My mother almost never gives me dating advice, fearing that her guidance will steer me in the wrong direction and cost me the potential love of my life. Having married my father at the age of 23, she feels that she has little understanding of the modern dating world and all the crazies it has to offer (needless to say, this blog is a perennial question mark in her mind).
The best lesson I learned from my mother was by watching her in action. When I was little, my parents slept on a pullout futon in the living room. Every evening, my father would ask my mother to prepare the bed for him, and she would dutifully head to the living room to undo the ancient green futon. Years later, when we moved to a bigger apartment where my parents had a real bedroom and a queen-sized bed, my father still continued ask my mother to “prepare” his bed. Instead of telling him to take a long hike to Bed, Bath & Beyond (or whatever Russian equivalent of it), my mom would go to the bedroom, undo the covers, and fluff my father’s pillow to make it look nice and accommodating.
I often thought that my mother was crazy to put up with my father’s silly demands and to tend to him as though he was a teething two-year-old. However, with age I have come to understand that she may have been doing the one wise thing that every woman needs learn: biting her tongue to preserve peace in the household. My parents have been married for over forty years. While my dad loves the shit out of my mom, I believe that the true reason their marriage lasted is thanks to my mother’s ability to avoid certain tense situations and turn a blind eye to my fathers slightly ridiculous habits. (The man likes to bike to New Jersey and ask my mom to pick him up. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.)
Most of our mothers married young and had us at the age that we are finishing our last internships. Their take on love and relationships may often seem old school, pertinent to a more simple place and time when women had far less choices and a more distinct set of obligations. However, with that comes a certain wisdom and pragmatism, an ability to accept life for what it really is and refrain from jumping ship when times got tough. And so, we should listen up.
In honor of Mothers Day, I polled my friends for the best dating advice they ever received from their mothers.
“Don’t marry for money. You’ll have nothing when it’s gone.” Also, “Don’t pick fights, guys hate that shit.” -Ukrainian-American girl living in NYC, married, 28
“Just marry someone rich who loves you more.” -Ukrainian-American girl living in NYC, divorced, 29
“It doesn’t have to be complicated – it’s supposed to flow.” When I was young I always thought relationships have to be complicated and that love is supposed to be dramatic, but in reality it really shouldn’t be. Life is hard enough – being with someone, at least at the beginning, should be easy! -Peruvian girl living in Paris, single, 31
“Give compliments. Be yourself. Wear a condom.” -French guy, divorced with child, 33
“Don’t date a married man, he will never leave his wife for his mistress.” -French girl, in relationship for 5 years, 26
“Meet a man who knows how to please his woman.” My mother is a collector of Chanel and Bulgari, while my father considers luxury to be a thing of imbeciles and never offered my mother a single bag or piece of jewelry. At some point, my mother opened herself a secret bank account to support her shopping habit. Every time they go out and somebody compliments her on one of her pieces, she tells them that it’s fake – at this point, she has a reputation of being the “imitation queen”! And so, she advises me to find a man who understands the value of luxury and will buy you a Kelly bag for your birthday. Of course, we are all biologically programmed to look for men like our fathers, and so I am dating a guy who will never buy me a designer bag! -Korean girl living in Paris, in relationship for 5 years, 29
“You can tell the size of a man by the size of the things that bother him.” And “If you feel like you’re the smartest one in the room then you’re obviously in the wrong room.” -French single guy, 25
“In the beginning, you have to be an actress.” I clearly have a hard time following that. -Ukrainian-American girl living in NYC, single, 29
“None. My mother told me to treat girls like princesses. The next thing you know, the girl ditched me to hook up with the guy with a Vespa.” -French guy with endless female drama, 27
“Acid flashbacks are just a myth.” -California girl living in NYC, single, 26
“Tell him what he wants to hear so you can get what you want.” -South Asian American international vagabond, divorced, 36
“I guess pretty normal for me.. My mom always told me to date nice girls with good morals and all that. Respectful, kind, pretty. She sure likes pretty.” -Brazilian guy living in NYC, in a relationship, 29
“Wear condoms” -French girl, single, 25
“All men are dogs. Always keep them wanting more.” Also “Nobody will want to buy the whole ice cream truck if you’re handing out the pops for free.” -Syrian-American girl living in NYC, in a relationship, 29
“With you men, its always the looks.. But what about the brains? What you going to talk about when you’re both get old and ugly? That’s what matters.” -French guy, single, 33
“Take it easy, let him be the man.” -Brazilian girl living in Paris, 27