Growing up in the South, my friends and I received books like Pretty Me and were schooled by our mothers on proper etiquette. I was taught to never appear demanding or rude, which occasionally worked in my favor, but more often than not meant I was speaking through a filter that only others with the same background understood.
It took several years with my New Jersey-raised partner before I could directly answer the question “Where should we get dinner?”:
Me: Chinese could be nice, don’t you think?
Him: Do you want Chinese?
Me: It could be nice. Would you like Chinese?
Him: Do you want Chinese or not?
While I appreciate knowing the correct fork for any situation, my mother’s relationship advice can basically be summed up as this: “There are girls who marry and girls who date. You’re a girl who marries.” (In Mom’s defense, I was a late bloomer. Since no one wanted to date me, this advice was also a form of encouragement.)
Dad’s advice was a bit more literal and involved an imaginary quarter that should be held between your knees at all times.
Seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
So, I’ve compiled a supplemental list of tips for my daughters, more in line with the confident, sex-positive women I want them to be. I intend to shove these inside my hand-me-down copy of Pretty Me because, after all, knowing proper cutlery never hurt anyone:
1) Don’t be nice to assholes.
If someone touches you and you don’t want to be touched, or in a way you don’t want to be touched, go ahead and tell them to fuck off. I know I keep telling you to be polite, but don’t bother with “No, please.” Look them right in the eyes and say, “Fuck off, Asshole.” Doesn’t matter if it’s your teacher or boss or your significant other. If it happens when you’re under 18 or in a relationship where you feel trapped, let me know. I will be your dragon, until you can be your own. Medusa has nothing on me.
2) Love your body, “flaws and all.”
Not to minimize your father’s contributions to your genetic makeup, but you are of my body. Until you were born, every cell (minus that sperm) grew within me. You may not like certain things about your body, and that’s okay. But try your best to love it and take care of it. If for no other reason, every cell of you is precious to me.
3) Use two forms of protection and have all the sex YOU want.
You’ll want to prevent STDs and pregnancy (if you’re having that type of sex). Things break that aren’t supposed to break, or you’ll forget to take a pill, or pick up spermicide or whatever. Use two forms and it’s rarely a problem. Now that you’re covered, enjoy yourself! Really. It’s okay. You, and only you, decide when you’re ready to have sex with someone. Then it’s up to you and your sexual partner to make the decision together of when. No one should pressure you into having sex, and you should never pressure someone else.
4) Don’t go bald eagle.
Grown women have pubic hair. They just do. Sure, you can wax it, shave it, and laser it off. But you have to ask yourself, why? Go ahead and get rid of any hairs that poke out of your swimsuit bottom for the general public to see, but leave the rest alone. The only people seeing those shouldn’t care. If they care, they lose the privilege of seeing you naked. I repeat. Walk away. Do not sleep with them. There are several health reasons to embrace the bush (or at least some hair), not to mention avoiding the sheer hell of having wax ripped from your most sensitive area, so let it thrive.
5) Test drive marriage.
Marriage can be great. It can also be a gut-ripping roller-coaster, lasting years. Make sure it’s the ride you want to be on. Living together before you sign the paperwork helps test compatibility. Kids, health issues, and financial concerns are just a few of many tension boosts to marriage. Before you tackle the BIG stuff, confirm you can tolerate the little stuff, like divergent thermostat settings, quirky habits, and clashing decorating styles. Your father and I will never shame you for “living in sin”. We might question your judgment and our parenting if you don’t.
6) Cut toxic people from your life (unless they’re your kids).
Time is your most precious commodity. Don’t waste any on people who don’t care about your needs or are unable to fulfill them because of their own problems. This includes family members. If you ever need to step away from me, do what you need to do. I’ll be here when you’re ready.
I chose you. You have the same right. Just know that I will always choose you.
7) Read up on thank-you notes.
A good thank-you note can take you places. Find some nice stationery, a decent pen, and try to avoid serial-killer handwriting. I’ll be expecting my note shortly.
**Bonus Tip: If you’re wearing clothes prone to show panty lines, don’t shimmy into a thong, wear granny panties!
Big, baggy bloomers show less under clothes than tight, sexy undies.
But what if someone sees your underwear? See advice above. If they care, walk away. I repeat: Do not sleep with them. You could always go commando (or let said person think you went commando). Either way, please don’t tell me about it in your thank-you note. And whatever you do, don’t tell GiGi and Gramps.