3.11.2013

I Went to the Penn Campus to Check Out College Women - But It's Not What You Think

irish drunkSt. Patrick's "Day" is a bit of a misnomer, at least around here: somehow, young folks (and the bars and restaurants that cater to them) have turned it into a whole month's worth of partying.  Invariably, Amy and I think to ourselves, "Hey, wouldn't it be great to bring our kids right into the middle of this?"  And so we found ourselves eating dinner on the Penn campus last Saturday, along with about 50 college kids in various states of inebriation.

Once we realized what we had gotten ourselves into, I didn't panic.  In fact, I was kind of glad.  Because I like to check out college women at this time of the year.

Whoa, that didn't sound good.  Although I wrote that on purpose, just to be provocative.  Let me explain, because I mean something completely different from what you're thinking.

Having a daughter makes men rethink their views on women and sexuality and attire and hooking up and all sorts of related issues.  I'm no different.  And for some reason, I am drawn to St. Patrick's Day as my check-in on what it's like to be a female in a college setting.

To be sure, what we saw is not at all representative of all college women.  I understand that.  But I still think it is a useful window into what women go through and what are the different ways women choose to respond.

Unfortunately, most of what I gathered from this review saddened me.  I'm not a very good reader of people, but it wasn't hard to read what was going on for many women.  Some weren't very shy about what they were trying to convey to those around them, while others were more guarded but you could still tell what was going on. 

Whether it was clothing or body language, the way they walked or the way they interacted with men, there was so much to process, and much of it was discouraging for fathers of future college-age daughters.  Some were fiercely confident because they saw the influence they were able to exert on men as a result of their looks or their behavior.  Others felt less sure, and went more extreme in their dress or their flirting to compensate.  Still others seemed completely lost, as if they knew that what they were wearing and how they were acting wasn't right but not knowing what else to do or how else to be.

To say that self-esteem is at the root of all of these responses is a bit simplistic, but sometimes simple is good.  At the least, it made me double down on making sure Jada has my help in knowing where her self-worth comes from, in being comfortable with who she is, and in not feeling she ever has to compromise herself in order to get people to like her. 

It may seem weird to suggest that checking out college women makes me a better dad.  But I will say this: every time we end up on the Penn campus during St. Patrick's "Month," I end up praying more fervently - that these women won't get hurt that night (and that they'll know just how precious they are apart from how they look or what they wear), and that my little girl will never become so unrooted in her sense of self-worth that she feels she has to act or dress or be a certain way that isn't who she really is.





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