The Wrong Kind of Compliment: An Open Letter to My Daughter

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Dear Katy,

As I write this letter, you are a lovely and spirited four year-old who lights up my life. One day you’re going to become a lovely and spirited adolescent, and soon after a lovely and spirited teenager, then you’re going to blossom into a lovely and spirited young woman. As your mom, I want you to blossom into that young woman with all the confidence you need to flourish. In order to do that, you’re going to need to try things for yourself, but you’re also going to need to take advice when it is offered. Especially by me. And boy, do I have a lot of advice for you. I am a wealth of information that you just can’t put a price on. Always listen politely to your mother’s advice because I birthed you and it’s the least you can fucking do.

Anywho, today I want to give you some advice about dating. You’re going to start dating sooner than I even want to think about, and I want you to be prepared, so I am going to share with you some advice I wish I received when I was young. Some advice about getting compliments from guys.

If you happen to grow up being attracted to boys, you’re going to covet the compliments you get, but I think it’s important you know that not all compliments should be treated equally. Today, specifically, I am going to talk about the compliment of “You’re not like other girls.”

 

 

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If a guy ever says “You’re not like other girls,” it’s not a compliment. Don’t take it as one. Be offended by it, actually. As an adult, this one really irks me. What other girls are you referring to, exactly? What the fuck is wrong with other girls? Girls are amazing, and you should never be ashamed to be lumped in with them. I know it’s difficult not to take it as a compliment. I mean, on the surface, it seems like he’s saying that he holds you in higher regard than most of the other women he has been around. It makes you feel unique and special. I understand. I’ve been there. One of my main goals in life when I was a teenager was to distance myself from other girls so I could get that exact compliment. I wanted to transcend the other girl bullshit and get that coveted title of “Cool girl.” Why would I want to be like other girls? They’re all nagging, emotional nut jobs who just want to land a man they can vomit all their crazy on. That ain’t me. I just get along better with guys. Less drama, you know?

 

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Nah. That’s a load of bullshit, and it took me way too long to figure it out, and I refuse to let you suffer the same fate.

A month ago, I got a notification for one of my memories on Facebook. It was from 2009. It was a status update. I said “Sorry to say this, but women are terrible drivers!” Yikes. I deleted that shit, stat. It was humiliating. Thanks, Facebook, for reminding me how shitty I was back in 2009. That was me, once again, insulting other women so I could feel better about myself. Do you think I included myself when talking about those terrible women drivers? Hell, no! I wasn’t like that, I was a great driver! Not like these other hoes.

 

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Don’t let some dickwad make you trash your entire gender just so he will like you. You don’t need to elevate your own worth by shitting on everyone else who identifies as a girl. At that point, you aren’t even identifying yourself as an individual; you’re just identifying yourself in opposition to other girls. You’re placing more value on yourself because you aren’t like them, and there’s no uniqueness in that. Plus, in addition to all the shit we get in this world from men and the establishment just for being women, all of the obstacles we face and the walls we have to claw our way over, we now have a bunch of our own kind who have internalized that anti-woman rhetoric and spit it back out in the form of self-hate. It’s called internalized misogyny, my dear, and it’s everywhere.

It’s not just that, either. This so-called compliment is a tactic used by many guys to pressure you to ignore your own wants and needs and instead do what they want. When asked to elaborate, the script for this compliment is always the same. “Most girls are so dramatic” or “Other girls are so needy” and “Man, a lot of girls are just fucking crazy….but not you. You’re actually cool,” and the problem with those phrases is that they will immediately put you in a position of stuffing down your own feelings. You will have to monitor all of your actions and conversations with him to make sure that you aren’t sounding too ‘dramatic’ or ‘needy’. It automatically puts you at a disadvantage because if you ever do something that he doesn’t like, he gets to pull the “other girls” card and make you feel like shit for having feelings or asking to get your own needs met. You’re going to be forced to live up to this “not like other girls” persona that is basically made up of whatever the fuck he decides it means at the time. The more he discourages you from doing “other girl” things that he doesn’t like, the more you start losing yourself and begin existing just to please him. You don’t want that. And you don’t deserve it, my dear daughter.

 

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Everyone wants to feel unique. Being unique is a beautiful thing. But believe me, you can still be unique while also belonging to a large group. Humans do it every. damn. day. Perhaps something you can actually take as a compliment is if he says “You are so different from a lot of other people I’ve met. You’re so vivacious and you’ve got a great sense of humor!” That’s a compliment. He is actually telling you that you are a unique person and listing two specific examples of things he likes about you, instead of telling you that he likes how not-girly you are. 

Don’t get your self-esteem by knocking other girls down. Not only is it a shitty thing to do in general, but all women lose in that situation, including you. Regurgitating that same nonsense about women just reinforces the idea that we should all be pitted against each other rather than united. It continues the vicious cycle of belief that we are all bitchy and only want to tear each other down. Your short term confidence boost will be a loss in the long term. Not too far down the road, you will voice your opinion about something, whether that be in the workforce or professional setting, or in a close personal relationship, and you’re inevitably going to be labeled as the catty, needy or emotional bitch by someone. And you’ll only have yourself to blame for making it that much easier for people to say it about you, and by extension, to say it about all of us.

 

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I said it in the beginning of this post, I’ll say it now and I’ll keep saying it until the end of time: Girls are amazing. Every single god damn one of us. A girl who reads, listens to Iron Maiden and watches Tosh.0 is no more valid or cool than a girl who wears makeup, listens to Taylor Swift and cries a lot. They are both whole people with distinct and nuanced personalities. And we need to support and elevate them both, to their faces, to other women, to our family and friends, and to society as a whole.

Girls are going to be there for when you need it. Girls are going to empathize and relate to whatever you’re going through, and they’re going to do that amazing thing that girls do when you’re telling them something they relate to, when they open their eyes really wide and they start nodding slowly. That’s one of my favorite things. You are going to connect with girls in a way you won’t connect with your boyfriend or husband or significant other. Sure, you may find a soulmate who is also your best friend, and that’s great, but there is no substitute for solid, female friendships. Be one of those supportive and loving girls. Be the girl in the bathroom of the club who offers you her chapstick or compliments your outfit. Be a girl who values other women and raises them up.

Not this:

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This:

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I don’t know when everyone collectively decided that women were inferior to men. I don’t know who decided it or where it originated from or why the fuck we let it happen. I don’t know if or when we will ever finally be seen as equal, but I can tell you with certainty that we, as women, have the ability to change it. We don’t just have the ability to change it, we have a responsibility to change it. Change the narrative of the bitchy, dramatic woman who hates other women. Don’t let them divide us. When they divide us, we all lose.

So my advice to you, my daughter, when a guy tries to compliment you by saying you’re not like other girls, is to respond by saying, “Yeah, actually, I am like other girls. Because girls are awesome. Shut the fuck up.” And then you bounce, because that guy is garbage who doesn’t value women, and guys that don’t value women don’t deserve to date you. They don’t deserve to date any women, actually. To quote a visionary of our time named P!nk, just go ahead and tell him “It’s just you and your hand tonight.” He’ll understand.

I love you. You got this.

 

Sincerely,

Mom

 

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