My darling daughter
Well here we are in the month that I turn 40. You are only six, but every day there are things I encounter that I make a mental note to tell you. My mum has no capacity to impart any form of life lessons to me now, to be honest she never did, but as I have made it this far I thought I’d pen a few lessons that I’ve learned along the way… maybe they will be of use to you someday…
Firstly, let’s start with romance: I am by no means an expert when it comes to love, but I have learnt a few things over the last 39 years. The first is don’t let yourself become a commodity, you wouldn’t lend your best jeans to someone you hardly know. Don’t do it with your body either. If a man wants to sleep with you but can’t be arsed to invest enough to even stay the night, unless that’s what you want too, tell him to go fuck himself (literally).
Sex isn’t just about getting down and dirty, it’s also about intimacy, that is part of the human exchange that you enter into when you sleep with someone. The intimacy of sharing a bed, the experience of entering into a dream-state next to someone, the feeling of being together as another day dawns. That sharing of space with someone is just as much sex as the actual intercourse. Don’t ever reduce your own desires, your own needs because you think having a little bit of someone is better than not having them at all. It isn’t. It never, ever is.
When you compromise yourself to be in a relationship that doesn’t meet your needs, you lose something of yourself in the bartering process. You create an uneven playing field, where this person who isn’t sustaining you has all the power. Unequal relationships make women crazy and desperate, and the more bullshit you accept, the needier you become. You’re not a commodity my darling, you’re not for loan, you’re not an object to be bartered with. Always know your worth, and make sure whoever you choose to be intimate with knows it too.
And while we’re on the subject of sex, choose wisely when it comes to virginity. Again, don’t just give it up to anyone. When I was a teenager someone told me that ‘girls play at sex to find love, while boys play at love to find sex’, obviously that’s generalising, but there is something in it. Your virginity is your pearl, and its precious, choose wisely when it comes to sharing it, it doesn’t have to be some life-defining moment (it rarely is to be honest!), but don’t let it be some drunken fumble down a back-alley either.
And always take responsibility for your sexual health. Don’t leave it up to the boy. Boys are shit at contraception. And they don’t get better at it when they become men, usually, if they can get away with not wearing a condom, they will. Should there be any unwanted pregnancies, it will not be the man who is faced with a whole set of heartrending choices to make. It will be you who is left to suffer or savour the consequences of your actions. Treat your body like a best friend, take care of her, and don’t drag her along to any unwanted pregnancy parties that she didn’t sign up for.
There will be many ‘ones’ in your life. ‘The one’ at 20 years old may well be different to ‘the one’ at 30 years old. I know very few people who have had the same ‘one’ through all their life stages. I can count them on one hand. You may be one of those people, but if you’re not then that’s fine too. You will change tremendously during those years, the person who was perfect for you at 21 may be an absolute snooze-fest at 35, that doesn’t invalidate what you shared 10 years ago. It was right at the time. All the ‘ones’ you have in your life will be right at the time, but always be aware that times change, and that’s just part of your natural evolution as a human.
But don’t be in a rush to get married; sometime, probably when you’re around 28-30 all your friends will start getting engaged and married, and if you’re not at that stage, it will suddenly feel urgent to get there. Because no one wants to be left behind, and as women we are told that we have an expiry date. We don’t. Marry when the time is right (or not at all), not because everyone else is doing it. As I approach 40 I know an awful lot of married people, but I know very few happily married people. This is your story; you get to dictate the pace.
And if you do get married, don’t get caught up in the details. Don’t spend wild sums of money on one day – unless you have untold wealth, it is rarely worth it. Invest in your marriage rather than your wedding day. If you are in love then your wedding will be magical no matter what, think carefully before creating a grand production out of something that is in essence an intimate declaration of love. And never get yourself in debt in pursuit of the perfect day – what that will do is shackle you to beginning your married life in a quagmire of bills. Financial pressure is more a stumbling than a starting block, don’t disable yourself with it.
The same goes for credit cards. They are the devils work; like little plastic sirens tempting sailors off the rocks to their deaths. Credit cards are smoke and mirrors, they offer you the opportunity to live like you have money. But if you’re living on credit cards, then you don’t. Don’t be seduced by them, don’t be side-tracked by shiny things, they are fool’s gold, if you have to use your credit card my darling, then you probably can’t afford it.
And then there is education: Get some. Get as much bloody education as you possibly can, because it will be your passport in life. We are from peasant stock, there is no estate to inherit, when it comes to privilege you were not born into it. But what you do have is a brain, and curiosity, those things will take you far. But generally speaking in this world you also need those little bits of paper to inform everyone else of what I, your mum, already knows – that you are fabulous.
So get those bits of paper, accrue as many of them as you can, and if you never use them then that’s fine, if you want to make goddamn paper aeroplanes out of them, that’s fine, but the point is you will have a choice. The worst place to be in life is trapped in a situation with no choices. Education gives them to you. It is a Ford Thunderbird with a full tank of petrol – it will take you where you want to go, the route you take is up to you.
And education isn’t just the formal kind, it’s also reading and experiencing. Read books my poppet. The more books you read, the cleverer you will become. This is a fact. They will give you wisdom and perspective, how wonderful it is to have the opportunity to glimpse the minds of all these incredible thinkers. Let them inspire you, climb inside those books and drink in those different worlds and lives. There is real magic to be found between the pages of books, go find it.
Don’t do drugs. And don’t do anyone that does drugs. And by that I mean habitually. Everyone experiments in life, and that is a normal part of growing up. There will be times when you are offered things to try, and you’ll have to make a choice. You might find you like getting high, and as long as it is occasional and recreational I don’t really have a problem with the odd joint or whatever. But when drugs become part of your daily fabric, they’re a problem.
Believe me, I have seen it happen. One day you are 18 and you are trying drugs like a pic’n’mix; the next you’re 45 and the ship that carried all your promise has sailed. And you were not on it. Drugs, if not used responsibly and in moderation, will steal your life. And there is nothing more heart-breaking than seeing someone who went to one party too many be unable to find their way back. Leave the party at a decent time my love, have your fun, but make sure you have a cab booked that will take you back to the life you are meant to live.
Similarly, if you ever get involved with anyone who is a habitual drug user, know this – you will always be the other woman. Some people who have loved drug users describe the drugs as their ‘mistress’. I disagree, it is you that is the mistress, their addiction will be what they are truly committed to, you will never come first. That person’s need to get high will always outweigh their need for you, it is a road to hell and it will leave you broken, shrunken and unfulfilled.
The person who is getting high has the luxury of being high to escape their guilt over the appalling way they will inevitably treat you. Which means they can abdicate all responsibility for being a jackass. You will then be left holding the fragments of their life and wondering where your own has gone. Don’t do it. You cannot save people who do not want to be saved. Run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. It is easier to fall down a hole than to climb out. Don’t fall down the hole darling, step right over it and keep going.
And on the topic of transit, get your driving licence. I was in my thirties when I finally got mine and it was time-consuming and expensive. Don’t leave it till then, do it while you’re young and fearless. It gets harder to learn when you are older because you have lived, and often you become risk averse. Do it when you are young; Driving is one of the most invaluable skills a woman can have. It means you can drive towards your next adventure, and it means you can drive away from anything that ails you.
And finally, try to travel, there is nothing more life-affirming than experiencing new cultures and seeing how other people live. It will push you right out of your comfort zone and it is there in that icky, unfamiliar place that you will find your mettle. Do not be a person that never strays further than your own backyard. It is a big world out there, and it’s full of magic and enchantment. There is so much to learn, so many stories to hear, so many adventures just waiting for you. But you have to reach. Reach for it and then make it yours. Reach for it, and live your truth. And know this, that however far you go, wherever you may find yourself, your bed will always be made up at home, just in case you need your mum…