative statement like a smoldering underwire bra or a pink baller band, but you could say it’s the new normal.

What’s hot these days isn’t unblemished beauty, an awesome haircut, a stick-figure, a gaggle of followers, not even an aura of cool; it’s character. Style that speaks of originality, and originality that’s made of substance. Although yes, an awesome haircut helps, too.

And if she doesn’t act so sweet when you cut in her lane, refuses to book your barkada’s annual it’s-Bora-not-Boracay trip, steals your last Chicken McNugget and your copy of Diablo III with the same unapologetic smile, or tells you straight up, as a friend, that you look like a dick in those pants, well that’s too darn-diddly bad. We never said that the new girl had to be nice, now did we?










  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with