Up late and nursing my son to sleep, I saw this Huff Post Parents article show up on my facebook feed. 101 Things I Will Teach My Daughter. The subheading was, “7. Even if he bought you dinner, you owe him nothing.”
And something stirred within me. True, it was late. True, I have only one son and no daughter. But still. I envisioned 23 years down the road. I saw my son, nervous to meet his date, but doing everything to play it cool. I saw him putting effort into planning an evening for her, carefully choosing if he would offer to pick her up or thinking she might feel more comfortable meeting him there–the relationship being new and all. I saw him putting an effort into showering and getting dressed, nothing fancy, but caring none the less. I saw him stopping by the ATM and withdrawing cash for the date–enough to buy dinner and drinks and tip the servers well. Extra for any what-ifs. I saw him balancing his account–either mentally or physically; choosing to give his money (which is a symbol of time) for her.
Then I imagined her. She, who was beautiful, intelligent, and independent. I imagined how my son would feel, if she didn’t say thank you. Not because she owed it to him because he bought her dinner, but because she recognized that not all men are a-holes who think they own a woman when they offer to buy dinner.
I don’t have a daughter, but I am a daughter. I believe in saying thank you. If someone does something for me–no matter how small the gesture, I believe I owe them a thank you. More, I believe I owe them sincere gratitude. If I had a daughter, I would teach her:
1. The most beautiful thing you can do is show up and be present.
2. Embrace life–in all its mystery and heartache and beauty.
3. It’s okay to think another woman is beautiful. It’s okay to think a man is beautiful too–and to say so.
4. Don’t be catty to other women. Don’t think all men are cretins. Think of everyone as someone’s baby. Someone who needs and deserves kindness, love, respect–even if they don’t always know how to show it.
5. Don’t let any man convince you he is powerful enough to change you. Don’t let any woman do this either. But recognize when you need to change to become the best version of yourself, and recognize that sometimes men and women teach us how to change–even when we most resist it.
6. If he bought you dinner, say thank you. If she bought you a drink, say thank you. If anyone buys you anything, say thank you. It’s the decent thing to do. If they are acting like you owe them part of you–your body or soul, always bring enough money to pay your own way and politely leave.
7. Men do not owe you dinner. Women do not owe you dinner. The world does not owe you anything.
8. You owe it to yourself to make a life that you can be proud of–financially, mentally, morally, spiritually, physically.
9. Don’t eat to look good in a bikini. Eat to swim at the beach with energy.
10. Develop a love for the world around you. Develop a reverence for living things, an appreciation for beauty–even in the smallest of things. See as much of the world as you can, but if you can’t afford to travel, find the beauty and wonder that exists where you live.
11. It’s okay if you don’t want to play princess, it’s also okay if you do.
12. Try many things–sports, arts, music, craft, dance. Find something you love. Do it as often as you can.
13. Capture the beautiful moments on your life. Keep the photos to yourself or post them on Instagram. But keep them as a reminder that life is beautiful, even when it feels like it isn’t.
14. Don’t smile if you don’t mean it. But do try to find something to make you smile every day. If you can’t, jump up and down 25 times with a frown on your face–if you can even make it to 25.
15. Be open-minded to gender, race, sexuality, religious and political beliefs.
16. People are people. People are stories, sometimes they tell themselves and others a bad one. See the soul instead.
17. If you can’t be yourself around them, they aren’t really your friends. But real friends are also the ones who will challenge you. Cherish them.
18. Find friends who you can have a beer with, but find friends who you don’t just drink beer with, and try not to drink so much that anyone has to hold anyone’s hair back.
19. You can be the best from wherever you are. Be patient with yourself in getting there.
20. The best doesn’t mean perfect.
21. Develop a voice, and make it worth hearing.
22. Find the right book. If you think you don’t like reading, you just haven’t found the right book. Find it.
23. Be generous with your time. Give to others. Serve.
24. Take time for yourself too.
25. I will always love you. No matter what.
I’ll teach my son all of these things too.