Have you ever had a hickey? Do you remember your first hickey?
I remember mine. One summer day Unnamed Boy and I snuck off behind a neighbor’s house to make out. When I got home my father took one look at me and said something like “What the hell is that on your neck? Get over here.’ I didn’t know what he was talking about because I hadn’t even realized it was there. Unnamed Boy hadn’t warned me. (Thanks a lot Billy. I mean… Unnamed.)
My dad proceeded to give me a lecture about society and propriety. He said it didn’t look right. He said it looked trashy. He said there was no reason for anyone to put his mark on me. He was just the right amount of disappointed to keep me from ever having a (visible) hickey again.
Have your kids ever come home with hickeys on their necks? How did you handle it? What did you say to them?
Before my first child was born I made a conscious decision to do my best to parent in a reasonable, logical, consistent way.
I vowed to never say ‘Because I said so!’ I vowed to never say things like ‘when you’re older you’ll understand’. I would always attempt to explain my reasoning so that they would understand. I vowed to raise strong, independent, logical thinkers who questioned everything, took nothing for granted and forged their own paths.
Unfortunately, I also verbalized these vows to my children.
So last night, when we walked into our house and I saw the marks on my oldest child’s neck I broke a vow or two.
Following is a brief dramatization.
Me: ‘Your neck looks disgusting.’
Teenager: ‘Is that a judgment?’
Me: (Damnit. She’s using my words!) Yes. Yes it is. It is my judgment that it looks disgusting.
Teen: You tell me never to care what anyone else thinks. You’ve been telling me that since the day I was born.
Me: (Damnit! More of my own words! They are flying at me left and right!). It looks like someone is marking you as their property!
Teen: (calmly, collectively) You are assuming that was the intention when it isn’t at all the intention. It’s just your perception.
Me: (Intention? Mother Fletcher. This kid really listens to me when I talk.) Yes, but.. But… But… You can give a shit what I think! Don’t you give a shit what I think? (Ugh. She doesn’t give a shit what I think! I taught her not to!)
Teen: ‘Because I said so should never be the reason’, remember? You say it all the time.
Silence. Sighs on both ends. It’s a draw.
So now I’m left wondering if I really do want strong independent free thinking children who forge their own paths and don’t give a shit about societal judgment!? Do I, really?
And I’m also wondering why the hickey bothers me so much.
Is it because, due to my own circumstances, I was an early bloomer who was slut-shamed all through grammar school? Is it my own 12-year-old fear of judgment and name-calling resurfacing? Am I afraid of what people will think of my parenting skills? Am I afraid of disappointing my dead father? Do I actually care what other people (both living and dead) think?
I write a lot about letting go of judgment, and my words are constantly being tested by teenagers!
Why do these marks on her neck bother me so much? What is my reasonable, logical, consistent objection?
It can’t be about other people’s judgment, can it? Will someone please help me win this argument without making it about other people’s judgment! Please?
Oh man. Sorry, Kim. I think it is about other people’s judgment. I think that when we see something so blatant as a hickey, we have a knee-jerk, slut-shaming reaction to it (god what an ugly word). Also, I love seeing the fruits of your parenting, as infuriating as they must sometimes be. I think you’re an amazing mom.
I know it’s about other people’s judgment, Steph. And I just HATE that.