Monday, March 21, 2011

Priya's Treatise on Unpopular Daughters

I just read this article about a woman who was part of the first generation of women to receive birth control - who didn't have to necessarily equate sex with pregnancy and children. She wants to know what it is about mothers of her generation that lets their daughters dress "like prostitutes" in this age of hypersexuality. Moses closes concludes, "We wouldn't dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: 'Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven's sake, get laid!' But that's essentially what we're saying by allowing them to dress the way they do." Her thesis is that every girl wants to be popular, and every mother wants to help her daughter be part of that crowd. I have reservations.

First of all, there is no such thing as "this age of hypersexuality" - they're ALL "this age of hypersexuality" if you think about it.

Now. My mom - and all my friends' moms - were part of that generation, too, and none of us dressed like prostitutes. Ever. Not at prom, not at house parties. Never! I know. Maybe it was because we weren't allowed to, but I never had the That's Too Revealing conversation with my parents. I don't know if I was just incredibly lucky, but nobody ever threw a Slurpie in my face; I wasn't unpopular, I was just not popular. It's an important distinction. I never really felt talked down to or excluded by the popular kids, because I had a tight-knit group who always had my back. We had each other, and, looking back on that time in my life, I realize that I regularly felt the sensation of being very popular (within our sphere of influence). So obviously our mothers - consciously or not - did help us become popular, and not the kind that sends naked texts. This is how my parents did it:

My parents always stressed that the special thing about me was my intelligence, my humor, my personality in general. Sure, they told me I was pretty (WHAT PARENT DOESN'T TELL THEIR KID THIS) but it was not the kind of "pretty" that high school dudes are into. Maybe that's the difference between Moses' daughter and me: I wasn't hot! OF COURSE I fostered the occasional crush, lust, whatever, but nothing ever came of it. Like, nothing. Okay - I had my first kiss in high school and THAT'S IT. And I would be lying if I wrote that I felt like my inexperience at that point was a bad thing. To this day I'm REALLY happy that I didn't sleep around in high school, but mainly because (from what I understand), high school guys are generally fumbling sexual morons, not because I feel like I'd be "worth" less or traumatized if I had.

Also, my parents told me OVER AND OVER again that the popular kids had reached their peak by the time they were 17. This was not at all true in most cases, since I went to an affluent private school where lots of the popular kids grew up to get degrees in Finance (*cough*) but in at least one case it was SO TRUE and oh my god that case still shakes me to my bones with its trueness. Yeeeesh.

Things that my parents had no effect on but still helped a lot:
- I had the aforementioned Best Besties who had the same (alright, somewhat geeky) interests as I did and who never made me do anything I didn't want to do.

I think about this from time to time: How, as a FEMINIST!!!!!, I might raise my own Hypothetical Daughter. This is what I've managed to narrow it down to:

1) Do not be squeamish about sex talk, boy talk, drug/booze talk, girl talk, or any other kind of talk. Treat Hypothetical Daughter like you'd treat your high-school self: with dignity, respect, and a dash of humor. Make it clear that HD can ask you, tell you, ANYTHING and you will not flip out (unless a crime has been committed or someone's safety is otherwise at risk - be a responsible adult, parents!), and then, when she does come to you with something legit fucked up, FOLLOW THROUGH by giving her the benefit of a level-headed response from an adult with only her best interests in (realistic) mind! Give good, solid advice - use examples, illustrate with your own experience, extrapolate, but BE HONEST - and she will keep you in the loop. The important part, as always, is: FOLLOW THROUGH!!!!

2) Make HD aware of her Self as a Person. A strong sense of Self, and the rights that Self affords her, makes it easier to determine exactly what that Self is not okay with doing, and why that boundary has been drawn. I always knew that I had the RIGHT! to say No to something I didn't want to do, and people just had to respect it or I wouldn't be their friend anymore. Maybe I've just always been a super-opinionated shitheel, but that position has afforded me the best friends I could ever have asked for (love you guyyyzzzz), because toxic frenemies were not tolerated, and all that remained were genuinely supportive, loving GALS from the planet OhMyGod HighFive.

Also: Dressing provocatively doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to DO IT when you're 13. Your daughter could be Supes Hot but if she has a personally compelling reason to avoid doing Bad, Peer Pressure-y Stuff, she just...won't do it. No Commandments Necessary.

And stop saying that your daughter's peers look "like prostitutes". You clearly have no idea what real prostitutes look like (Hint: Not your 13 year old daughter at a Bar Mitzvah), so that comparison is hilarious for your daughter to hear, while simultaneously shaming your daughter for having done something she didn'

ALSO: WHAT IS WRONG WITH GETTING LAID IN COLLEGE. I mean, Freshmen: USE PROTECTION FOR EVERYONE'S SAKE, AND GET TESTED IF YOU DO IT A BUNCH WITH PEOPLE YOU DON'T KNOW AS WELL AS YOU MAYBE SHOULD (which is a lecture for another day), but if you have instilled in your daughter the sense that she knows exactly what her limits are, and why those are her limits, what she does in college will not traumatize her forever. It won't traumatize her at all!

Go forth and prosper! Oh - good luck with your sons, by the way. I don't know what the fuck to do about them.


Anonymous said...

Marry me?

Priya said...

Oh, Anonymous commenter. My limits keep me from marrying Anonymous commenters. What can I say? I come from a traditional family.