Working in a bra shop, I get to interact with a somewhat skewed demographic of the population, I admit. Add to that the fact that most of the people I know in my current city are mums or at least married ladies, and it might be fair to say that I’m getting a bigger dose of these comments than the average person.
However, it is often true that when you’re a young adult, older people like to project things on to you and tell you what your life’s going to be like. Good, bad or ugly. True, or not. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I was thirteen and what might not seem a big deal to a lot of people really bugged me. I told someone I don’t drink coffee and they replied, “Just wait till you get to my age and you’ll definitely be addicted.” What my friend Gen calls a spirit of rebellion rose up in me and I came straight back with, “How dare you speak that over my life? I reject that completely.” Guess who is now determined to never give in to the coffee addiction?
Listed below are some things that older women/people really need to stop saying to younger people, because in doing so they are actually speaking death, rather than life over young women like me. Before the list I would like to say that of course this is not everyone, and I really appreciate the ladies in my life who have encouraged me after I’ve been deflated and rocked by these other comments. You are an example worth following, for sure. Also, I am not here to offend anyone, just to remind people of the effect they can have on others, and whether it’s positive or negative is up to them.
- “I used to really want to get married but it’s when you stop looking, then your spouse will come along.”
The problem with that is that it’s like saying, not only do you want a relationship, but it’s a sick system where only by not wanting what you want, will you get what you want. Good luck with that.
Do we think we can somehow manipulate God’s timeline?
- “You may like to wear pretty things now, but wait till you get to my age and you’re married, you’ll stick to ‘these kind of clothes’.”
The concept that once you’ve ‘got a guy’, you now have a licence to stop putting in any form of effort is heartbreaking, to say the least. And why do pretty things have to have an age limit? Ladies, don’t give up on yourselves, and don’t make the younger women in your life give up on their future.
This attitude of being resigned and making young women feel like they have no choice over their mindsets, their marriages and their lives in the future is poisoning, and also false. My mum, known for pulling out the wise words when needed, pointed out the other day that pretty much everything is a choice. We can choose to give up on ourselves (this can be in many different ways at many different ages), claiming that we don’t have a choice, but we always do. If you don’t like the way things are, change it.
- “Enjoy being skinny because you won’t have a body like that forever. Once you have kids it’s all down hill from there. And don’t expect your boobs to stick around.” (Did I ask for your opinion on my body, random stranger?)
This one is usually uncalled for, unasked and downright depressing. Yes, I know everyone’s body changes throughout life, especially women having babies etc, but women who are calling the 30 kilos they still have on three years after their last child was born “baby weight” and telling young women that this is what happens to all women when they have kids, is misleading. Everyone who knows me knows how much I adore kids, but I am not kidding (pun intended) when I say that for about a month had decided I was better off not having kids naturally, because I was so afraid of what it would do to my body (luckily I got over that after noticing some amazing women I know who still have incredible figures even after several children).
Ladies, this is not helpful, and neither is your resentment. It says in the bible for the older women to teach the younger women but that should be equipping them, not scaring them. At work I am sometimes openly resented or scorned for my figure but I have to realise that people are often speaking out their own insecurities and issues. I step back and remind myself: their issues are not your issues, and their body does not have to become your body.
Also, the way some parents talk about their kids (take all your money and time, interrupt your sleep and bathroom visits/showers, ruin your body, change your marriage, drain your energy, stop you from doing x,y and z) it makes you wonder, “What do you like about them?” You yourself know the joys of having kids, and so do other parents, but people without kids don’t, so sometimes it’s good for you to share those aspects with the young people in your life, so that you don’t put them off or have them thinking that you’re living with regret.
- “What do single people even do all day? I can’t remember what I used to do before I had kids.”
I don’t understand how people don’t perceive this as flat out rude to say to a single person’s face. It carries the message, “You are not valuable, nor is your contribution, until you are married with children.”
While caring for children is obviously a full on job and mums are without doubt a lot like superheroes, making girls feel like their contribution because they’re not a mum is some how lesser is far from encouraging. And you may be poking at some raw wounds without realising it.
I am a firm believer in the power of words. For example, a few weeks ago I was at my friends’ house having dinner. I am very close to their six year old daughter but didn’t think she was listening when I said to her mum, “I hate kidney beans.” Two seconds later I overheard her declaring to her brothers, “If Louis (her nickname for me) hates beans then I refuse to eat them!” I quickly turned to her and said, “Just kidding! I love all kinds of beans.” She just looked at me as if to say, ‘Nice try.’
Now I’ve got to think about the words I’m speaking over girls younger than myself too. Are they life giving? We want to present our stage of life well, and gently usher younger ones into it, not scare them into thinking they’re headed into the next stage, ill-equipped to handle it and believing that it’s too depressing to bear (how I’ve been feeling lately).
It all comes down to choice. Everything is a choice. The way we live, eat, behave, dress, and the words we choose to speak. From one woman to another, please, please choose life.
Image: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kanegis/motherdaughter-battles-ov_b_5656830.html, sourced 11 June 2016.