Advice For Girls

There's a great corner of the Internet of mostly female academic bloggers who write about their lives. They've got a meme going about advice for young girls. They are passing down to a younger generation certain life lessons that they learned the hard way.

From time to time, I think about what advice I would give a hypothetical daughter. My wise words are usually along the lines of "Flaunt it while you've got it, because everything is going to sag soon." Please read Geeky Mom, Dr. Crazy and others for more mature commentary.

30 thoughts on “Advice For Girls

  1. From time to time, I think about what advice I would give a hypothetical daughter. My wise words are usually along the lines of “Flaunt while you’ve got it, because everything is going to sag soon.”
    I’m guessing that’s ’cause you *don’t* have a daughter.

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  2. Speaking of having a daughter, a fun thing to watch is what happens when the wild guy you knew growing-up goes get a daughter.

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  3. Yeah, that also presupposes that you ever had “it.” And for those of us who never had “it,” we’ve managed to build lives quite successfully without “it.” Maybe “it” isn’t that important, and should we be telling girls “it” is?

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  4. “Speaking of having a daughter, a fun thing to watch is what happens when the wild guy you knew growing-up goes get a daughter. ”
    Meet my father, who also had 3 wild brothers.
    Then he had 4 daughters. He had a stroke the year my youngest sister was 18; his body gave out from the stress. (He’s recovered from the stroke, fyi.)

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  5. I have two daughters, and I second what Wendy says — the message behind “flaunt it while you’ve got it” is that you basically agree with a world that evaluates your worth based on your appearance. My spin on this is “have fun while you can”. Perhaps this is just a variant of what Laura suggests?
    My other response is to roll my eyes at people who still feel girls need lessons on how to not sleep around, essentially, you know, “for their own protection”. Know how to tell who simply wants to use you, absolutely. Mistrust anyone more than 3 years older than you until you’re out of college. But I’m not about to lock my girls away if I wouldn’t do the same to a boy.
    Which makes me wonder, Laura — would you lock your sons away if you felt they were in danger of sleeping around?

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  6. I was just joking around. Sigh. Now you guys are going to make me think and be serious. I’m in the midst of paper grading and I need some good black humor today to keep myself from contemplating suicide.
    OK. I think that being young sucks. You’re stupid and hyper and foolish. The only good thing about being young is that you don’t have veracose veins and you’ve got enough stamina to choke a horse. Girls (and boys) should not worry about their looks, because they don’t have to. They’re already beautiful. Just throw your hair in a pony tail and get in a car and go somewhere.
    Jen – It depends on what age they were. But in general, I have no problem with locking up the boys.

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  7. OK, OK, we won’t kick you out of the feminist club, and we’ll stop taking you seriously for a bit. Yes, we knew you were joking.

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  8. “Girls (and boys) should not worry about their looks, because they don’t have to. They’re already beautiful. Just throw your hair in a pony tail and get in a car and go somewhere.”
    So not true–there are some pretty horrific cases of acne walking around. Also, I had nasty varicose veins as a 15-year-old (which fortunately disappeared).
    My personal list would probably be pretty long, but here’s a start:
    1. Protect your skin–you only get one. Sunscreen, hats, and no tattoos.
    2. Travel lots while you can. I know everybody says this, but it’s still true. Do a study abroad, work abroad, collect languages the way cat ladies collect cats. Don’t buy a house until you have had kids for at least a couple years.
    3. Don’t adopt any hard-to-break habits that you don’t want to keep.
    4. Don’t borrow money. Try to avoid dating people who spend more than they make and who don’t have a strong future orientation with realistic goals. Read Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” and follow the baby steps.
    5. Learn to cook (OK–still working on relearning this one).
    6. Work while you’re at work.
    7. Don’t be late. Keep promises or give ample warning. Answer emails and phone calls promptly.
    8. Carry all appropriate forms of insurance.
    9. If you choose to be a SAHM, it is a job, so #6 and #7 apply to you, too.

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  9. 2b. Don’t buy a single-family home until you have rented a single-family home of the same size and vintage and have a good idea how much work is involved.

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  10. I think you’re right Laura, they don’t need to worry about their looks when they’re young, but of course, we all know from our own adolescent experience, they do.
    As the mother of a 16 year old girl, advice is the one thing she doesn’t want from me. If I even try to give it, she rolls her eyes. The best you can do? Model good behavior, let them know that they’re wonderful and that you value what they have to say (even when they make you crazy). In the end, you can only hope that they grow up confident and well adjusted.
    Boys are so much easier. My 12 year old son doesn’t say much, but will at least listen to my advice.

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  11. So advice for fathers of girls? I’m the (currently) primary parent of 2 girls, aged 12 and 8. I (almost) never comment on what women look like, either in their presence or out of their presence (except their mother, who is just gorgeous and with whom I’m in love, so those two things seem enough to overcome my inhibitions). I read somewhere that insecurity among teenage girls about how they look is exacerbated by their fathers manifestly caring about how women look (and I’ve some anecdotal confirming evidence). This is not what motivates me — it would take me a lot of emotional work to overcome my inhibitions — but I was glad to read it. If people think the reverse is true I’d like to hear it.
    I’m with Laura on locking up sons too. In fact, I’m not sure that adolescent boys are not more damaged by casual attitudes to sex than adolescent girls.

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  12. I think the whole concept of “advice for young girls” assumes far too much similarity among young girls.
    For some girls, it’s “there are things that are a lot more important than having a boyfriend, like developing your own independent interests.” For other girls, it’s “It’s OK to sometimes compromise with a boy — it doesn’t mean that you have completely given up your individuality.”
    For some girls, it’s “Try to picture where you want to be at age 40, and set out some intermediate goals to get you there. Consider several alternative routes to get there.” For other girls, it’s “Don’t lock yourself in to a single path this early. You might want to change your mind later on.”
    Young girls are so very different that general ‘advise’ will end up being helpful to some, and push others further to an unhealthy extreme.

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  13. And Laura, don’t sell yourself short. You posted a very nice list of advice pieces for your (female) babysitter last month (or was it two months ago). As I recall, you were more sober in your remarks, so thus are permitted the flaunt it while you’ve got it line you offer here.
    My mother once when I was 16 did a double take when she saw my waist in a skirt that particularly accentuated it. She said: “keep that — you’ll want it later and you won’t get it back if you wreck it.” She was right. And I think of that line often and rue the day I met Mr. Ben and Mr. Jerry.
    She gave me more sober advice as well: “Never have sex. You will get AIDS and die.” (I am not kidding.) These were not mutually exclusive pieces of advice.
    When my daughter gets to her teenage years (she’s two, so I’m in the land of naive optimism about my level of rationality), if her father lets her out of the house (doubtful), I hope to convey that she should flaunt it while she has it, but to flaunt it in ways that maintain her dignity, self-confidence, and self-esteem. It not being a perfect world, I shall also note that she also wants to protect her own safety from those who confuse her intentions.

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  14. “As the mother of a 16 year old girl, advice is the one thing she doesn’t want from me. If I even try to give it, she rolls her eyes.”
    Hey, my 8 year old is like that. What do you think that bodes for her 16 year old self? Think I can count on her getting it out of her system, and becoming receptive to my sage advice?

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  15. I’m not sure that adolescent boys are not more damaged by casual attitudes to sex than adolescent girls.
    Harry, I think you’re completely correct here. Unfortunately, the “damage” which adolescent boys receive from internalize a casual attitude towards sex is the sort of damage which will, for the most part, be manifest in the quality of their relationships, their quality of life, their sense of self…all of which are serious areas of concern, of course, but it pales, I think (and I’m speaking as the protective father of four daughters here) beside the real social, economic, and physical harms which a casual attitude towards sex often carries for girls–or which, more directly, is often foisted upon girls by boys embracing said casual attitude.
    Absolutely, let’s lock up the boys.

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  16. “I’m not sure that adolescent boys are not more damaged by casual attitudes to sex than adolescent girls.”
    I finally finished watching the 1966 Alfie (with Michael Caine) a couple nights ago, and that’s basically what the final monologue by Alfie says. I think the issue is that no matter what his women suffered, they still continued to exist in relation to other people, whereas Alfie does not. I don’t know how widely applicable this is, although I bet it does apply to the members of the Pick Up Artist community (I forget the exact name). You bump into them occasionally on the internet–they tend to be sort of sad and creepy, with a missionary zeal for their seduction techniques.

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  17. I’d say the best advice is to find something you genuinely like to do (music, sports, journalism) and do it, and especially look for something that you can do with other people somehow or other. And the next piece is to find people you really like and make an effort to spend time with them.
    This isn’t limited to girls, of course, but maybe it’s particularly important for them to learn how to identify and pursue their own likes.

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  18. “You bump into them occasionally on the internet–they tend to be sort of sad and creepy, with a missionary zeal for their seduction techniques.”
    Sometimes they’re even legen – wait for it – dary characters on tv shows. 🙂

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  19. “Sometimes they’re even legen – wait for it – dary characters on tv shows. :)”
    I don’t watch nearly enough TV–who were you thinking of?

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  20. Hey af, when you mention finding something you like to do, are you referring to hobbies? Or future career?
    I have heard it said that girls with outside interests (be that horseback riding, the arts, just about anything) do better emotionally than girls who fill their free time obsessing about their appearance.

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  21. Tina, totally laughing at your eye-rolling daughter. I still can’t believe that are the mother of a teenager.
    Yeah, Julie, your husband is never letting your daughter out of the house. And girlfriend, you should flaunt it, now that you’ve lost 2 sizes due to wii fit.
    There’s a difference between obsessing about your looks and just being comfortable with your body. I wasn’t at 16, which was crazy because I weighed 110 pounds and had zero body fat from running track.

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  22. Then maybe I’ll just do the tennis. I was getting good at that. (By the way, to make your mii thinner, just lie about your height.)

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