SUMMARY: I take a look at the women I met some years ago in Colorado Springs, and then draw a few conclusions about the challenges they faced at that time in their lives.
(About a 8 minute read)
People are often more predictable than life itself. I can often predict, with surprising accuracy, what a long-term friend will do in almost any situation, but my life has taught me that it can be considerably more difficult to predict where I will be in a year or two.
I certainly did not expect when I came to Colorado that I would soon know — at least casually — about 200 young men and women twenty years younger than me, nor that about two dozen of them would befriend me.
Yet that’s what happened — largely as a direct consequence of my choosing to frequent a coffee shop that both served the cheapest cup in town and was the hang out of hundreds of local high school students. Since it was also the oldest and most established coffee shop in town, it was also the hang out of everyone else — from the mayor and some city council members to several homeless people.
But it was the young men and women in their teens and early twenties who most actively befriended me, invited me to parties, sleep-overs, road trips, and just about everything else they could think of.
When I eventually asked a few of them why they had taken such an interest in me, I was told by almost all of them that it was because I didn’t judge them.
I suppose it might have been a bit more than that too. It seemed to me that at least some of them were using me to ease themselves into the adult world. That is, they were doing what I myself did when I was their age. Find an adult, become friends, and then learn a thing or two about how to think and act like an adult from them.
Whatever the case, my new friends were about equally divided between men and women. Since reaching my 30s some years before, I had not been very interested in young people. But now I pretty much had no choice but to become interested. After awhile, the people who I became most interested in were the young women.
I think that was largely for two reasons. First, most of the ones who actually befriended me were several times more attractive — both physically and otherwise — than any of my peers had been during my high school years. I didn’t pursue any of them sexually, but I was quite flattered by their deferential attention and friendship.
The second reason was more intellectual. Until I came to know the women of the coffee shop, I had almost no idea what young women of that time went through. It fascinated me how things had seemed to change so much in just the twenty years since I’d been in high school.
For one thing, far more of them were fatherless than had been the case in my age. Then again, they seemed to be under much greater pressure to conform to popular notions both of what was beautiful, and of what was sexually attractive. I seldom got asked for advice in dealing directly with those issues, but I often got asked advice about nearly every closely related issue you can imagine.
For instance, no one asked me, “What do I do to make myself sexually attractive?”, but Jackie once asked me nearly the same thing, “What must I do to please the boys? I will become whatever it takes to do that. Just please tell me what that is.”
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
I told her she should be true to herself. It was one of the first times in my life I had offered anyone specifically that advice. But after Jackie, I would find myself repeating it often. “Vanessa, unless you are true to yourself, the boys will not know you, and they will love you for something you are not. Be true to yourself. Some will not want you, but those who will, will want the real you. Their love will be true.”
I found the advice didn’t always sink in. But in Jackie’s case it did — eventually. She stopped me on the street one day a year to the month that I had first offered her my advice in order to thank me for it saying, “It took me forever to understand what you were saying, but I got to thinking about it last month, and it finally came to me.”
I still think it’s good advice. Not every young person is going to take it, but I believe every young person should be made aware of it as at least an option. So much in life depends on personal authenticity.
THE HEALTHIEST YOUNG WOMEN
If nothing else, hanging out with so many young women gave me a firm appreciation for good fathers. I once read a rather naive writer assert that fathers were unnecessary to women’s upbringing, that women could take them or leave them, but that notion was heavily contradicted by all that I myself saw.
For instance, one of the better signs that a young woman was unlikely to get into an abusive relationship with a man — and to get out soon, if she still happened to get into one — was a good relationship with her father.
Sarah, for instance, had a great relationship with her father. At 17, she very briefly got into a bad relationship with a jerk a few years older than her. It lasted about a month or less. Sarah quickly realized what he was and had the confidence to exit the relationship. She didn’t say much about him afterwards, but I did manage to gather he had not yet really abused her. Instead, she’d detected the early warning signs and had recognized their significance.
Near as I was able to figure out, a young girl’s first love is for her mother and father. While the mother’s love is every bit as key to her future as her father’s love, her father through his example, creates her expectations of how she should be properly treated. If and when someone doesn’t treat her how he’s taught her to be treated, she recognizes she deserves better.
A second thing I noticed about the healthiest young women is that they had some sort of enthusiasm — or even in a some cases, a genuine passion — for something that at least rivaled their natural enthusiasm for boys. I’ve never seen much mention of the importance of this in what I’ve read about young women, but to me, it seemed pretty important.
Even if it was just an enthusiasm for horse riding, it tended to keep the women from becoming obsessed with a young man. Which was important, because women who become obsessed tend to become victims. But the young women with a solid interest in something besides boys overall seemed less susceptible to obsession than those without.
Quite a few of the young women went through a usually brief bi-curious phase. That is, they typically dated for a while another young woman. There seemed to be no stigma attached to it, and most that I knew to be bi-curious were completely open about it.
Except for the genuinely bisexual women, these bi-curious phases typically ended soon after the woman’s break up with her first and only girlfriend, although one or two went a bit longer than that.
The women themselves almost invariably described their bi-curiosity as “bisexuality”. They usually weren’t firm about it, however. More along the lines of, “I think I might be bisexual because I’ve felt attraction to other women.” The real bisexuals, on the other hand, usually had no doubt they were bisexual.
I was never able to see any harm coming from such things. In fact, I got the sense they were part of many a young woman’s learning curve regarding how to handle both sex and relationships.
ATTRACTION TO OLDER MEN
Out of the two dozen or so young women I was to one degree or another genuine friends with, about a half dozen offered themselves to me despite I was twice their age, usually repeatedly. In every case, I declined the offer, but almost always in a way that we remained friends. Still, I found the fact of it fascinating.
Most times, the young women had a poor or non-existent relationship with her father. Many people would say she had “daddy issues”, but I don’t like the term mainly because I heard it used to imply the woman is messed up. That has not been my overall experience
Of the half dozen who offered themselves to me, all but one or two of them were what I thought of as fairly well balanced, mentally and emotionally healthy people, given their ages. Although they tended to be fatherless, they were not the young women most affected by it. For some reason, those almost never hit on me.
With perhaps two exceptions, the women’s interest in an older man or men did not exclude them from being interested in young men their own age. I also got the sense that they were largely interested in me as a source of validation of them, although there was one young woman whose interest seemed mostly sexual.
I suspect she was curious about whether sex with an older man would be any different and more fulfilling than sex with someone her own age — because she told me the men her own age were not satisfying her.
Although a few of the fatherless women seemed indistinguishable from the women with fathers, most did not. That is, they were noticeably different. For one thing, they tended to become obsessed with the young men, unless they had some strong hobby or enthusiasm.
For another thing, they seemed to me excessively deferential to the young men. They didn’t always know where their boundaries were, nor how and when to enforce them. They were often uncertain of themselves and tended to have low self-esteem. They also seemed at high risk of unwanted pregnancy.
As you might imagine, these women often had the hardest time being true to themselves. In most cases, they struck me as not really knowing that much about themselves compared to the other young women. That was not for lack of trying. Almost every one of them almost religiously kept a personal journal.
These were the young women it was often most heartbreaking to know, because they tended to get into abusive relationships that they found difficult to leave. Such relationships often resulted in one or two children, and consequently, the end of the woman’s dreams and ambitions for a better life than her mother’s.
Although these young women weren’t the type to hit on me, at least two of them to my recollection tried to set me up with their single mothers. I’ve wondered if they were not trying to get a step-dad.
I’ve left out some observations here because this has become a very long post. In general, the topics I’ve covered were fairly common things experienced by the women.