I have been spending a little time with teenage girls and ladies. I think we are letting them down in some very key ways. Let me explain.
Over a bottle of wine with some mothers a few months ago, one of them, who has a 16-year-old, said she has never been able to ask her daughter if she is having sex despite the fact that she has had a boyfriend for almost two years. She said the conversation would be too embarrassing, and she feels that her daughter’s sex life is none of her business. I didn’t say too much, I tend not to in these mothering conversations because someone will inevitably say, "wait until you are a mother" and that just shuts down the conversation. Just because someone does not have children does not mean that she has nothing meaningful to offer parents. But anyway, I digress.
So here I am, months later, talking to some teenagers about why they are having sex and specifically unprotected sex and one of them says, "I want him to like me." The simplicity of this truth, the naivete and its honesty almost made me cry. It was so real.
Ladies, we have all had sex with a guy in the hope that he would like us just a little more. We have said yes against our better judgement. Said yes knowing full well that the risks were super high – pregnancy, STIs and so on. We have said yes because we wanted him to like us.
I told these girls that they were not alone, and that many women (if they chose to be candid) would confess to doing just that. Thinking of me as some glamorous media personality whose world is filled with affection and adoration, they laughed and found this hard to believe. We talked some more about whether or not this plan of action really works, and shared a knowing laugh that it doesn’t.
I have been thinking about these girls for a while, and I wish more of us grown women were talking to them from a place of honesty and the lessons of our own failures, instead of lecturing and posturing like we are so perfect and life is to be lived one way. For some girls, the fear of God, hell and eternal damnation works. For others, the postponement of adult activities in favour of education and other self-improving activities works. For many though, the lure of being attractive to many, of being desired and wanted combined with a strong hormonal drive and whatever drama is going on at home is too much. For those girls, their mentors need to come with a bit ore candor and a lot less judgement. For these girls, we who are mentoring have to be ready for the embarrassing conversations and asking questions that are seemingly none of our business. We have to get over ourselves, or perhaps find a way to laugh at our own past stupidity and ignorance if only so it can demonstrate an alternative path to them.