FYI (If you’re a teenage boy’s Mum)

In any small country town there is always an element of what will the neighbours think. I was lucky enough to grow up on a street filled with relatives, but we did manage to have one set of neighbours we weren’t related to. I can’t remember hearing any judgement at the dinner table over their antics, there was definitely enough ammunition; our neighbours had a backyard full of old cars, chooks, dogs, cats and indescribable objects. The house was a constant hive of activity, it had a dirt floor, a flooring situation I was highly envious of. Visiting somehow offered the illusion and freedom of camping. Often the house was full of stray Uncles and long lost relatives, parties were had, they were a close family, which became obvious when the first cousins married. Still, not a word from my parents.

What I did quickly learn about though was the difference between nice girls and bad girls. It wasn’t from my parents, there was an undercurrent which ran through the town. Nice girls got the jobs at the local pharmacy and the banks. Nice girls married nice boys who’d they’d gone out with for years. The nice girls kept themselves tidy even if they’d had a bit too much too drink. The nice girls didn’t flirt overtly. Nice girls knew when to let the boys make the decisions, and they definitely didn’t draw too much attention to themselves. Sure, you could giggle, but that loud raucous laugh was probably a bit too much. Nice girls knew that the opinion they needed to share would need to be toned down just a little bit, said sweetly, with a batter of the lashes. Just to, well, you know, be more ladylike.

I was never going to make it as a nice girl.

I liked boys. I liked their company, I loved how free they were, and if I had a choice between standing at the bar with the boys or sitting at the table with the girls it was always going to be the bar. I wanted to be in the action not on the sidelines. I wanted to kiss boys, and I didn’t give a flying fig how anyone else felt about it. I didn’t hold back, I laughed too loudly, danced like a crazy woman and had a bloody good time. And if I had to go back and do it all over again I would, because things turned out pretty well.

This morning as I drove with Henry Hotdog to the supermarket he asked me if I’d had other boyfriends before Dad.

“Heaps of them!” I announced proudly. “No-one as good as Dad, but yes, I had other boyfriends.”

“Really?” he was shocked.

“Yes, and I hope you have oodles of girlfriends before you settle down. Your Dad is the best thing that ever happened to me, and we’ll be together until we die, but I’m glad I had my 20’s to discover what was right for me.”

I want/need my boys to know that this is okay. That women are as free to see as many men as they like. That equality means there are no double standards. Women are not to be judged by their purity.

There’s a blog post doing the rounds at the moment. You can read it here now and come back if you like. Mrs Hall, the mother of three boys and a daughter, has written an open letter to teenage girls. Quite a few girlfriends of mine have shared it, praising its message. Mrs Hall talks about girls taking what she considers inappropriate selfies in bedrooms with “pouts and arched backs”. It’s Mrs Halls prerogative as a parent to look though her children’s social media sites and delete and block whomever she wishes, but there’s a tone to the post that wreaks of nice girl/bad girl judgement. Good girls don’t put photos of themselves in their bedrooms on the internet.

It was possibly this that disturbed me (and the fact that Mrs Hall’s original post had her sons half naked in board shorts at the beach – it was okay for them to be half naked):

There are boys out there waiting and hoping for women of character. Some young men are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds pure, and their thoughts praiseworthy – just like you.

I have two girls and two boys. I talk to them both in exactly the same way about online behaviour. And I talk to them in exactly the same way about social behaviour. Their thoughts are their own. But if I ever hear them judge a woman on the length of the skirt or the fact that’s she’s posted a picture of herself in a towel on the internet THEN I will be truly disappointed.

I’m pretty sure that by the time my boys are in the height of their hormonal teenage-hood, there will be absolutely nothing I will be able to do to make “their minds pure”. What I can do though, is teach them not to judge.

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