Here's the hard truth about being a woman today: We live in a world where people tell us to do everything from smile to STFU. Some days, in fact, it seems like people are lined up around the proverbial block to offer their unsolicited opinion to all of womankind. That's why it's especially important that we, as women, take heed of the things no grown-ass woman says to a younger woman. While it would be nice to think that we always have each other's backs, sometimes we inadvertently add to the noise for younger women who maybe haven't yet learned to deflect the deluge of voices lobbed in their direction every day.
There are so many ways — both subtle and overt — that women verbally experience sexism, misogyny, judgement, and discrimination on the daily. And, yes, sometimes those things come from our own camp. Whether a grown-ass woman has good intentions or not isn't the issue. (You know what they say about good intentions: The road to hell is paved with them.) As grown-ass women, we should be self-aware enough to realize when what we are saying to younger women is off-color or could be perceived as hurtful or offensive. And just because we don't mean something to be hurtful doesn't absolve us of responsibility if it is hurtful.
We're all guilty of putting in our foot in our mouth occasionally, though, so rest assured that if any of these gaffes feel a little too familiar, you're in good company. What's important is what we do with that realization and how we use it to change the narrative we've been having with the next generation of badass ladies. So, take note!
1. "You'll want to settle down eventually."
For those of us who have been in relationships or married for a million years, the concept that someone may not ever want to settle down can be hard to make sense of. But that is their life choice, not ours. When we phrase things this way, we imply that our own life choice is the superior one when, really, who's to say? One thing's for sure: If the shoe was on the other foot and that younger woman said to you, "Oh, you'll want to get divorced eventually," you probably wouldn't be too keen on hearing your life's decision dismissed so easily.
2. "You're just being too picky."
When a younger woman hasn't walked down the aisle or goes through partners at a similar rate to the way they go through socks, someone might say this to her. They might even think they're being helpful. But, c'mon, this is BS, right? If ever there was a time to be picky, it's when you're picking your potential partner for life — if they even want a life partner at all. Telling a young woman she is being too picky is the same thing as telling her to lower her standards, and that's not cool.
3. "When you get your life together, everything will fall into place."
But what if she feels like her life is already together? Just because it doesn't look like what someone else imagines a put-together life should look like doesn't de-value it in her eyes. I feel certain I've said this to my younger Millennial cousin in the past in an attempt to reassure her the "right guy" would come along. In hindsight, though, I now realize that if she was already happy with the rest of her life, implying that it wasn't "together enough" (whatever that even means) probably only compounded her anxiety.
4. "You'll understand when you're in a real relationship."
There's really no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to relationships — they look like a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Just because I've been with my now-husband since, like, time began (it seems that long some days, trust me), it doesn't mean that our relationship is any more legitimate than someone who has been in a relationship for a month. And it would be pretty sanctimonious for me to say it did, don't you think? Love can't be quantified like that. It's just not the way it works.
5. "You say you don't want kids now, but..."
"You'll change your mind eventually!" Or how about "Don't wait too long — the clock is ticking." I'm going to give most of us 30 and 40-somethings the benefit of the doubt and say we probably aren't as guilty of uttering the latter as, say, our mothers and grandmothers. However, I concede that I've probably said the first at some point or another. At the time, I'm sure I was all blissed out on the sweet smell the top of my baby's heads after they were born (it's a thing, OK?) and wasn't thinking about how my saying so was marginalizing the choices the younger woman had made regarding her own body and future.
6. "Have you lost weight?"
Is this supposed to be a compliment? Yes. Does it feel like a compliment when you're on the receiving end? Not really. The problem is that the question in and of itself implies that woman it's directed at needed to lose weight. But a person's health and fitness is their business, and their business alone — and a "compliment" like this is backhanded in the worst way.
7. "I know how you feel."
In full disclosure, this is something this particular grown-ass woman (that is, myself) is still working on. Sure, when we say it, we may feel like we're being empathetic. However — and I realize this is a bitter pill to swallow — what we're actually doing is shifting the focus away from the young woman we're speaking to and onto ourselves. Think about it: You probably segued from "I know how you feel" into a personal story that illustrates that point, right? As grown-ass women, we have to give our younger cohorts the space to feel things their own way. And if they do come to us to vent about something, the best thing we can do is listen and not try to ascribe our experiences to her emotions.