I imagine this argument between worried moms:
“If you tell a young lady to stop seeing a fellow, it will just make her sneak around behind your back, instead.”
“Or if may alert her to a genuine concern you have about the guy, and she may realize she has nothing invested in the relationship and stop spending time alone with him.”
Okay, that was a cheesy introduction, but the second reaction was mine.
There was this friend of a friend that I once had out to where I house-sat. When my mother met him a few days later (she works on the same campus I attended, so it was really easy for her to meet all my friends) she told me straight out, “Amy, I don’t see anything in ‘Bob’ to make him safe, and I don’t want you being alone with him any more.”
Naturally I thought she was being a little over-protective, but between my own sense of the guy and my trust of my mother, I never was alone with him again.
When I was in college (and probably high school) I was a hitter. Not a flirt. I just smacked people when I thought they were being stupid/funny/clever/ornery, whatever. I was very hands-on and didn’t think anything of it or how it made me look. I did it to everyone.
My first or second evening with Bob (he was always around because he was a “Jack’s” childhood buddy and current roommate) I play-slapped him for something, he looked me right in the eye and said, “I will hit a girl who hit me first.”
I am not easily intimidated– it doesn’t usually occur to me– but after that look I never touched him again. We had an understanding after that, but it was the first thing that leapt to mind when my mother said she didn’t trust him, and my mom’s opinion was the vote (if you will) that swung me against trusting him.
I had trusted Jack’s knowledge of Bob more than my own instinct, because, hey, they grew up together. But having my mom say right out (basically) that her instinct lined up with mine– strengthened me. It made me confident enough to stop making it important to be “nice” to him.
~ ~ ~
A friend of mine mentioned last week that she wants to teach her daughters that they don’t have to be nice to everyone. In the course of our conversation we realized that neither one of us got the message (well, I guess I got in it college) from our Christian parents that it’s not our job to be everyone’s friend.
Being too friendly really isn’t (especially for young ladies) a safe mindset. This guy, Bob, was a friend of my friend Jack, and I felt it meant I should trust him too. My mother was much more practical.
“Jack is a man, and it’s not *his* job to keep you safe,” were her two points of departure from that connection.
Up to that point I had not considered either of these things. I just thought we all looked out for everybody we were around and as I (crazy now, I realize) assumed we were at similar risk, I figured anyone might recognize it first, averting it or warning the rest of us if possible.
It was part of my education, you might say, to learn that there really are different risks for different people, and different senses of responsibility to others, even. I needed to develop my own instincts and awareness for these things if I was going to survive on my own.
As my girls approach that age I know I’ll be praying more and more for wisdom to communicate this importance to them, and I hope that my (even oblivious) experience will create enough teaching-stories that I’ll never have to directly lecture.
For what it’s worth (mostly as a reminder to me), there is a very interesting retelling of Vasalisa— that I may eventually try– that emphasizes the role of intuition in keeping us safe.
I am more thankful than I can say for the intercession of my family on my behalf (both then and now). I am Exhibit-A of the fact one doesn’t need to be rebellious to be in danger, or in need of faithful prayer.
Especially considering the wisdom I had still to gather, I had an amazingly uneventful youth.
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