Kristin Armstrong’s Column
Before Falling In Love, Read This List
by Kristin Armstrong
Illustration by Heather Sundquist
It’s interesting to be 45 years old and dating, and raising teenage daughters at the same time. Their eyes are on me—observing my choices, my behavior, my happiness and the way my boyfriend treats me. They watch me with an arched eyebrow, wondering if my words and my actions will match up or if I will trip and fall headfirst into the crack of hypocrisy.
It’s a gift to have the blessed chance for a total love remodel while we are all living in the same house. I can imagine it would be one thing for a couple married for over twenty years to be espousing dating rules, regulations and wisdom. And I believe it’s quite another to be living it out, real time, right in front of them. My heart is on the line, in every sense.
I decided to start compiling a list for my daughters, before they fall in love. But really this list is for all of us, and for all of our girls. So here you have it:
You are beautiful. Over the years you will spend a lot of time, energy and money on this subject. Wondering if you are. Trying to manifest and manage it. Measuring yourself against others, competing and straining for something as elusive as vapor. Here is what you need to know. There will always be girls whom you think are prettier, when you look at beauty through a lens of comparison or scarcity. Being obsessed, uncomfortable, edgy, bony, backstabbing, uncertain and striving is unnatural, unfeminine and the opposite of beauty. As such it repels instead of attracts. The most gorgeous, sexiest, loveliest women of any age have always been the ones who are unattached to it, unaffected by it. They are comfortable and confident in their skin. Men have always been magnetized and mesmerized by these women. I can recall several girls in high school, college and beyond who were not the best looking girls by my picky standards, yet the guys fought and pined over them. They always had dates with the best guys. Why? Because these women are smart, soft, safe, funny, affectionate and free. Because they understand that real beauty is intertwined with warmth and kindness. Because being around an irresistible woman like this makes everyone feel good—always has, always will.
You are sacred. Yes, you. Boys and men will treat you the way you treat yourself. If you hold yourself in high regard, they will hold you gently and reverently. If you know your worth, they will treat you like a priceless gem. If you show them softness, they will show you strength. If you show them strength, they will show you respect. If you have a no-tolerance policy for crap, they won’t give you any. If you are hard to get, they will try harder. If you believe you are worth waiting for, they will wait. If you believe you are worth fighting for, they will fight for you. If you give yourself away, they will think there is nothing valuable to protect. It’s always painful to walk away, but if you can’t do it without despair and desolation then you know you have given too much and gone too far. Stop doing that. Your heart and its container are precious and divine – guard them wisely.
You are undeniable. Being 100% authentically you is an aphrodisiac to a real man. Anyone who encourages you to play small, think less, feel less deeply, have less opinions, be quieter, be different somehow is not the man for you. Anyone who silences your inner voice, who contradicts what you know to be true for you, who minimizes your faith in God or in yourself, who makes you wonder if you are enough, who makes bad choices seem palatable, who isolates you from your people, who makes you feel shame or desperation, or who makes you doubt who you were raised to be—run, girl. Run.It’s never too late. It’s not too late to say I love you. It’s not too late to say you’re sorry. It’s not too late to call off an engagement. Or to rethink your options. Or to have a baby. Or to say enough is enough. Or to say I made a really bad choice and I’m doing it differently now, so please get out of my way. It’s not too late to start over. It’s never too late to find love, or yourself, again.