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What I Would Say to Today's High School Girls

I had the pleasure of having drinks and appetizers with some of my high school classmates, all of us Black women, all of us in our late 40's. We talked about our lives, the friends and husbands we kicked to the curb, the friends who kicked us to the curb, kids, and all kinds of sundry matters. It got me thinking: Knowing what we know now, what advice would I give today's high school girls? Here goes:

1) You won't keep all the friends you have in high school, and that's okay. Your interests will diverge, some will be jealous of what you're accomplishing, and some may be going through some things and can't be your friend. More often than not, though, you'll find out that some of your friends aren't really for you and aren't who you thought they were. You'll find that some even like to keep drama going because it's their way of continuing to be "somebody." It's okay to let them go. You may indeed be blessed by their absence.

2) Boys really aren't all that. There is no reason to turn your world upside down for a boy, especially a high school boy. Don't degrade yourself for them, don't tie your sense of self-esteem to having one, don't ever let one mistreat you. You will have a lifetime to have great sex in a loving (and hopefully) committed relationship. Don't settle for dysfunctional intimacy for the sake of being able to say you're having sex or that you have a boyfriend. Hold out for someone and something worthy of you. Having a boyfriend really isn't all that because they're not hard to have if you lower your standards enough. Even homeless crackheads have boyfriends. Not really an accomplishment, if I say so myself.

3) The things you think will break you won't if you don't let them. Collectively, the ladies I dined with have weathered some storms -- divorces, loss of parents, etc. Not a one of us was feeling sorry for ourselves. The things you think might break you -- divorce, loss of a parent, you name it -- won't necessarily break you if you don't let them These ladies were positive, vibrant woman who had made the most of their losses and moved on to happier lives.

4) People will remember you for what you did in high school, but it doesn't have to define you later in life. It's amazing that we remembered not only who our classmates were more than thirty years ago, but what some of them did back then. So don't think people won't remember that you had sex under the bleachers after homecoming with the entire offensive line or that you stole your best friend's boyfriend. That said, who you are in high school won't necessarily define who you will be. Life will change you and indeed it should, and some of the things you will do in high school are things you'll look back on and say, "What was I thinking?". If you grow up to be the exact person you were in high school, that means you really haven't experienced life. If you think you're going through some things now, as my husband's grandmother used to say, "just keep living." Then you really will go through some stuff, and it will indeed change you.

5) Treasure the good. When you do have good relationships -- a friendship, relationships with your parents -- treasure them. Work at them. Respect them. They're hard to find, harder to replace. This is one thing I'm really bad at myself, and I'm still working on it.

6) Know that God's got your back. All the ladies I dined with are church-going women. I'm not, but I consider myself to have a relationship with God. Having a relationship with God allows you to see beyond whatever current trouble you're going through and know that you'll get through it because He's got your back. I really don't know what atheists do in times of trouble, but I wouldn't want to be one.

7) Treat people the way you want to be treated, even if they don't deserve it. No sense in keeping drama going by mistreating those who mistreated you. Clear you conscience and your spirit by treating people the way you want to be treated.

8) You won't really understand how madly your parents love you until you're a parent. To a T, the women I dined with love their children madly, even though they recognize their children's foibles and faults. I'm not a parent, but I know first-hand from being around parents that most parents would walk through fire for their children and would do anything to protect them from the evils of this world, which is why they seem obsessed to you as you are trying to become more independent on the way to adulthood. Their profound love for you makes them fearful for you, and you won't really understand this until you have children of your own.

And, as I always say:

9) You may not get what you deserve in this life, but you'll definitely get what you settle for. Don't settle for anything not worthy of you -- a man, a relationship, anything that denigrates you or makes you feel less than who you are. You're a child of God. God created you. Act like it.

Good luck and God speed, high school girls. Hopefully you'll all be having drinks, appetizers, and laughs with your high school classmates thirty years from now.


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