When it comes to safety, my Mom worries any time her three chickies are out of the nest (me and my two younger sisters, that is). She worries that a big wave might swallow us into the ocean and so she taught us how to swim out of rip currents. She worries that we might stumble and fall off a cliff, so she taught us to step carefully and leave enough space between hikers. She worries that we might crash off a bridge, so she puts window-smashing devices in our cars.
Mostly though, she worries about our interactions with other people. Mom taught us how to recognize what was an appropriate relationship with an adult and what was an inappropriate relationship. She taught us to yell “This is not my mother! This is not my father!” if someone were trying to abduct us (so that we wouldn’t just look like unhappy or misbehaving kids). And she always reiterated (which was very frustrating as a teenager),
It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust the other people around you.
But the most important thing my Mom taught me about interacting with other people is how to recognize the feeling that something is wrong. Our bodies actually react to bad signs (whether from other people or our surroundings) faster than our brain does. My Mom always taught my sisters and I that you can feel the energy in the room change when something is wrong or something bad is about to happen — even if you’re not sure what’s wrong. She taught me to recognize that feeling in my gut, listen to it, and act on it.
The first time my Mom told me this, I was too young to understand what she meant. I had never experienced that feeling before. But she planted that seed in my mind when I was young and repeated it over and over again throughout my life.
And wow was she right. There have been countless times in my life where men have said inappropriate things, pushed my boundaries, or tried to get me to do things that I didn’t want to do. And every time that happens, my body feels that something is wrong before my brain catches up and realizes what is happening. I hear my Mom’s voice in the back of my head saying, “Leave now” and I listen to it.
When I turned 14, boys that I wasn’t interested in started coming around the house and asking if I could come out. They wanted to walk and hold hands and do whatever I would let them do. I felt pressured to be polite and too embarrassed to tell them no. My Dad picked up on this pretty quickly and he told me,
You never have to do anything that you don’t want to do with a boy because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. You never sacrifice yourself to spare their feelings.
As a young girl who was shy and lacking confidence when it came to boys, I really needed to hear that from my Dad.
These lessons from Mom and Dad stuck with me throughout my teenage years, throughout college, and into adulthood. I’ve shared these lessons with my friends and my younger sisters on countless occasions as they’ve navigated difficult social and sexual situations. And these lessons have been a guiding force in the design of Flare’s first product features.
Our first features are designed to help young women (and anyone who needs them) subtly get out of situations when they feel like they’re no longer in control, or the situation is becoming unsafe. These conversations between young people and their parents are so important in helping us move through the world safely, confidently, and in control.
Questions or comments? Email Sara at email@example.com