The Huffington Post in all its headline-writing glory published an essay titled, “What It Is Like to Date a Girl Without a Mother.”
The essay was shared by someone on my Facebook with an encouraging status alongside it, so I clicked through and decided to give it a chance. I thought, “Maybe whoever wrote the headline just went for clickbait and didn’t respect the message behind the essay. Maybe this won’t be as demeaning as I think it will be.”
Boy, was I wrong.
I finished reading the essay with tears in my eyes because somewhere along the way I had been reduced to a how-to guide. I was put in a box and “gifted” a link I could pass along to the next guy I swipe right on. But, you know what, fuck that. I am not a how-to guide. I am not a series of stereotypical traits that are strung together in an essay meant to break me down to a science.
I am a girl who happens to have lost her mom when she was 10. I am Vivian with all the good and bad that implies.
But more than that, I am not the “she” this essay paints me out to be.
I know parts of the “she” that Jenna Rose Lowthert is referring to, I think anyone who has lost a loved one does. But to go as far as to say that all the sweeping generalizations in Lowthert’s essay are me is to support the idea that every girl has lost the same mom and this is just not true.
I’ve worked on Too Damn Young every day for the last two years to prove how untrue this is —everyone’s experience with loss is unique, and while we can relate to bits and pieces of each other’s stories, this does not mean that our next steps will be the same.
Lowthert’s essay suggests the opposite. It makes it seem like every girl who has ever lost a mom has trust issues, like every girl who has ever lost a mom is crying in the dark because she’s too afraid for anyone else to see.
On Too Damn Young we publish essays all.the.time. that could give this essay a run for its money. And it’s not because the experiences are all that different than parts you can pull from The Huffington Post’s, it’s because the essays we publish stick to “I” and “me.”
We don’t assume that we know how everyone who has lost a loved one will react in any given situation. We choose not to sit behind a screen and tell you that because your mom died you are now the “she” who “will act tough” and “pretend she doesn’t have emotions” when “she [actually] does.”
Herein lies my other problem with Lowthert’s essay — no guide can show a guy or girl “What It Is Like to Date a Girl Without a Mother” because (1) no guide should be needed ever and (2) no relationship is made up of the same two individuals.
I lost Delia Delgado when I was 10 years old. Did you?!
No, you didn’t? Then how the heck do you think a guy would be able to figure me out while reading an essay on The Huffington Post written by someone who isn’t me?
More importantly though, I am not the “she” in Lowthert’s essay because “she” is not all I am. “She” isn’t even a majority of who I am. “She” is the part of me who made me grow up fast and learn to love hard, but “she” isn’t the reason I’m funny and witty. “She” isn’t the reason that I look up gifs and memes to make my friends smile.
The fact that “she” is a part of who I am should not make it okay for any one to imply that I am damaged goods that need to be pieced back together and handled with extreme care.
The fact that I cry on Mother’s Day or post Facebook statuses on death anniversaries does not make me a piece of complicated IKEA furniture that you need a guide to figure out.
You want to hug me when I’m crying? You should do that whether I’m crying over my mom or the fact that the Mets lost.
You think I’m having a hard time opening up? This probably has more to do with the fact that I’m not that comfortable around you yet than with the fact that I have no mom.
So, don’t try to break me down to a formula. Any girl who has lost her mom deserves (and wants) to simply be treated like a girl a guy/girl wants to date because newsflash, we’re just regular girls.
Don’t believe me?
Go to Too Damn Young and read through the essays from girls who simply want to be seen for who they are.
Don’t want to click through? Here are some of my friends who have lost moms responding to The Huffington Post’s essay (I’ll be updating this section as I get more):
“I would say: my loss doesn’t define me it’s just a part of who I am. Get to know that part just like all the other parts.”
“Yes my mother died and yes I have to date people who have to get to know me, but that’s where the similarities mostly end. When I meet anyone, not just boys I’m interested in, they get to know me AND my mom (even if she isn’t alive). I refuse to allow either of us to be smooshed into a catch all category of “the girl whose mom died” or the “mother who died too young.” I won’t apologize for who I am, who she is or how her relationship with me shaped me, in fact I’m proud”