Dear Teenage Girls,
You’ve been fed many lies over the course of your lives, and I’m going to apologize on behalf of society for all of the misconceptions you must surely have regarding your purpose on this earth, and your value as a human being.
Contrary to what the media would have you believe, it’s not your job to be sexy. You’re a teenager, not a woman. You can stop with the pouty-lipped selfies and the midriff prom dresses. What’s perfectly normal is for a teenage girl to look in the mirror before a date and think, “I hope I look pretty.” What’s not normal is for a teenage girl to look in the mirror before a date and think, “Do I look hot?” It is not your job at 16 to look sexually desirable, nor should it be your goal.
You’ve grown up watching commercials where VS models with unrealistic measurements, parade down runways in their underwear. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s not okay to walk around in lingerie in front of people you don’t know. Nor is it okay to send photos of yourself in lingerie, or less, to attract the attention of a teenage boy. Additionally, you’ve tuned in while groups of women alternate “hooking up” with some random man, so pathetic he has to go on a network television show to find a date, in hopes that he will choose them. I’m going to let you in on another little secret. Women with a healthy self-esteem, don’t compete with a gaggle of women for a man’s affection. Men with a healthy self-esteem, don’t invite the attention of 20 women, simultaneously. Do your very best to remind yourself daily of your value.
For reasons I’ve been unable to determine, my generation of parents has one hell of a time telling your generation of teenagers, no. This has resulted in many of you leaving your homes with your ass extending well past the hem of your shorts and, in some cases, wearing shorts so tight that you must surely be doing permanent damage to your circulatory system. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to do stupid things. Your frontal lobe is still under construction. This is why you are impulsive and unpredictable. As parents, it’s our job to be your frontal lobe. We’re supposed to say, “I’m sorry, honey. There’s no way in hell I’m buying those shorts for you. You look like a working girl.” Should you wear shorts down to your knees? No, you’re not 70. But, you should wear shorts that completely cover your butt cheeks. Unfortunately, due to either your parent’s own struggles with propriety or their inability to tell you no, you’re leaving home dressed in a way that misrepresents who you are and what you aspire to be. Or at least, I hope you’re being misrepresented. If you’re not, life is going to get a whole lot harder in a couple of years. My father, Big Jerry, would have turned beet red, gritted his teeth, and spontaneously combusted, if I attempted leaving his house wearing a push up bra and short shorts. It was this crazy setup we had where I was the child and he was the parent. I’m currently working on a handbook entitled, “What Would Big Jerry Do?” It would serve as a guide for those parents just too submissive to give you boundaries that will protect you from your own impulsiveness, and will set you up for the kind of life you deserve.
So, in an effort to combat this image the media has perpetuated, that you are just underdeveloped women out parading your wares to underdeveloped men, and to give you the frank advice and boundaries you’re not getting at home, I’ve created a list of stuff you need to know. Why? Because, as I tell my daughter every single day, “You’re fantastic and I love you.”
- You are special. There is no one else on this earth like you. Not everyone is worthy of your time and attention. Be selective.
- Teenage boys, even the nice ones, will say whatever they think they need to say to see you naked. They are driven by hormones. In that moment, they may even believe what they’re saying, but it’s only their penis talking. You’re driven by hormones too. This means your body will tell you, you want to do things you shouldn’t do. Stop. Emotional people don’t make good decisions. Wait until you’re not in “the moment” to determine what you may or may not be ready for….and trust me, while your body may say it’s ready, you are absolutely not ready emotionally. Sex changes everything. Your mother may not tell you that, but I will.
- John Mayer is right. Your body is a Wonderland, but it’s YOUR Wonderland. You’re not a ride at the county fair. Protect it. It’s the only one you get. And contrary to what the writers of the show, “The Secret Life of an American Teenager” would have you believe, it’s not glamorous to be an unwed teenage mother, and it puts a serious cramp in your dating life. In fact, once you have a child, your life is no longer your own. Every single decision you make is made with another human being in mind. A human being that is completely dependent upon you for survival. Sound like a tremendous responsibility? It is. It is if you’re doing it right, anyway.
- You want to be attractive to others. I get that. First, ask yourself, “What kind of guy do I want to attract?” Then conduct yourself accordingly. Here’s the cold, hard truth. If you go out dressed like a strumpet, I guarantee you that you will get the buyer you advertised for. You will get a player. You will get the guy that is charming, and good-looking, and can’t wait to move on to the next girl who presents herself as “willing”. Because, you see, as much as we like to say, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” we do. We all do.
- You have been led to believe that your value lies in your sexuality. This is why some of your friends fall into the trap of sending nude photos to boys they hardly know. They aren’t bad girls. They’re struggling. Subconsciously, they think they’re showing someone they find attractive their “value”. That isn’t where your value lies. As young women, you have more opportunity now, than any generation before you. You are intelligent, creative, capable, well-educated, and on FIRE! The STEM professions are begging for women….and they pay well. Be an achiever. People are naturally attracted to people who are successful. Find something you love to do, and do it well.
- Most teenage boys are lazy. They like life the easiest and most effortless way possible. This means they will do as little as you will allow them to do. EXPECT them come to the door to get you. EXPECT them to open your car door on a date. DON’T agree to a date via text. Remember, you are special and you should be treated as such. Repeat after me: “As long as I allow it, it will continue.” Set expectations and boundaries. Demand that those expectations be met and that those boundaries be respected.
- Nothing that happens between you and a teenage boy, who is not your established boyfriend, is a secret. I grew up with mostly male friends and I can tell you that they tell everything: Every. Single. Little. Salacious. Detail. And in many cases, they also share some extra stuff that they make up. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “If I hookup with this guy tonight, am I going to feel the least bit uncomfortable running into him at a party tomorrow night?” If the answer is yes, or maybe, just don’t.
- Stop comparing yourself to other girls. Beauty is not just physical appearance. It’s a combination of qualities that include kindness, intelligence, integrity, talent, creativity, and humor. You’re never comparing apples to apples. Some of us wax where others wane. For some reason, girls view each other as adversaries while guys view each other as teammates. You don’t need more adversaries, you need more teammates. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot make yourself look better by making someone else look worse.
- Do you have a friend who’s engaging in promiscuous behavior? Does she laugh it off and tell you she’s using them too? Guess what. She’s lying. Men are wired differently than we are. For many boys, sex can be a purely physical act. They can engage in sexual activity with someone that they have little or no attraction to and feel no emotion for. Girls are different. Sex is tied to your brain, as well as your body. I’ve never known a girl who could engage in sexual activity and not suffer emotionally if she was then rejected. If you have a friend who is selling herself short, talk to her. Help her see her value. She’s looking for love, validation, and attention, and a hormone-driven teenage boy is not where she’s going to find it. Sex is a wonderful thing when it occurs between two people who are emotionally mature, committed to one another, and engaged in a relationship founded on love and trust. Otherwise, it is a minefield from both a physical health, as well as a mental health, perspective.
- As high school students, you face a whole host of temptations that your parents never did. In my day, we could legally purchase alcohol at 18, so there was alcohol and a little weed here and there. Now, high school experimentation encompasses prescription drugs and illegal drugs we didn’t even know existed. Would you eat food you pulled from a trashcan? No? Well, if you ingest anything that wasn’t prescribed to you, and hasn’t been regulated by the federal government, you are basically playing Russian Roulette. Drug dealers aren’t concerned with your safety. They are in it for the money. Period. You could be putting stuff in your body that it can’t cope with. You know, that body you only have one of. And trust me, you need all the brain cells you can get. My father once told me that there’s nothing more unattractive than an inebriated woman. I worked as a bartender in college and I can tell you that’s a true statement. It’s actually true for both sexes, but right now we’re talking about you. Not only does it make you less attractive, it leaves you a potential victim. Never, ever leave a friend who has consumed illegal drugs or alcohol alone anywhere. I can assure you that there is some low-life out there just waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of her.
Do I seem angry? Good, because I am. I look at your generation of young women and I see the potential for greatness of a kind we haven’t realized in the generations that came before you. I’m scared too, because I fear that we’re failing you, and you don’t realize just how remarkable you are. You don’t know that you’re much, much more than the sum of your reproductive parts. Sit down and make a list of every positive quality you have. The catch? None of them can be related to your physical appearance. I don’t care if your eyebrows are “on fleek” or you’re “skinny thick”. I care about how you’re going to leave your mark on the world. I care about what your dreams are….and I command you to dream big. I care about your intellectual strengths, whether they’re academic or artistic, or both. Are you tenacious? Great! Contemplative? Perfect. Are you fiery? Brilliant. It will keep people from taking advantage of you.
You are perfect in your imperfection. Every day, I want you to look at yourself and say, “You’re fantastic and I love you.” Start showing the world who you are and what you’re capable of, instead of what you’ve got. If you need a mentor, let me know. Seriously, let me know.
Because, you’re fantastic and I love you.
12 thoughts on “You’re Fantastic and I Love You”
Please write a similar article now for teenage boys, but first go back through this one and take note of how you described ‘even the nice ones.’ How attractive is the ‘inebriated man?’ How ‘lazy’ are teenage girls? Is it possible that teenage girls are also ‘driven by hormones’ that they may need to learn how to manage / control? Young men can also ‘suffer emotionally’ when rejected.
On the whole I have no quibbles with this article, another set of instructions on presenting yourself as attractive without resorting to society’s currency of sexual desirability, valuing your core attributes above your physical appearance. But as a mother to many sons I was taken aback several times by your less than attractive descriptions of the equally fantastic young men of today that I dearly love. They also are ‘perfect in their imperfection,’ capable, intelligent, well-educated, creative, talented, kind and also much more than the sum of their reproductive parts, even that ‘talking penis.’
As you stated Rhonda, “Contrary to popular belief, you cannot make yourself look better by making someone else look worse.” You don’t make teen girls look or feel better by making teen boys look worse, less than or inferior. Our sons deserve better as do our daughters.
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You are absolutely correct and the intent wasn’t to represent boys as “less than” girls. In fact, I have an 18 year old son who I am convinced is close to perfect. This piece, though, was specifically for girls and the pitfalls they often face. There’s one in the works for boys as well.
I think that was a great article Rhonda and I loved your reply Duse! Rhonda, your reply to Duse makes me think you feel you need to defend yourself, but I considered it a great perspective. These days it’s not about men and women only anymore. It’s about being heard, which can only happen if you’re listening. Rhonda, I assume by putting yourself out there, you want a discussion to be had on this topic. So it might help to take a look at How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie; because to make a difference, it’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about understanding each other’s perspective.
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Thanks, Blanche. It’s not at all about feeling a need to defend anything. Just explaining that this piece in particular was directed at, and focused on, teen girls and the unique challenges they face. Boys definitely have their own pitfalls, but if I try to address both genders in one piece the article becomes lengthy. As always, there are generalizations for the same reasons. I’m hopeful I’ll have a similar piece ready for boys soon. Thanks for reading!
Fantastic, Rhonda. I have both a daughter about to turn 20, and a son who’ll be 17 this month. Our teens have it 1000 times harder because society tells them the exact opposite of what you’re conveying. Our self-worth (regardless of gender) should come from within, but the world tells all of us: it’s how hot you are, how many babes you bagged, how successful you are, what kind of car you drive. We’re all fighting an uphill battle…
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And sadly, so many buy into it. Lately, it seems I’m bombarded with things that tell teenage girls they’re objects. Even worse, I see evidence every day that many of them believe it. As a woman, it sets me on fire. Because of it, Jake and I have had many conversations about not being the guy who takes advantage of a girl whose lack of self-esteem is making her vulnerable. As well as remembering every girl is someone’s sister/daughter. It’s a treacherous road for all of them. Thanks, Marcy.
As usual, this is an excellent piece and I wish all teenagers could read it !!! So spot on !!!
When our finish the male counterpart to this piece, please come back and edit this one to link to it, for those of us who are navigationally challenged when browsing on limited-capability devices. 🙂
Mass generalizations dilute the message and as far as things not regulated by the federal government entering one’s body, best hope none of these girls every takes supplements, which are completely unregulated by any federal oversight body.
I just sorta stumbled across your blog, but it hits home at a very timely moment as I am being challenged by parenting a 14 year old. thanks for your thoughtful words.
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My daughter is now 15. Trust me, yours will evolve just over the next year in ways you can’t imagine. If you haven’t read, “When That Time Comes”, check it out. Especially, if you have more than one child. Thanks for reading!