Second Hand Dating (or, the kind of woman you can bring home to your daughter)
Sometimes it takes me a really long time to figure out really obvious things. Like second-hand dating. Less obvious than second-hand smoking, sure, but it matters. When I became a mother, I gave up the right to be a smoker. I gave up the right to do something that so obviously harms me and that will pollute my daughter’s environment in the process. By the same token, I gave up the right to date idiots that are bad for me, and pollute my daughter’s environment.
I had an interesting talk with Celia yesterday about “smart girls.” It was on the heels of a conversation that I had with a friends who’s daughter is the same age – just as smart as Celia – and is suddenly saying that she’s “bad at math.” It’s not true, at all. So I was wondering why it is that this very smart girl – with at least one incredibly smart parent (I don’t know her mother at all,) is suddenly hitting puberty and eschewing her brains.
For better or worse, our girls are still fed messages – constantly – that girls need to be hot, not smart. Nevermind the asinine and intentional distortion of body image by advertisers and the fashion industry, I actually think it’s the more subtle messages that are more damaging. And some of those are at home.
It’s in the media – obviously, “leading ladies” of all ages are always pretty. Therefore, we value pretty. When there is dialog about characters falling for each other, it’s because they are cute, or hot, or sexy or…. It’s rarely because they’re smart. Even as adults, it’s the “hot girls” that get hit on in bars, not necessarily the smart girls. And we all know that.
It’s not necessarily a problem. We are turned on by whatever we’re turned on by, we can’t really fight it. The hormonal drive to fuck something “hot” is pretty primal – and it is NOT exclusive to men. Women are at least as driven by libido and instinct as men are. (At my age, I think it’s even more so.)
So we have these adolescent girls, their hormones are kicking in, they are instinctively – and unconsciously – starting to do whatever they need to in order to “get the guy.” And they are absorbing messages all over the place that are teaching them that the hot girl gets the guy, not the smart girl.
Celia and I were talking yesterday and I asked her if she thinks she’s good at math. “Yes, I’m awesome at math.” I asked her if she thinks of herself as smart. “Totally, obviously.” I asked her if that was “cool.” “Ya, way better than not being smart!” Which was followed up with a list of the “rewards” she got for being smart.
I asked her why she thinks she’s smart – and that it’s cool to be smart.
“Because you’re really smart and really cool and you have really smart friends who are really cool.”
That was interesting to me. It was important to her that I have filled her world with really smart, cool people who are also actively choosing to be smart. We can tell our kids anything we want, but they watch everything we DO. When we choose smart partners and people, we show them that THAT is what’s valuable, and they rise to the occasion.
I don’t know, when I met and married her father, if I was thinking about some child that may or may not ever arrive in the world. But I think, on some level, I did instinctively pick someone who would be a great father. And he is, he’s magnificent at being her father.
But now that I’m dating again, I realize that I need to keep making that decision. I need to realize that anyone I bring in to her life is coming with my “seal of approval.” That means that their characteristics are some that I am teaching her to accept – maybe even seek out – in the people she has in her life.
I think the challenge is even harder for my friend, as he really has to pick women who are the kind of woman he wants his daughter to model herself after. He has to show her that he values brains above boobs, self respect over attention-seeking. The women he dates need to reflect the strong core that he’s hoping to help her build for herself. For better or worse, many little girls want to attract men who are like their fathers, they will absorb the characteristics of the women their fathers choose.
But what about the hot sex? Certainly most of the parents I know who are dating in their 40’s are looking for hot sex with even more vigor than we did when we were young – because we didn’t appreciate it then as much as we do now. And guys, well, pardon the generalization, but they don’t always think clearly when they confuse their balls for their brains. So I am seeing a pattern in which they’re just looking for sex with the kinds of women they don’t want their daughter’s to be, and nothing ever goes anywhere. Not that it has to, but at some point, we do need to think about role models for our children, as much as we think about hot fucking sex. (Well, probably not as often, but with more intent.)
But I have news for you – smart women are hot in bed. Seriously. In fact, the smartest, strongest women I know are the ones who are the wildest and most sexual. Why? Because we were raised to be smart, strong and believe in ourselves – and part of that is knowing how to figure out what we want and how to get it. That’s true in work, and in sex. By being able to discover and demand what we want out of life, we are also able to identify and refuse what we don’t want. That means saying “no” to all the things you want your daughter to say “no” to – like asshole boyfriends and losers in bars who are trying to slither into her pants.
How you and your partner behave in the bedroom doesn’t qualify as a reason to – or not to – form a relationship with them. Your kids shouldn’t be privy to your sex life anyway. They shouldn’t be watching it, and at this age, shouldn’t be hearing much about it – certainly not the gory details. Don’t have a relationship with a woman just because she’ll suck your cock, and don’t NOT have one just because she likes to be tied up and called “bitch” while you fuck her in the ass.
It’s kind of a “type of girl you would bring home to your daughter,” argument. I’ve heard it, “yah, she’s great, but she’s a sexual freak, I wouldn’t want her around my daughter.” Huh? You shouldn’t be having sex around your daughter anyway. Is she smart, strong, kind, etc….. Then who cares if she likes it when you tie her up and spank her – your daughter will never know that.
But, when your daughter is of an age when she’s discovering her own sexuality and you want her to do it safely and consensually, you’ll be glad to have a woman around who is strong enough to help her learn how to identify it for herself.
Which gets back to being smart. Smart chicks are cool, and sexy, and hot.
So I took a look at myself, and I actually do like what I’m modeling for my daughter.My last boyfriend was kind of questionable, but has spawned great conversations about why, even though he’s a nice guy, how he treated me was not acceptable, so she’ll learn something from it to.
I tried to think about the women I would choose to date if I were a single father with an adolescent girl – and I would date someone like me. Someone who could openly dialog with my daughter and help her figure out who she is. Someone who presents the world through a lens of possibility and integrity rather than fear and judgment. Someone who speaks up for herself honestly rather than molding herself to be what she thinks other people want her to be. And yes, someone who is not afraid of sex – because I want to raise a generation of girls who are sexually empowered rather than sexually judged and manipulated.
That’s the kind of woman you can take home to your daughter.
And that’s the kind of woman who raises a 6th grade daughter who wears cat ears to school and aces 9th grade math. (Okay, the math skills come entirely from her father, I really do suck at math.)