Leave it to me to jump 20 years into the future before I'm even married. It's the way old souls work, OK? I don't know how you get ideas down on paper, but for me, they echo in the chambers of my mind until they collect into a big pile and then fall onto the page like this ...
What am I going to tell my kids about dating, about their bodies, about finding a partner in life? The short answer is: a lot. But here are the main things.
1. Your body is sacred and it belongs to you.
There were a lot of religious messages I received growing up that made me confused and frightened about the world. I felt ashamed of my body; I was responsible for everyone's reaction to my body; and my body (how it was shaped, how it was dressed, how it was postured) was never acceptable.
None of that message is OK.
I don't know how we'll handle the big s-e-x talk. But from where I sit I've noticed, in general, that lots of us like to have our religious ideals and use them to avoid the reality of life (aka that we can't control everything our kids do). I know the decisions I made with my body, and I know that it would've been MUCH easier to go through life if I saw my body as sacred. As precious. As honored and revered and worth respect above all else.
I think this message is just as powerful for men as it is for women. Your body is sacred -- and what you do with it matters. It matters if you use your fist to communicate instead of your mind and words. It matters if you use your sensuality to find satisfaction in life rather than your intellect, sense of humor or kindness of heart.
2. There are a lot of adventures waiting for you in life -- and you don't need a husband or wife to seize the day.
Getting married and being wifely material came with a lot of pressure. Be perfect. Accommodate at all costs. Be available, but don't be slutty. Wait on a man, but also don't be reliant on him in any way because he can't be bothered with your humanly needs. Because of this pressure and perhaps a few other factors, I thought for a long time that I had to be absolutely accessible and never busy with my life -- otherwise, how would a man be able to notice or find me?
There's a lot of adventure I didn't have in life because I was waiting for a man to come along. It was rough, y'all. And although I'm a big believer that adventure only increases once you get married, there's a lot I hope my kids explore in the world before they get married (if they think that's for them). There's a lot I hope they're able to see without worrying about whether or not their future wife or husband will come along. She will, just at the right time. Just you see. Now, off you go ... adventures await.
3. You deserve to be confident in who you marry.
Getting married comes with a lot of pressure, and that's a good thing. I like that marriage is taken seriously and kinda freaks people out. I hope it's really, really daunting because you know how important it is to choose wisely and to WALK AWAY when your heart is telling you to. There's a big, fat, ugly difference between feeling properly humbled by the idea of committing to love another person for the rest of your life and having serious, grave concerns about their character or ability to contribute to a life that you'll both enjoy. The former is solely influenced by your ability to grow and change as a person, and the latter requires marrying someone you hope will become the person you need down the road.
In order to be confident in who you marry, I hope you cry a lot. I hope you know the feeling of thinking you've found a forever someone but when their nasty attitude shows up time and again, you have the power to leave and never look back. I hope you love yourself and your life more than the comfort of someone who might hang around. I hope you know that you're loved and that even if you get to your wedding day and need to run for your life and call the whole thing off, we'll be there to pick up the pieces.
4. You don't have to get married.
Life is overflowing with so much possibility, and I can't think of anything more satisfying than happy, fulfilled adult children who don't feel pressured to live a life they don't want. You don't have to get married. You don't have to have children. Your only job, our only request of you is that you give back to the world in equal measure as what you've been given. Be a contributor, not a detractor. Be open, not closed. Be giving, to yourself and to your friends and family.
You have one precious human life. Use it well. The dating stuff will figure itself out, so don't sweat it.