In a recent interview while promoting her upcoming movie, Red 2, Helen Mirren revealed the first thing she would have told her daughter—had she had one—was to “f*** off.”
“If I’d had children and had a girl, the first words I would have taught her would have been “f*** off” because we weren’t brought up ever to say that to anyone, were we? And it’s quite valuable to have the courage and the confidence to say, “No, f*** off, leave me alone, thank you very much.”
The quote that made headlines and gave me yet another reason to *heart* this amazing woman. Sorry, Elizabeth II, you may be Queen of England, but Helen Mirren is Queen of the World.
As the mother of a four year old, I find myself wondering what I am going to tell my daughter about relationships when she gets older.
When I started dating as a teen, I knew very little about relationships. I knew the facts about sex and about peer pressure, but I knew nothing about actual relationships.
Like a lot of girls that age, I wanted my boyfriend at the time to like me. I did things that I really did not want to do or felt comfortable doing and no, I am not just talking about sexual things.
For example, I did not realize that the anger my high school boyfriend expressed every time he saw me talk to my guy friends was not “cute” or “funny,” but creepy and a sign he had control issues.
Likewise, I didn’t see it as an indication that the man I dated in college who had a habit of treating the dining hall employees and custodians like they were not even there treated everyone in life like they were insignificant unless they could be useful to help him get ahead in life.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not blaming my mother. She actually did the best she could. Given what I was like, I am not even certain if I would have taken the advice had I been given.
However, I still wish someone had given me these tips beforehand. While I don’t believe they would have saved me from every heartache, I do believe they may have spared me from some and saved me a lot of time in the process as I slowly came to figure them out on my own.
1. Make your own money and pay your own bills.
Perhaps my daughter will partner up with a generous man (or woman for that matter) who is wealthy and lavishes her with gifts, trips, etc. However, it’s so important to actually have your own money that you earn yourself.
As author Elizabeth Wurtzel writes in her manifesto, The Bitch Rules, “girls who pay their own way don’t have to be nice.” She’s 100% correct there.
A lot of times, though, I hear women (especially young women) pine for the life of a pampered trophy wife. When I hear them I always want to say be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
There is a huge difference if you happen to fall in love with someone who is very wealthy vs. being with someone largely or mainly because they are wealthy and you expect to be taken care of. Yes, money is nice and having someone else make all the decision is hugely seductive but after having met some current and former trophy wives, it really isn’t all its cracked up to be. Having an adult being dependent on another adult tends to be old quick. And while it may be an ego boost to have a successful partner, at the end of the days, their accomplishments are not yours.
It’s interesting to note that many former trophy wives I have known have attempted to set up their own businesses after they divorced and got big settlements not because they had to but because they wanted to. I believe a lot of that had to do with the desire to be as separate, successful beings apart from their big shot exes. I am sure there are some women who are happy if they never accomplish anything on their own and have all their materials need and wants met, but I have yet to meet one who didn’t want something that she could say was hers and hers alone.
2. You are not liberated because you can hook-up like the guys and give out blow jobs as freely as some people exchange email addresses.
Sorry if that latter one is crude, but I cannot put it any other way.
I remember when a few years ago, a Duke University student’s blog called “The F**K List Thesis” about the number of male conquests she had went viral. It created a lot of controversy. Some (even many feminists) blasted her while others argued that it was the old double standard at work: the boys do it all the time and overwhelmingly, it is seen as a badge of honor.
I recall feeling very sorry for her and these men. From the sound of it, there was no intimacy nor did it even sound like the sex was fulfilling for this young woman. Maybe some read this as liberating and a way for her to claim her sexuality, but I did not.
I am someone who believes in full sexual equality, but I don’t think the way to achieve it is going to be by treating sex as a game and failing to give it the respect it deserves. Frankly, when I read things like this, I don’t know how the parties involved can have any respect for themselves much less other people.
Also, as someone who went to a rival university less than an hour away, I thought it was sad that she was at one of the best universities in the world and couldn’t blog about anything interesting that was happening there in, say, one of the classes she was taking. Surely, there must have some sort of stimulation that she could get that involved her brain rather than her nether regions?
This brings me to a big one.
3. Have your own interests and hobbies besides the person in your life.
An interest doesn’t have to be the same as a career though I would argue having a separate career can be a great thing. I spend a great deal of time doing photography even though I have never sold a single photo nor attempted to, and 99% of the time, I am the only one who sees the photos. I don’t think I am Sally Mann—I love the art of photography and always have every since I was young child.
The thing about a hobby or interest is that you don’t have to be good at to get fulfillment from it.
4. Observe how he treats the “real people”-the waiters, the cashiers, etc.
It’s easy to act nice to “big” important people. However, personal experience shows that how he treats the common folks really shows his character.
In addition to the former boyfriend I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I had a boss once who was a senior partner in a very well-known law firm. What impressed me the most about him is that he made it a point to say good morning to everyone from the other senior partners to the temp who worked in the mailroom. In his eyes, everyone was equally important, and I saw him apply that to everyone from “captains of industry” to the lady who did the catering.
Be very, very wary of the man who treats the waitress at the fancy bistro he takes you to like garbage or fails to leave a tip. One day, you might fall out of his favor and be on the receiving end of that treatment.
In closing, no single piece of advice can ever adequately prepare anyone for all the things that go into making successful relationships. (If someone does know the magic formula, then please tell me first.)
However, there are a few things I want my daughter and all young women to be aware of before they start on their dating/relationship adventures. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means and like everyone else, I am still learning. Perhaps, though, had I just been aware of these things—even if I hadn’t really been paying full attention—it would have helped me along the way.
In any event, I intend to share these things with my own daughter when she gets older.
At the very least, it cannot hurt.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise