Advice I Gave to My College Age Daughters

This world is a tough place. Sometimes it is the bully tripping you as you walk between the rows of desks in the sixth grade. You trip and your face flushes with embarrassment. Other times the world is the loving mother making you brownies for after school, without even knowing a bully had tripped you. This ebb and flow is what makes life both fantastic and frustrating. When Kiaya went to college I had the idea of leaving her Post-It notes all over her dorm, gentle reminders of advice that I had given her over the years.

The first note stated: Do not do anything that would make me call you an asshole. While other parents may give specific advice, I preferred to cover everything with a simple rule; I started using this personal golden rule when they were very young. I simply told the girls to do nothing that would make me think they were an asshole. I thought of this as a blanket statement as it covered almost everything:

Talking too loud on your cell,

Standing in a busy walkway,

Loudly cursing,

Being those asshole kids who put their hands in each others back pockets,

Being racist or homophobic,

Flunking out of college.

My asshole Post-It covered all that with one simple sentence.

Kiaya’s second Post-It stated: Always wear a cardigan. It will make you look cool. This note worked on multiple levels. First I am mildly obsessed with a casual coolness that I feel I lack. Cool kids wear cardigans; it is just a fact of life to me. Right now open a Google search and type “cool people wearing cardigans”; one of the people will be The Dude from The Big Lebowski. I personally can think of no one cooler than The Dude, his coolness traipses time as even my five-year-old sees Jeff Bridges and says, “Hey Momma, look it’s The Dude.” My thought was if Kiaya feels awkward (and if you know her, you know she does) she could wear the coolness of a cardigan as a shield. The other thing is that a cardigan will keep you a magic comfortable temperature, neither to hot or too cold nor too heavy or light. Cardigans are the perfect accessory.

My third Post-It said: Do not become an alcoholic trollop. College is a time for living and experimenting and I get that, but I also know that dependency can be a bitch. I do not live in a world where I think my children will never have sex or try alcohol. I just don’t want either act to be consuming. The Post-It could have read, “Please, don’t be the hung over girl doing the walk of shame with her panties in her purse,” but that seemed rather long.

I left Kiaya other notes as well, one simply said, “Kiaya, Stop talking. Love, Mom.” If you know her, you know that it was good advice.

Selena left for college the following year and she too received Post-It advice. While both of my children are intelligent (naturally – hah!), Selena has a sense of whimsy while Kiaya is very linear in her thought process.

For the first note I wrote: Condoms are cheaper than diapers. It has been my personal goal that my children get past the age when I got pregnant without being pregnant. Kiaya sailed past hers with no problem. Selena has now passed hers as well and I couldn’t be happier. Babies are expensive and easier to prevent than to care for. I want my daughters to have experiences that I didn’t get to have. Go to school, travel, have adventures, and do it without having a baby attached to your hip is the message of that particular Post-It.

Selena’s next note said: Boys will rape. Never drink from a glass a boy hands you. I have seen Veronica Mars so I feel I am an expert on date rape drugs. Of course, I do not believe that all boys rape, nor do I believe in victim blaming, but I think that being diligent about your surroundings is important. Walking in pairs and letting someone know where you are is just a smart way to live on a college campus. Really, it is a good idea for almost every living situation. My current parenting advice is to forbid my children from traveling to India, as India has been a little rapey recently.

The third note stated: Only I know everything, remember that. This was written tongue in cheek because Selena has a history of thinking she knows everything. She was my very own Clarissa Explains It All. I wanted Selena to know that it is okay to take advice from other people and it is okay to admit that you don’t know or understand something. It is normal and how we grow as people. Accept input, if you don’t like the advice you receive, discard it.

Just like with Kiaya, I left Selena other notes as well. One simply said, “Selena, Shhh…not so loud. Love, Mom.” If you know her, you know it was good advice.

Saidee leaves for college in 13 years. I need to start working on her advice now.

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The Commute

She wore her anxiety like a name badge: Hello, my name is self doubt with occasional loathing and sadness. But really, deep down, Rachel wasn’t sad, morose, or languishing; she was just anxious. Sometimes she thought her blood felt like driver ants consuming her insides like they would cattle in an African village. When she thought of that comparison she smiled a guileful smile knowing that she was a pretender. The only reason she knew of driver ants was from an Oprah Book Club book she had read in her twenties. In the car on her morning commute Rachel would think back to the moments that she felt defined her; moments that if she had made a different decision would have possibly altered her life. It was her own personal butterfly effect and she knew that it was senseless.

On this morning drive Rachel flicked at her wedding band. A steady rhythm of nerves: flick, flick, flick, her thumb against the white gold band. A physical manifestation of her inner agitation. The radio played; the morning radio show did their ridiculous voices and callers called to discuss the topic on hand. The air conditioner was on three of four and blew her hair. For a split second Rachel stopped the flicking to pretend her hair was being blown by fans at an InStyle photo shoot. In the fantasy would be her smiling face, her hair shoulder length and artfully wind blown. On her thin wrists would be Jennifer Myer bracelets, each bracelet as dainty as the women in the picture. In this fantasy she was thin, dainty, and graceful, with the kind of beauty that was accepted by other women. She had originally found popularity as a twitter personality and eventually became a regular on Jimmy Fallon, who had offered her a cameo in an upcoming movie.  Another caller to the radio show breaks the fantasy and she moves on to thinking about her decisions. How many had been hers to make and in how many had she been just a silent participant?

The first time she had sex had been a misunderstanding; an ill attempt at talking dirty had led to the quickest sex ever on record. Sure, she could see how it happened. They had been making out for what seemed like hours, mostly naked and pressed against each other on a comforter that was beige with small pink roses.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you too,” she whispered back.

Rachel was sure that more needed to be said.

“I wish you could be inside me,” she decided to add.

And with that her virginity was gone, him on top and pumping. Her body was scootched off the side of the bed. With the last pump she could see the digital clock; it read 3:48. Her virginity was gone in under a minute. Like any good control freak, the next logical step was to make him sit with her and read a pamphlet on teen sex and pregnancy. Which, of course, he did with no complaint, mostly because he was in love and a little sticky. Her accidental deflowering aside, sex was something that Rachel thought about often on her commute.

Now that she had recounted the accidental deflowering, the flick, flick, flick of her ring once again started and Rachel marked that experience into the her-mistake-to-make category. She had said the words that led to the act. This one was a clear mark in her column. The recalling made her smile; virginity was there to be lost and really there was no regret here.

The radio was pulling a phone prank and it made her skin crawl. The idea of intentionally making someone uncomfortable and angry made little sense. It seemed mean, but the intended victim always laughed in the end with an added, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Flick, flick, flick went the thumb against the wedding band as the pre-recorded laugh track played behind the gag. The insistent laughter saying, “don’t be uncomfortable; it is all in good fun.”

Every morning Rachel commutes and every morning she dissects her life events. In fourth grade she cried when her paper wasn’t perfect and the teacher mentioned it to the class. In the sixth grade she gave a boy her bracelet so he would like her. Each individual act probed for a better solution. This was her commute.

The idea behind this post is that I am interested in the small amounts of time that this character spends rethinking her decisions and fantasizing about what could have been. How many small, thirty minute periods, are lost to rehashing our old life events? 

I Hate Your Stupid Face

The mood:

It appears that I am having “one of those days.” One of those days that make me want to spit in the face of people that I deem useless. Do I logically understand that this feeling is tied to exhaustion and hormones? Yes. Do I care? No.

It all starts with me feeling like I have no time. When am I supposed to clean the house, do the laundry, cook, raise the children, write, and go to school when all I do is work? The house is getting social services bad and it smells funny, kind of like dog, fried chicken, dirt, and pee. Why can’t I have hairless animals who wear Swiffers on their paws? And why can’t they smell of Gain or cotton candy? Would that be too much to ask? “Yes,” you say? Well, I hate your stupid face for thinking that.

Another slight issue I am having is that I am stoned out of my mind. Not on any illegal narcotics, but on a sleep aide. I am Benadryl stoned. My head feels like it is tethered to my body by a string. That string feels like it is being held by a sticky-handed toddler who is clapping at the unicycles at a July 4th parade. I am trying to hold it together, but I am so out of it that at any second a penguin may walk up to me and offer me a Snickers bar.

I don’t even like Snickers bars, you stupid penguin!

Also, this penguin will be wearing a baseball hat. I do not know why. I just accept it to be true. I hate its stupid face.

The response to the mood:

Today is the kind of day that I need people to act their age. I need people to act like fucking grown-ups. It isn’t hard; I do it almost every day. I bitch about it, but I do it. The world is not there to cater to you. It doesn’t hold you against its bosom and tell you everything is fine. No, sadly the world just slaps us around and makes us feel worse. It is our responsibility to accept this and then rally to fix it. It is all we can do. We take a hit and then we get back up, again and again. Grown-ups accept this and move on.

Do what needs to be done and then move on.

I write this in the midst of some existential temper tantrum. My inner four-year-old has her fist clenched by her side and she is stomping her right foot. She isn’t getting her way and it has made her unpleasant. We all have an inner four-year-old that is id and rage, slamming doors and screaming in the recesses of our mind. I have to remind mine to stay quiet. I banish her to the dark places to hide out with the accountant that sometimes follows me, repeating those dreaded numbers: 17, 19, 25, 29, 36. I am an adult, and sometimes against everything I feel, I have to continue to act like one. I wish that other people would act the same way.

So, I leave this short blog on this note. Grow the fuck up and be nicer. I’ll try, and so should you.