I am thrilled to have the fabulously talented and inspiring author, H.M. Jones as a guest blogger today. I relate so much to her words. I hope you enjoy!
In a few weeks I’ll be thirty-two years old. What’d you say? You wouldn’t have aged me over 25? Well, you’re a bad liar, but I am VERY good looking, so I’ll take the fake compliment I just make up, anyway. *Ahem* Back to the topic at hand. Yes, I’m getting older. It happens to us all, even though we were once pre-teens who thought time couldn’t move fast enough.
And that brings me to my main point: when I was a kid, teen and even young adult, I had no idea where I’d be, what I’d be doing and how I’d do it. As an adult, I wish I could tell younger me a thing or two. I didn’t mind younger me: she was a geek, she loved books, she liked long walks, she was generally annoyed by stupidity. But she was also misled in some ways. I have a daughter, now, though and even though she probably won’t take my advice (I didn’t always take good advice when young), I’ve been thinking about the things I want to tell her as she goes through life. Here is a list of things I wish someone had told me as a young girl (or wish I had listened to):
1. Worrying about your looks is a stupid societal game that women have been encouraged to play, and have been encouraged to play against each other, as a distraction. For hundreds of years, women have been told what to where, how to appear modest, what to cover and how to cover it. I don’t think we’re a whole lot more evolved than when we were being squeezed into rib-bending corsets. We are still told that women who are dressed “immodestly” (another societal term you should forget) are “asking for it” when another person chooses to do them harm. We are still told we look better with the right shade of eyeshadow, that we shouldn’t leave the house without makeup. We are still encouraged to dress up and compete with other women. Powerful women are constantly judged on what they are wearing and how they look in a way men cannot even comprehend. We are constantly shown how to lose weight and keep it off, how to firm up our abs, butt, etc. etc. We are told to be hairless and trimmed.
Look, I’m not interested in shaming women who like to dress up. I like to dress up. I’m not interested in upsetting women who like makeup. That’s cool. You put makeup on, lady. I’m just suggesting that you, young girls, wear whatever the hell you want to wear, look however you want to look and tell those who have an opinion of whether it’s “right” or “wrong” to shut up. And if you don’t want to shave your legs or pits or even wax your lips, don’t. We are all gonna get older. Work on the interior because the exterior falls apart fast.
2. Assholes are not worth your time. Your time is better spent liking the person you are. Be okay being alone with your awesome self, and don’t waste your time on partners who are beneath you. When I was a girl, it was cool to like the “bad boys.” It was important to date, even when there weren’t any good options to choose from. I bought into that shit, too. I swooned over assholes, thought they were probably just misunderstood. Here’s the thing, some people are antisocial and misunderstood. Some people are assholes who aren’t worth your time, and you devalue yourself if you accept them as your partner. Love yourself enough to find someone who respects your body, your time and your mind. I wasted a lot of my life dating assholes, chasing assholes. I don’t regret much in life, but I often get angry when I think about the fact that I could have been learning a new skill or reading a good book instead of being subtly berated or ignored by short-lived partners. Take yourself out to dinner or a movie. Ignore people who think you have to be with a partner to do something awesome.
3. Don’t tell yourself you can’t just because most people don’t or because other people tell you you can’t. I spent so much time thinking I couldn’t be on that team, wasn’t worthy of the lead role in a play, probably couldn’t become a pilot or doctor, etc. etc. It didn’t help that people tried to talk me out of things that other women haven’t done before, or that I was chubby and often bullied as a kid. It made me feel like what people were saying about me: that I was a chubby geeky tomboy was bad. I was chubby. I was geeky and I wasn’t much of a girly girl. But people made that sound like a failing on my part. Really, it was just part of what made me me. I shouldn’t have let people use my traits negatively—as proof that I couldn’t achieve the things I wanted or didn’t deserve the goals I set. But I often did. Unlearn this, girls. It’s bullshit. Don’t let other people plan your life for you.
There’s many other things I hope my girl grows up knowing: that learning to kickass with her words and body might be essential, that her gender doesn’t predetermine her fate, that her sexuality is her own and should not be managed by others, that she does not have to apologize for her opinion or presence, that her mother will love her without end even when she makes mistakes. And the only way I can guarantee that she knows this is to live by these guidelines myself, to reinforce them unabashedly and to stick up for her when others are enforcing unfair prerogatives.