When you were a baby, I imagined you growing up to become “all things boy.” I envisioned mud pies and frogs in my bathtub, wrestling in the living room, and playing football in the yard. I thought of the broken bones from falling out of trees, the constant smell of dirty socks and aftershave, and snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, because “that’s what little boys are made of.”
As you grew, most of my premonitions came true, along with the sweet stuff I never expected — like picking flowers and wanting to brush my hair, baking really messy surprise breakfasts, and of course, your childhood compliments (like you saying, “You’re so pretty, Mommy! I want to marry a girl just like you someday!”)
Wouldn’t that be amazing? Yes! I want you to marry a girl just like me too — because then I just might like her. But more importantly, a girl just like me will love you unconditionally — just like I do.
Unfortunately, there is no one “just like me,” just as there will be no one else “just like” the woman you fall in love with. We are all unique individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses (although clearly, she will have more weaknesses than I do).
So instead of locking you in your room with a bag of Doritos and your PS3 until you’re 30 — which was my original plan — I want to share some dating advice that I hope you’ll remember as you search for the love of your life:
1. Let yourself fall in love.
We always hear about “love at first sight” and “soulmates,” but the truth is that love has levels. The love you feel today will sweep you off your feet. You will believe you can’t live without that person who holds your heart.
But kind of like how you have to tear a muscle to grow it, each time your heart tears a little, it will grow back stronger. Who knows — you may find your “forever love” in high school (like your dad and I did), but don’t make that a requirement.
Dating isn’t meant to break you. If your first, second, or twelfth loves don’t work out, it will hurt, but it’s not the end of the world. Let each relationship teach you that no matter what, you are worthy of big love.
2. “Dance” — even if you suck at it.
Everything about relationships is a dance. We move, we trip, we laugh, we connect, we let loose, we embrace, we touch, and we feel. The guys acting all cool at the edge of the dance floor aren’t experiencing life. They aren’t being seen.
Let yourself be seen, and let the person you’re with know that you see them, too. Besides, there’s nothing better than dating a guy who’s so comfortable in his own skin that he’s willing to laugh at himself just to see his partner smile.
3. Laugh at yourself.
Dating is better if you don’t take it (or yourself) too seriously. The world is full of drama and tragedy and heartache, so don’t create more of it in your relationships.
You’ll make mistakes when dating, and you’ll probably have disagreements because that’s what happens in the real world. The most important thing is to know that no one can make us angry without our permission, and we don’t have to participate in every argument.
Your Dad and I have learned to ask “Is happiness more important, or is being right more important?” I hope you always choose happiness.
4. Say “yes” to the girl who elevates your mind, not your status.
There is something more important than looks or popularity, and even sex. It’s connection.
I know that sounds boring, and you’re probably thinking that I really just don’t get it. It’s true, though. The girl who makes you think, question, dream, want to try new things, and pay attention in that class you hate is the girl who will also want to spend time with you — even if there isn’t a party to go to.
She’s the one who makes you want to go on hikes and picnics just so you aren’t distracted by others’ drama. She may even make you forget your cell phone!
Don’t base your affection on the person who makes you feel like you need them in order to feel accepted. Instead, wait for the person who sees your worth, shares your passions, and values who you already are.
5. You always have the choice to become either the hero or villain.
Ever since you could talk, you’ve loved with superheroes. Not so long ago, Halloween wasn’t right without a Buzz Lightyear, Batman, or Spiderman costume.
Although you’ve long outgrown the costume phase, as a young man, you have even more of an opportunity to once again play the hero.
I know you may find someone in a situation where they make a poor choice or feel someone else coercing them into a scenario they want to get out of. It may even be you. You may actually have a girlfriend say, “no” or “stop” or even “wait,” and when that happens you must listen to her and respect her choices.
If you hear or see someone in a dangerous situation, it’s OK to turn into the hero. Even if others laugh at you, listen to your gut, and always go with what’s right.
I want you to understand and always remember who we raised you to become.
6. Don’t kiss and tell.
This sounds so old-fashioned, but believe me — the world needs more of it! When you find someone you want to share the most intimate pieces of your life with, keep it private.
Don’t kiss and Snapchat it, don’t make out on YouTube, and don’t talk about how far you got on Facebook. If the only reason you’re excited for intimacy with someone is because you can share the “proof” on social media, you’re not ready for intimacy.
If the girl you’re dating starts sending you anything you wouldn’t show to me or your grandmother, she isn’t going to respect your privacy either. Find someone with the integrity to keep your private life private.
7. Always hold the door.
No matter what you may hear, you should always hold the door fort others. It is polite and courteous… and I’m your mother, and I said so.
Remember your other manners too. Say “please” and “thank you,” be on time, dress like you care about how you look, and don’t text when someone is talking to you. Your buddies may not always appreciate your good manners, but they matter.
10 years from now when you look back on this part of your life and how it molded who you are, the choices you made and the reputation you built will be way more important than the people who didn’t appreciate you.
8. Know that you always have someone to talk to.
I know that parents are weird and embarrassing. They don’t know as much as you, and they absolutely can’t possibly understand what you’re going through. But we do get it. Not only have we been exactly where you are, but we also thought the same things about our parents when we were young.
Truth be told, I hate the thought of another woman stealing your heart. But I promise I will never allow those feelings of sadness — and the overwhelming desire to protect you from anything that could hurt your feelings or break your heart — keep me from being there to support you.
Dating is serious stuff with big decisions and important questions to ask and answer. I hope you will always trust me to tell you the truth, guide you in the best direction, and gross you out with answers and details you don’t want to hear.
Know that no matter what, I may not always like the choices you make, but I will always love you. I loved you first, so remember that when you have to choose between going on a date or visiting your mother!