20 Things This Mother Will Probably Never Tell Her Son

5 years ago

[Editor's Note: This week, BlogHer learned an important internet lesson: Memes are people, too. BlogHer stumbled across the post below, written by Joella at Fine and Fair, in a Facebook link, and we were intrigued by the core idea of it—20 Things To Say Or Not To Say To Our Sons—and by the fact that the meme/post had been shared what looked like millions of times, and that hundreds of people had been responding and making their own lists in response. So we decided to syndicate Fine and Fair's post, as we knew it would kick off an interesting and passionate conversation. But in these days of hyperconnectivity and the all-seeing Google, even anonymous memes eventually link back to their creator. When Joella was alerted in comments that there was an actual author of the post, she responded by revising her post, naming WerdyAb as the author and linking to the original post within the BlogHer.com post, thinking she was righting a wrong. Of course! All of us in the blogosphere believe that crediting people for their work is of utmost importance. But the simple act of attaching a real live author -- a person -- to formerly faceless meme utterly changed the tone of the post, and made its humor seem sharp, its jabs more cruel, than how they'd appeared in the original version. And truth is, it took all of us a BlogHer a few days to understand and even SEE what had happened to tip the apple cart on the post as the comments were mounting. So we want to publicly apologize to Werdyab for the hurt she felt and all the attention, much of it negative, that was focused on her. We deeply regret that series of events. At BlogHer, community, respect and a sense of safety in expressing our opinions are traits we treasure, and we don't want to do anything to threaten that. We want to thank the many who spoke out on Twitter or sent us emails, which helped us focus on the unfortunate and unintended series of events. And we'd like to acknowledge Joella's honorable responses and efforts to make this right, as well. She is not to blame for how this played out.

We work hard to be sure that everyone feels welcome; we value this above everything -- especially above page views. And that is why we are making this public explanation today. --Stacy Morrison, Editor-in-Chief]

Last night, after a lovely and heartwarming evening at an annual fundraiser for my place of employment, I settled in with a cup of tea and my laptop to wind down before bed. Several friends had shared a list entitled "20 Things A Mother Should Tell Her Son." I thought to myself, "I am a mother! And I am going to have a son! I should read this!" I took a sip of tea as I clicked and prepared for even more loveliness and heart warmth to round out my night, but found my heart filled with...something other than warmth.

To be honest, I was so troubled by the first item on the list that I almost didn't continue reading. I read the first item to my husband to sort of check my own reaction, as I have been known to overreact on occasion, and he was equally appalled. I soldiered on through the list and continued to find most of it awful, for a variety of reasons.

Here's the list, along with my commentary.


Photo Credit: Jenna Hatfield.


20 Things a Mother Should Tell Her Son

1. You will set the tone for the sexual relationship, so don't take something away from her that you can't give back.

Um. No. Just no. I'm not even going to touch the hetero-normative language of assuming that my son's sexual partners will be people who use the pronoun "her." Possessing a penis does not give you the automatic power to set the tone for the sexual relationship. One person is not in charge. One person does not set the tone. You do nothing to or with a partner without their explicit consent. Consent means saying yes. It is not merely the absence of saying no. Get consent. Your partner also needs your consent. Consent and respect go both ways. Sex is a partnership. If you don't take what isn't expressly given to you, you won't have to worry about being able to give it back.

2. Play a sport. It will teach you how to win honorably, lose gracefully, respect authority, work with others, manage your time and stay out of trouble. And maybe even throw or catch.

There are many worthwhile activities in addition to sports that teach these things. If you enjoy a sport, then play a sport. If you enjoy music, then sing or play an instrument. If you enjoy art, then draw or paint or sculpt. If you enjoy theater, then act. If you enjoy dancing, then strap on some ballet or tap shoes. Do something you love. Finish what you start. Learn grace, honor, and respect in all that you do. Learn to respect authority, but not blindly. Learn also when it is appropriate to question authority, and learn to recognize and do something about gross abuses of authority.

3. Use careful aim when you pee. Somebody's got to clean that up, you know.

Um. You. You are the somebody who has to clean that up, you know. There are not magical pee cleaning fairies. If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, wipe the seatie.

4. Save money when you're young because you're going to need it some day.

This is the first useful item on the list thus far, though I imagine there are more profound lessons in saving than "you'll need it someday."

5. Allow me to introduce you to the dishwasher, oven, washing machine, iron, vacuum, mop and broom. Now please go use them.

Because the magic fairies only clean up your bodily fluids, apparently.

6. Pray and be a spiritual leader.

If that's authentic for you. Live your truth. Speak your truth. Don't be afraid to fight for what you believe in. If that involves prayer and spiritual leadership, cool. If it doesn't, also cool.

7. Don't ever be a bully and don't ever start a fight, but if some idiot clocks you, please defend yourself.

Defend yourself if you are in danger. If an idiot clocks you, and you are able to walk away, walk away. If it seems like an idiot is thinking about clocking you, walk away. If you determine that someone is an idiot, WALK AWAY.

8. Your knowledge and education is something that nobody can take away from you.

I sincerely hope your knowledge and education include the proper usage of are vs. is.

9. Treat women kindly. Forever is a long time to live alone and it's even longer to live with somebody who hates your guts.

Treat everyone kindly, because it is right, not because there is something in it for you. Do not spend more than a few minutes with somebody who hates your guts.

10. Take pride in your appearance.

There is far more to life than what you look like. Find your style and rock it. Be clean. Wash your clothing, body, and hair on a regular basis.

11. Be strong and tender at the same time.

Oh hey, I might actually say this to my son. And my daughter.

12. A woman can do everything that you can do. This includes her having a successful career and you changing diapers at 3 A.M. Mutual respect is the key to a good relationship.

This is not exactly true. It is more accurate to say that the things that men can do and the things that women can do are equally valuable. Since you will grow up with two parents with fulfilling careers and two parents who meet your needs both night and day, you should have no reason to think that either of these are associated with gender.

13. "Yes ma'am" and "yes sir" still go a long way.

Address people as they'd like to be addressed. Calling me "ma'am" will go a long way to me giving you a dirty look and telling you not to call me "ma'am."

14. The reason that they're called "private parts" is because they're "private." Please do not scratch them in public.

If you've got to scratch, you've got to scratch, but try to either find a secluded corner or be discreet. Learn how to satisfy an itch by "jingling your keys in your pocket."

15. Peer pressure is a scary thing. Be a good leader and others will follow.

Non sequiturs are scary things. I like cake.

16. Bringing her flowers for no reason is always a good idea.

If her is your mother, this is true. If she is allergic to flowers, or you are creepy stalking her, or any other number of scenarios; not such a good idea. Also, there are plenty of hims who might like being brought flowers for no reason.

17. Be patriotic.

Do not be blindly patriotic. Be as critical of your country and government as you are appreciative of them. Fight for what is right. What is "patriotic" is not always right.

18. Potty humor isn't the only thing that's humorous.

But it is hilarious in the right company, and when well-timed.

19. Please choose your spouse wisely. My daughter-in-law will be the gatekeeper for me spending time with you and my grandchildren.

Please choose whether or not to get married wisely. Do not choose a partner (again with the hetero-normative language, ugh) who appoints him or herself the gatekeeper of your time. A person who attempts to control your access to your family (or theirs to you) is an abusive person. If I am disrespectful to your partner or overstep my role as a grandparent, should you have children, and I refuse to see the errors of my ways, by all means, restrict my time with them; I deserve it.

20. Remember to call your mother because I might be missing you.

This one stands.

If you're left wondering what I would tell my son (and daughter), check out 25 Lessons for my Children.


Fine and Fair

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