It totally figures that the launch topic of this blog will be the (so-called) occasional rant referred to in the title. (Get to know me and this will surprise you less and less).
Let’s pull you up to speed on a teensy bit of back-story first, though. Many months ago my 16 year old daughter began insisting, due to the robust discussions that occur on my facebook page, that I craft a blog. I was hugely resistant: “Seriously,” I said, “who wants to hear the thoughts of a nondescript woman who, when she’s not in her counselling chair doing treatment work with addicts, is at home crafting tales about the imaginary friends in her head?”
Yet my daughter insisted, and, after much consideration, it’s ironic that it is the occurrence of several conversations regarding her that finally prompted this blog and the reflection you’re about to read: a commentary about girls and women and what being noticed and valued should mean—versus what they sometimes do.
So here goes:
“Does your daughter have a boyfriend?” I get this question all the time; in the grocery store, on the street, at community events, even (although thankfully more rarely) at work. We live in a small town. Our family is reasonably well-known (sometimes more than I’d like) and my daughter is active in many venues. Now, one would think this question, “Does your daughter have a boyfriend?” would come from the ‘suspected sources’: eager young suitors wanting to date my lovely oldest. Nope. “Does your daughter have a boyfriend?” is almost always asked by <drumroll>… other women. And the question increases, with depressing frequency, as my daughter gets older.
It always confounds me.
“Does your daughter have a boyfriend?”
Why is this relevant? I have to bite my tongue (I have a deplorable habit of sometimes being too caustic), yet I always want to reply with what’s knee-jerk: “Does my daughter have a boyfriend? No. But let me tell you what she does have. My daughter has a ballbreaking over-all academic average in Grade Eleven pure (that would be baccalaureate) courses. My daughter has a part time job she is faithful to, one she frequently picks up extra shifts for and is wily about a willingness to work statutory holidays for because those days “pay double-time, Mom!”. My daughter also, currently, has one of the lead roles in her high school’s theatrical production—the small-town equivalent of a Big Hairy Deal—and as such my daughter also often has 16 hour work days between attending school and participating in rehearsal for drama.
My daughter clearly has one hell of a work ethic.
My daughter has kick-ass time management skills.
My daughter has ambition and drive and plans for her academic future.
My daughter has, due to hard work and intellect, written her own ticket in terms of being able to apply for virtually any faculty that may interest her as she prepares to launch into post-secondary education.
My daughter, however, does not have a boyfriend and yet this is the question on the lips of most women when they ask after my oldest.
What on earth makes this—or any of the reasons for it, ’cause believe me, those too are probed: (“Well why doesn’t she have a boyfriend? Isn’t she interested? Aren’t any boys interested…?”)—remotely important? Why not ask me about any of the other aforementioned facts about her, information which truly does illustrate her as a compelling, impressive, and frankly remarkable human being?
Nope, again. All I get asked is about a damn boyfriend and that caustic part of me (the one whose tongue needs a leash) wants to challenge the askers of this question to please, the next time they put it forth to me or any other parent, play it all the way through in their minds. Ask: why you want to know? Are you truly measuring the worth of a young woman based on whether or not a member of the opposite sex (or the same sex, depending) has decided to afford her some time and affection? Really? That’s the only component of her you feel has value?
Or maybe you’re asking “Does your daughter have a boyfriend?” because you want to know who /what / when / where the young woman is spending time. (Which, incidentally, is a very kind way of saying you want to gossip about her). If this is the case let me sum up every single teenage love affair for you so that you need gossip and ponder over it no more: In one simple sentence, these relationships suck. They suck because kids are…well, they’re kids. They’re still developing and as such are dreadfully unskilled in connections of a romantic and /or sexual nature because—here’s a newsflash—relationships are hard to navigate even for adults with the luxury of experience. In short, if this question—“Does your daughter have a boyfriend?”—is indeed cocktail fodder for you and your cohorts then I implore you to seek a different hobby (hey, have one of mine! I can’t contend with the multitude of them!) for there is nothing new under the sun here. Buy a YA novel if you’re truly intent on analyzing the relationships of kids (and I can assure you, most of those relationships suck too. Pathos makes for great fiction) or, even better, invest in book on child development. It will be your authority on everything misadventurous about kids’ relationships and never put you in the awkward position of sincerely offending a parent by asking “Does your daughter have a boyfriend?”
Gestalt Therapy contends that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ and as a clinical social worker for twenty-odd years I can certainly attest that this is true. So in turn this must mean that a person’s relationship status (or lack thereof) is only one mere shade of pale upon a spectrum coloured by far more compelling virtues and pursuits—right? If you are a woman reading this then I challenge you, in particular, to accept that we, as females, are especially charged to stop trivializing each other and to assess one another in a far less linear and much more robust fashion than a question like “Does your daughter have a boyfriend?” does. Aren’t we, after all, worth so much more than any arm charm that might dangle from someone’s crooked elbow? Does our desirability to a potential suitor really need to define us, illustrate us, make us somehow more ‘worthy’?
I challenge you too to start asking different questions: “What’s your daughter’s favourite school subject?” “How does your daughter balance her busy days?” “Which extra curricular activity lights your daughter up the most?” The potential for discussion—and to truly exemplify how we value our world’s young women—is endless. As for me? I don’t think I’m going to answer “Does your daughter have a boyfriend?” politely anymore.
br / December 01, 2013
Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favourite places— the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counsellor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet— with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.
Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls. It is Bonnie’s first novel. http://www.amazon.com/Divinity-Python-Bonnie-Randall/dp/1940581990/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385933076&sr=8-1&keywords=divinity+and+the+python