She told me not to do it. She said he wasn’t worth it, that he didn’t know me—that he couldn’t care about me the way I cared about him. She said the fact that we were even having this discussion meant that I was seriously confused. I told myself she was wrong because he and I were friends and I had some pretty strong feelings for him. I told her she was wrong because she didn’t know him like I did and she didn’t know me the way I did. That was my mom and I talking last April about a boy I know. I was seventeen.
My cousin is five years older than me. When she was seventeen she got pregnant and shortly after she turned eighteen, she had a baby. We don’t talk much, my cousin and I. In fact, I think the last time I saw her was about a year ago. But every time she gets me alone for any amount of time, she swoops down on the opportunity to give me advice on how not to turn out like her. I used to sit there listening to her, thinking to myself “I’m not her. I know better. Why is she always trying to preach to me?” I know now, after a year of mistakes, that she just cares. She’s been there before and she knows what it is like. All those times she tried to give me advice, she was saying that she is aware that I “know better,” but that knowing better isn’t always enough. She, after all, “knew better” too.
So, there was this boy. I wanted advice. I called my friends and we talked about it at lunch and we texted for days. I asked them all what they thought I should do, expecting some glorious insight into how I should handle this. So much is going through my head that I’m certain they are all on the same page as me. To my disappointment, every one of them says exactly what I’m sure my mother would say if I felt brave enough to bring her into that level of trust that my teenage friends share. Don’t do it. You are smarter than that. You know better. It’s not worth it. So next I try my step-sister. We do not share the same mother and I know she has already made the decision I’m feeling close to making. Maybe she will give me the go-ahead. Maybe she will tell me it’s okay to make mistakes for myself and that everything will be alright in the end. Maybe she will tell me it’s okay to believe in him, against my better judgment. But amazingly, she does not. She tells me to be careful. She says I know better.
This was all before last April and the talk with my mom. I didn’t ask my mom for advice, but she assumed some things and knew I might need some words of wisdom. I believe she was probably right, as she often is. So she sat me down one day and told me what she thought. She told me what she thought about this boy and what she thought must be going on between us. She was disappointed that I would even consider the things she was so sure I was considering. I told her not to worry, nothing was going on and nothing was going to happen; I was smarter than that. I knew better. But she was probably right to worry—mothers almost always are.
I believe she has been right about lots of things over the years that I have forgotten to give her credit for or I was too ashamed to admit that I was wrong about. I believe that many of the women and girls in my life have been right when I have been excessively wrong or when I have been so stubborn that I would have missed the truth had it been written on the rearview mirror of my car or a billboard outside my bedroom window. I believe that I knew all along what should never have happened with that boy. I believe that I knew better then and I know better now. But I didn’t know better than my mom—or my best friends, or my sister, or my cousin, or the heroine of the story, or the leading lady in my favorite movie, or the girl in the Taylor Swift song. I may know better than to make mistakes, but there is always someone out there that knows even better than I do. So I believe in womanly advice. I believe your mom is probably right and maybe even your best friend and your sister.
I have a good friend that is a year younger than me. Not long ago she came to me for advice about a boy because she knew I had been there before. I told her not to do it. I told her she knew better and he wasn’t worth it because he didn’t care about her the way she cared about him. I thank God every day that she did know better and that he put all those women and girls in my life so that when she came to me I knew what to say.
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