Jealous of My Bombshell Daughter
I envy my teen's effect on the opposite sex. How do I stop these feelings?
Click here to read a transcript of Prudie's live weekly chat with readers at Washingtonpost.com.
I am the mother of a tall, shapely, stunning, 17-year-old daughter. Males of all ages stop in their tracks and openly stare at her. She loves to flirt, but I have coached her about when it is inappropriate (such as with teachers or her friends' fathers). I have worked to help her be strong, secure, and happy with herself, and she definitely is (more than I was at her age and even now). So what's the problem? Me. Every time I look at my daughter, it hurts my self-esteem. I know that's stupid and irrational. I'm happy that she is such an amazing creature, and I absolutely adore her and am proud of her. I look pretty good for my age, but I'm almost 50. I'm in the process of divorcing her absent father, and would like to think I could find happiness with a man. But how can I ever trust them around my daughter? And how can I trust her around them (remember the flirting)? I've started to see a counselor in hopes that I can shore up my self-esteem. What else would you suggest?
Dear Supergirl's Mom,
In the initial telling of the Brothers Grimm story Snow White—about the young girl whose stepmother ordered her killed because she had replaced the older woman as the fairest in the land—the stepmother was actually her mother. I mention this not because your feelings are despicable but because they are archetypal. Both you and your daughter are longing for the attention of men. But since she is experiencing how bewitching her youth and beauty are, and because she's lacked a father's love, this heady power could end up being emotional and physical dynamite. Consider putting aside your own search until your divorce is complete and your daughter has graduated from high school. There is so much unfinished business in your life that you don't sound ready for a relationship now. Your daughter will be gone soon, so see this as a last, sweet year of togetherness—which will also help dilute the poison of your jealousy.
It's good that you are going to a therapist; counseling could be beneficial for your daughter, too—the lousy husband you are shedding is her father. But I have an additional suggestion for shoring up your self-esteem: Take action. Perhaps you have a friend who has an autistic child whom you could watch for a few hours. Maybe someone else is going through chemo and you could bring a weekly dinner for the family. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take tennis lessons or sign up for a yoga class. Any of this will help foster gratitude for the good things you have in life. Also read some fiction. You will find solace in how great writers like Doris Lessing (The Golden Notebook, The Summer Before the Dark), M.F.K. Fisher (Sister Age), or Alice Munro (any of her short-story collections) have portrayed women struggling with aging, motherhood, and love. And Shakespeare's sonnets are the best summing up of the bittersweet necessity of the fading of beauty.
Shortly after I graduated from college three years ago, my grandmother passed away and left me the generous sum of $30,000, with instructions that it be used for travel or education. So far, I haven't spent a cent. Instead, I've been working, currently for an anti-poverty organization. I like my financial independence and the sense of giving back. But recently my job has gone from fulfilling to unbearably frustrating. I am tempted to take the money and book the first flight to wherever. Part of me says that I may not have this chance again and should just go for it. Yet another part of me feels there's something unsavory about traveling the world with money I didn't earn when most people want nothing more than the chance to work. What's the right thing to do?
—Upper-Middle-Class Guilt Tripper
Photograph of Prudie by Teresa Castracane.