Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 222 of 365: To My Hypothetical Daughter

Dear Hypothetical Daughter,

It seems silly, writing a letter to someone like this. Knowing my luck, I'll have only sons. And, in some weird way, part of me would be relieved. They say it is easier to teach a boy to respect a girl than it is for to teach a girl to respect herself. And that's no fault on your (the hypothetical daughter) part. Look at what you're put up against from day one. Look at all those mixed messages and double standards. How any of us get out of it in one piece is nothing short of a miracle.

But I hope I have daughters. I might eat my words when you turn 13 and decide that you hate my guts and think that I'm a raging bitch, but still: I hope I have you. I hope I get a chance to give you all the advice I wish someone had given me when I was growing up. I hope I can raise a level-headed girl when the environment is completely detrimental to that idea. I hope I can bring another woman into this world who can see beyond the chaos that the rest of us dealt with on a trial-and-error basis.

For one, I want you to understand that you are so incredibly beautiful. I don't mean that you are necessarily "cover of Vogue" beautiful, or "homecoming queen" beautiful, but you are beautiful because you have been given the gift of life. You get a one-in-a-trillion-trillion chance to experience and perceive the world, to learn and grow and evolve. You were given this incredibly complex body with a brain that mankind still can't fully figure out. What type of body you were given and how it compares to whatever standard our society holds up now is irrelevant.

And, most importantly, you are not the opinions of others. No one escapes judgment from peers, family members, even complete strangers. They'll say you're too tall, too short, too big, too small, too shy, too out-going, too tomboy-ish, too girly, too prudish, too promiscuous, too high-strung, too laid-back. Recognize that it is not you they are judging, but a mirror into the parts of themselves that they either do not like or feel threatened by. It took me decades to recognize this. Forgive those who judge so needlessly and understand that you are the only one in charge of what you are.

If you want to play with Barbies, play with Barbies. If you want to play with Tonka Trucks, play with Tonka Trucks. If you like English in school, dive right in. If you like Chemistry: ditto. Follow your path. Don't go down (or eschew) a path purely because it is or isn't girly. There is nothing wrong with the color pink, much like there is nothing wrong is the color blue, or green, or violet.

All of your emotions are 100% valid. Berating yourself for crying when you think you shouldn't cry, or getting upset when you think you shouldn't be upset is like drinking gasoline: you're using your fuel wrong, and most likely only harming yourself in the process. Embrace exactly who you are at every moment, even those negative moments. If these behaviors hurt other people, take responsibility (but don't berate yourself!), apologize (but don't make excuses!), and learn from your past.

Be kind, but be assertive. You can be both. Take charge when you need to take charge. The world needs more true leaders, even if it's just a leader of a meeting at work or a class project in school. You are not a bitch because you stand up for yourself. You are not a bitch because you do not cave to bullying.

And if there is anything I hope you enter adulthood with, I pray it's a healthy view of sex and sexuality. It's quite possibly the number one thing females grow up without. I pray you understand that sexuality is a beautiful thing, and only you will know what level it will be. Express it only in the way you feel comfortable with, not what society tells you to feel comfortable with. Down that route lies a lot of catch-22s that will only make you hate yourself. Remember that sexuality is never to be used as your only way of validating yourself. But it's okay if you ever find yourself feeling that way (again, your feelings are 100% valid). That trap is far too easy to fall into. But make sure you find a way out, because you have so much going for you than what you have between your legs, or how you can showcase or attract people to it.

Understand that sex isn't some shameful thing that you should avoid at all costs -- and understand that sex isn't something you should "get over with" as soon as possible. Do it when you and only you are ready. It comes with a boatload of risks, so be intelligent and be safe (because all those consequences apply to you, too). Never do it to "keep" a guy (or gal). In fact: never do anything to keep a guy or gal. Relationships aren't toys. You can't lock them up so that no one can "steal" it away. There is no magical set of actions that will keep someone around when they are obviously not invested. Anyone who wants to change you or make you do something that you're not ready to do doesn't actually love you. They are simply hoping to date someone who can boost their ego without any effort. And you deserve so much more than that.

The same way you are not the opinions of others, you are not the relationship you are currently in -- or not in. Movies tell us that if you don't "find true love" or "get the girl" in the end, then everything was for naught. But, sweetie, please: look around you! Look at this incredible world you live in. Look at all the things you can do with and for your life. Look at all the different relationships -- familial, platonic, professional -- that are right there in front of you. Life is too short to put too heavy of an emphasis on a relationship. We all want that true love -- that partner-in-crime relationship -- but giving "finding a boy/girlfriend" too much priority leads to mediocre relationships that one stays in because "it's better than nothing".

And, above all else, understand that I love you completely. That you always have a place you can find shelter in, a shoulder you can cry on, an ear that will listen compassionately. I know that even the best plans will not fully prepare you for the world, but I hope that I can lay down a sturdy enough foundation that you can build from.

Truly, unapologetically, and hypothetically yours,


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