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Supergirl Speaks Out

Sitting behind her tall Caramel Macchiato in the prefab hipness of the Stuyvesant Plaza Starbucks, Liz Funk looks like she might be bubbling over about the newest Jonas Brothers single or what drama unfolded on MTV last night. But this pretty blonde journalist-author is animatedly quoting Arrested Development and going on about her favorite “dude” comedies like Beerfest and Pineapple Express.

“I always struggled with the pressure to be perfect, and this feeling that there was only one way to be a girl,” she says. “That it wasn’t cool to be rebellious or have divergent opinions or anything. The goal in high school and college was to be pretty, to be sweet, to be desirable, but also to be successful and accomplished, and to make everything look easy.”

“And I was really angry about that, so when I decided that I wanted to write a book, it just seemed like a natural topic to write about,” she says. The 20-year-old Voorheesville native released her first book, Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls, on Feb. 12. In it, she explores the archetype of today’s “perfect” young woman: The girl who’s always immaculately groomed, beautiful, popular, intelligent, always involved with sports or clubs, and never tired or bitter. But, according to Funk, these girls are hiding from, or making up for, feelings of inadequacy. And these stress fractures are only signs of deeper problems.

“I think a lot of this overachieving that we see in Generation Y is really a cry for attention,” Funk says. “I don’t think that they’re always overworking themselves for some sense of fulfillment, I think they’re doing it ’cause they’re desperately looking for some validation and for some respect.” However, many times, their overachieving leads to eating disorders, mental breakdowns, exhaustion, self-mutilation or depression.

Funk had a special perspective, as a researcher and as a “supergirl” herself. “I would say [I’m] a recovering supergirl, because I don’t think I’m ever going to not have supergirl tendencies. I can’t picture myself shaving my head and moving to San Francisco and throwing out my Blackberry. But I’d like to think that I go easier on myself than I used to.”

As Funk discusses in her book, she struggled with the negative consequences of her constant hard work. She may have organized protests, formed a feminist group, taken on the job of class treasurer, and freelanced articles before she graduated high school, but she also started starving herself and running up to six miles a day by the time she was in ninth grade. She said that, ironically, it is the smartest and most sensible girls—who know how unhealthy and unrealistic it is to get supermodel skinny—that develop these eating disorders.

“It’s a little bit of a catch there, in that they know they shouldn’t try to be this perfect but they do it anyway. So many young women go so hard on themselves even though they intellectually know that they (a) don’t have to be perfect, but (b) they’re pretty darn close.”

Funk’s book focuses on five young women and their stories of relentless effort. Each girl has a breakneck schedule and a set of lofty achievements and goals, but very little time to appreciate their success.

Funk also talked to 10 psychology or sociology experts, along with about 100 young women, “and a lot of them were sociology students and Ph.D. students, so they brought another interesting level. They knew there were such constructs of gender in society and they knew in their academic research how many pressures there are on women, and yet they still embodied these pressures in their everyday lives,” she says.

“A lot of girls feel like, on their own, they wouldn’t be thought of and noticed,” she says. “It goes back to that issue of intrinsic worth. Like, a lot of girls feel like when they’re in neutral, they don’t matter.”

While Funk said the media and peer groups are the main factors in the supergirl complex, surprisingly, parental influence was often a source of strength for supergirls. She also said there is a way out.

“I think girls need to take themselves out to lunch. No Blackberry, no magazine, no flirting with the waiter, and just sit down and listen to their thoughts. They need to treat themselves and spend time with themselves. . . . Once they get to the point where they enjoy listening to their thoughts, they start to like themselves a little more,” Funk says.

“That’s how I did it. I spent the entire summer sitting with a big salad and a cocktail just listening to my internal monologue. It took a long time to try to find myself—and I’m still a work in progress—but it’s totally worth it.”

—Allie Garcia

Liz Funk will host a book signing tomorrow (Friday, March 6) at 7 PM at the Colonie Center Barnes & Noble.


Can you can can? eba dancers get ready for their benefit cabaret.

Art Beat

WATCHMEN MANIA Tickets to Zach Snyder’s Watchmen, the big new superhero movie based on the much-loved 1986 graphic novel, have been selling like crazy online. For example, tonight’s (Thursday) midnight screening in IMAX at Regal Crossgates Stadium 18 is already sold out. At the Spectrum 8 Theatres, they’re getting into the swing of things, too, with a midnight show tonight that is not (as of press time) quite sold out yet—though we heard one guy bought 75 tickets for it—and a costume contest. Here’s how it works: Send the Spectrum a picture of yourself in a Watchmen costume; they will pick the one they like best, and the winner gets a pair of movie tickets, a reissue of the comic Watchmen No. 1, soda and popcorn. If you feel more adventurous, wear a costume to the Spectrum—you’ll get a free small soda and popcorn. Also, if you mention Facebook at the box office, you will receive a free mini-poster (as long as supplies last). For more info about all this, visit the Spectrum’s Facebook page.

CONGRATULATIONS The Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau just awarded its 2008 Hospitality Excellence Award to Albany’s 1st Friday. Representing the popular monthly event, founder and coordinator Michael Weidrich said, “We are honored and gratified that the ACCVB would recognize an event like 1st Friday and the importance of arts in the community.” This is where I segue into reminding you that tomorrow (Friday, March 6) is another 1st Friday event, from 5 to 9 PM. Check out new exhibits at the Opalka Gallery, Upstate Artists Guild, Amrose Sable Gallery, the Wine Bar and many more venues. For complete info, visit 1stfridayalbany.org.

OOO LA LA Saturday night (March 7), Maude Baum and Company Dance Theatre are holding their annual fundraising cabaret at the eba Theatre (351 Hudson Ave., Albany). The fun begins at 7 PM with a wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction; the saucy cabaret show begins at 8 PM. There are three levels of tickets: “big spenders,” $100; “jazzy,” $50; and “sassy,” $36. As Greta Garbo once said (as Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie), “Don’t be stingy, babee.” For more info, visit eba-arts.org or call 465-9916.

A GOOD CAUSE On March 21, which happens to be a Saturday, there will be a silent art auction of works by 50-plus local artists and community members from 2 to 5 PM at the Charles B. Ben enson Visitors Center & Gallery at the Omi International Arts Center (1405 County Route 22, Ghent). What is the cause to be benefited by this event? The Chatham Skate Park. I endorse this wholeheartedly; anything that gets skateboarders off the streets and out of sight is all right by me. For more info, visitchatham skatepark.org.

A GREAT CAUSE Poet Dominick Rizzo is donating most of the royalties from his new collection, The Spiral Staircase of My Life: A Selection of Poetry Defining My Thirty Years, to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Rizzo has been giving readings around the area recently (including, earlier this week, at Valentine’s); the book is available for purchase at Borders Books and Music at Crossgates Mall, and online at Authorhouse.com.

—Shawn Stone

sstone@metroland.net

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