Dear Carolyn: My 22-year-old daughter is lovely, kind and smart. She rarely dated in high school, and this was a big disappointment for her, but I assumed it was because she is 5’10” and was very quiet and shy. I told her college boys would be taller and to get involved in extracurriculars and things would be better.
She had a happy college experience, top grades, head of her student professional association and plenty of friends, football and extracurricular activities. But very minimal dating. Once, cleaning her room, I came across a discarded journal page where she wrote how sad she was about not finding a relationship. She is still an introvert, but gracious and funny if someone speaks to her first.
Now she is working in a major city in her chosen profession, which is composed predominantly of women.
One thing I have observed is that when she goes out with her school friends, she looks lovely, with her hair and makeup done and wearing something cute. When she goes somewhere with the family or out to run errands, she looks like she just rolled out of bed – no makeup, messy ponytail, wearing whatever. She’s a dancer with a slim figure and when she doesn’t “fix herself up,” she looks like she is 16. No guy her age is going to notice her when she looks like a kid. Is there a way I can tactfully suggest her social life might improve if she made a little effort to look a bit more pulled together? Or leave it alone?
Just Want Her to Be Happy
Single women do ignore the dangers of morning hair at their peril.
(Full face to keyboard.)
Your daughter is independent, smart, well-liked and fit, and the message you’re asking me to help you compose is, “Poor baby, let Mama help you get what really matters.” So help me, I’m thinking tequila at 9:37 a.m.
Not only is your daughter 22 and therefore at the stage of life where she solves her own problems, she is also, from your brief description, highly equipped to do so.
And who even says she’s not happy – one how-long-ago journal page?
Meanwhile, your sprinting by her obvious competence to focus on her man-finding frustration tacitly validates the world view that if you’re a lovely, smart, gracious, funny and professionally fulfilled leader, friend, straight-A student, dancer and cute dresser, then you finish second to the woman who lands herself a man.
Even if you don’t believe this and didn’t mean to imply it with your question, that’s not enough; it’s already in the air she’s breathing. That means the most effective help you can offer is to serve as a counterweight.
Not by cheering her accomplishments, though. That’s fine as they arise but as a policy it will sound forced, as if she needs propping up, as if being single (and at twenty!two!) is actually bad.
The counterweight I mean is trust: that her life is good now; that there are more ways than one for it to stay good; that “good” is hers to define; and that if things stop being good, her wits and grace will point her to answers, including but not limited to actually inviting you to say what you think.
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