From a certain age on, sex looms.
It's an exciting time. I remember. The attention from boys. Those first stirrings of feminine power influencing everything from what you wear to the photos you and your girlfriends have started sharing on Instagram. A selfie in a new dress has become something else entirely with the strategic arch of a back, tilt of the head and angle from which it's taken. A learned body language not yet mastered: you may not know precisely what you're saying, but it's not just “cute dress.”
We understand middle school is the point peers step in where parents left off. All we can do is hope our guidance made some lasting impact that will carry you through the next six years. We spent the first decade of your life emphasizing your strengths, skills and natural talents so you'd have that padding to fall back on. We subscribed only to magazines that catered to creativity, independent thinking and girl power, signed you up for Brownies and bought you a Barbie with a stethoscope.
Now despite every effort, it's become all about mascara, ripped jeans and cute boys. Media's a tough contender. Magazines, music, movies, TV and the internet drive the objectified gender stereotypes like a Mack truck on a one-lane road. Impossible to avoid. So between that and the peer pressure, we have to talk.
You've had “boyfriends,” which mostly meant hanging out in mixed groups, sometimes holding hands. All sweet and innocent until that one girl, maybe a friend, takes it a step further. She and her boyfriend make out, cling in public, call each other “bae.” Then one day words out, they're doing it. Who knows for sure, or maybe you do but won't say for fear we'd put the kibosh on boys. But when her name comes up you start hearing, “That girl's a slut.”
There's a meteor shower of words out there. They carry weight and give off mixed messages. Let's say you reject a boy's sexual advances and suddenly you're a 'tease' or 'the b word.' Accept and you're inviting even harsher critiques with labels like loose, easy, whore, skeez, skank, slut, ratchet hoe. You get the picture. There's no win. The key is to remember, they're just words. They don't define you. Ignore them or fight back. Either way, your voice is the one power tool you have that will never wear out. Learn to use it.
Generation after generation of girls have been taught to be nice. Forget nice. Respect yourself, go with your gut, you don't have to be nice. Enjoy your friendships, have fun holding hands. Don't be the girl every boy has kissed, as thrilling as it may be—the chase, the anticipation, maybe even the drama that follows. Desire is temporary. Boys are cute, but they're cuter at arm's length. And fantasies, it pains me to say, will almost always be better than the real thing.
Some girls will treat their first time as something to get over, like a flu shot or finals. Sex promises no cures or respite from whatever ails you. It's not a source of enlightenment, self-worth, maturity or magical key that will give you the self-confidence of a Kardashian. In fact, you'll most likely end up with more questions than answers. Not to mention an increased risk of cervical cancer, yeast infections, possible STDs, or an unwanted pregnancy. And let's stop referring to it as 'losing' your virginity. To lose something is a passive irresponsible mistake. The least you can do is give it to someone with full intent.
Your dad and I will never ask you to go through some unrealistic ring ceremony, vowing to stay his till you marry the man of your dreams. We fully expect you'll have sex before marriage, but not because your friends do, or to dodge being pegged a prude. There's no rush.
When in doubt, remind yourself who you are: be it artist, athlete, animal lover or good friend. Drop 'sexy' from your vocabulary, it only serves to benefit advertisers, entertainers and the porn industry. Be something more interesting than the length of your legs, size of your bootie or whether you have adequate 'thighbrow.' Instead of sexy be real.
Now about that last Instagram post…