A love letter to women in their 20s

Originally posted on Shit on My Hands in 2012. It seems to be a response to something, but buggered if I can remember what. Anyway, the point of it, I think, is that women aged 30+ need to champion chicks in their 20s.

Recently, while flicking through one of mum’s photo albums, I came across a family group shot that included me, aged about 23. A full decade before breastfeeding had sucked all the plumpness out of my tits and face; my babies’ tendency to yank anything in their immediate vicinity had necessitated a long-standing Annie Lennox hairstyle, and childrearing in general had stamped permanent black circles under my eyes, I was a fresh-faced, buxom babe with shiny brunette locks swishing down to my arse. While the other barbeque attendees grinned mundanely at the camera, I incongruously posed like Bettie Page. No doubt I was indulging in that most accursed activity of post-teens – ironic mimicry – but phwoaaarr! If only I had known how just how great I looked, because of what I remember of my self-opinion at this time, it certainly wasn’t that I was a 1950s pin-up incarnate. If I had recognized that these, indeed, were my ‘glory days’ (to quote the venerable Bruce Springsteen), I wouldn’t have wasted my limited twenties and magnificent curves on the lowliest of dudes.

While I should have been flinging myself at the most glamorous of men in my neighbourhood – captains of industry, emerging visual artists with actual talent, leading intellectuals, or singer-songwriters with record deals – I was giving it up for the habitués of a grimy St. Kilda pub. And I don’t mean grimy-cool. I mean grimy-no-one-had-a-full-set-of-teeth-grimy. A place where patrons shot up in the dunnies and a local ‘eccentric’ (to put it mildly) regularly stripped off in front of the live bands, gaffa-taped a wall clock to his head and let his pet rat hang off his genitals. Regrets? I’ve had at least a dozen. And they all drank at that insalubrious den. Make no mistake, I do not believe that young women should keep their jeans zipped or risk eternal spinsterhood (Frankly, I’m of the enthusiastic position that your future life partner will value a missus with a few runs on the boudoir board more than a giggling virgin). But I certainly could have pointed my perky girls and orthodontically-enhanced pearly whites at blokes with more to offer than a dank pair of jeans and a first-name familiarity with the nearest methadone dispensing pharmacist. So why didn’t I?

Lack of self-esteem meant I wasted time and energy on men who were barely capable of showering, let alone embarking on a joyful, rewarding connection with a good-looking young brunette – whether it be a one night stand or a year-long relationship. It was my good fortune that I met my husband in an entirely different realm, and a testament to some suddenly developed nous, that I didn’t let him go. Otherwise, there’s a high likelihood I would have eventually made my way round to that dude with a wall clock stuck to his head, and would right now be co-parenting his rodent collection rather than the two lovely daughters with whom I have been recently blessed.

So if there’s anything this chequered history has taught me, it is that young women need their self-esteem fortified, not shot down. Only then can they enjoy sexually and emotionally gratifying relationships. You’re not lacking a long-term lover or a series of magnificent bed partners (whatever your preference) because you’re a slut or a bitch or useless at housework or cooking. What I needed when I was in my twenties was a couple of 30+ aged birds to tell me I was a goddess and to not let anyone treat me like pond scum.

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Me (centre) with two of my closest friends – all in our 20s – on the eve of my wedding, January 2007.

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