Moms these days are super hip. They constantly update their Facebook statuses. They devour Fifty Shades of Grey on their Kindles. They listen to Adele on their iPhones. And if they're anything like my mother, they create their own Twitter accounts, mostly with the purpose of "following what my daughter is up to."
The mothers of 2012: They're just like you!
Except that, unfortunately, much of this hipness fails to translate to your mom's understanding of your love life. Of course, she wants to know as much as possible about your love life. It's her way of feeling connected to you, as well as her personal evidence that she didn't raise you to be a complete social and romantic weirdo. The truth is, whether she's asking about your love life right this second or not, your mother is wondering about it.
But here we have a disconnect. You are living in a post-dating world, where all the traditional rules for dating, sex and relationships no longer apply. You flirt over text, hook up with guys who are supposed to be 'just friends' and explore your connections with men in more natural and casual settings that rarely involve formal dates.
But your mother did not grow up in this era of romantic ambiguity. She actually went on official dates. She expected men to call her. She assumed that a guy would pick her up and that he would pay, and that any man who didn't -- well, there wasn't much hope for a long-term match there!
This is why no matter how hip your mom might be, she probably doesn't understand your love life. And how can you blame her? You barely understand it yourself! But you'd be wise to figure out how to talk to her about it. Because if you don't, you'll be left with two options.
One option is to stay silent on the issue -- good luck with that!
The other option is to try and explain your love life and struggle as your mother's blank face makes you feel silly and delusional. You're just trying to convince her that your new crush's repin of your Pinterest post means something! And that his last-minute invitation to watch the basketball game with his buddies was a legitimate opportunity to spend time together! And that the Spotify playlist he made for you was just an even better birthday present than a dozen roses!
Your mom will listen to your stories and hopelessly look out for the classic (and outdated) signs of romance that would sound familiar to her. Completely stupefied, she will absorb your whole tale and then, shaking her head, offer (again) to set you up with her chiropractor's very nice nephew.
Argh! Yet again, she seems to be missing the point.
Mother's Day is almost here, and this year, you and your mother deserve to get on the same page about your love life. Here are five tips on how to talk to your mom about your love life so that she can walk away feeling satisfied and involved, and you can walk away feeling validated and sane.
1) Remind her that texting is the new calling.
And emailing is the new taking a walk around the park, Facebook messaging is the new writing love letters and BlackBerry Messengering is the new going to out to dinner... basically, remind her that engaging in techno-romance is just as valid a form of flirtation and getting to know someone as any other means.
Sure, your mother finally texts (every day, and often she's texting you, in fact). But when it comes to romance, she likely still sees any form of e-communication as a step down from in-person, face-to-face contact. She equates it with late-night booty calls or noncommittal attempts to keep someone on the hook without having to put in any real effort.
And she's not entirely wrong -- even modern-day romances cannot subsist entirely on flirty tweets and G-chat catch-ups. In-person connection is a must, so make sure that your mom understands that you are also planning to hang out face-to-face. But in between those hangouts, technology has become the easiest and most legitimate way to cultivate romantic connections. Talking via technology counts. And you should feel justified in standing behind the meaningfulness of those e-interactions.
So when talking to your mother, focus on the regularity with which you e-speak, or on the interests you're e-finding in common, or on the butterflies that you feel when you e-hear from him. Explain to her that his 1 a.m. "I'm at a bar and I just heard that song we were talking about!" text means that he's thinking about you, or that his midday email link means that he wants to bond with you over news articles and funny memes.
Techno-romance is a major part of true connection these days. Make that point to your mother as many times as you need to.
2) Once she understands that techno-romance matters, get ready to temper her hopes and expectations regarding any guy with whom you might be talking.
E-communicating is great, and sometimes it signals real connection. But other times, it just signals that you and some guy are testing the waters in the lightest of possible ways. But once your mother buys into techno-romance as a reality, she might have trouble accepting its more casual nuances.
Your mother now believes that texting can be meaningful? Watch out! If she catches you texting a guy, she's going to ask you about him every time you talk for the next six months. She's going to not-so-subtly imply that you're welcome to bring a guest to your family's summer beach vacation. And God forbid you don't end up on a date within a short period of time -- she's going to advise you to stop "dancing around things!" and declare your love. If you sell your mother too hard on the importance of techno-romance, then you might end up creating a monster.
However, if an e-flirtation with a guy ends up being a non-event, don't temper your mom's misguided enthusiasm by exclaiming, "Seriously Mom, it was just a text! It didn't mean anything!" This will only come back around the next time you're trying to convince her that another guy's text was just the sweetest thing ever.
Instead, lightly mention that your vibe just kind of fizzled, but that you've got other connections with other guys in the fire. In other words...
3) Throw her enough small bones to convince her that just because you are not "dating" someone in a way that she easily understands doesn't mean you are unlovable, romantically doomed or considering another sexual orientation.
When I traveled the country for my book, talking to people about their post-dating love lives, I heard one story from women over and over again. Their mothers would get concerned that they weren't dating anyone... and then eventually, they would start fake-casually asking if their daughters were gay.
Obviously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay. But if you're not, then it can be annoying as hell when your mother won't stop suspiciously hinting at a shift in your sexual orientation just because you're not bringing along a plus-one to your sister's graduation party.
In order to allay your mom's questions and curiosities, throw her a couple of bones about your love life here and there, even if they're not that serious or indicative of connections that might have long-term potential. Keep the details lights and the specifics vague, if you'd like. But subtly let her know that you've got some fun, excitement and possibility going on in your love life.
If your mom is worried that men don't seem to be traditionally wooing you, then mention that your male co-worker recently paid for your late-night, in-office take-out dinner. If she's concerned about your sex life, then let her know about the last random guy you made out with at a bar. If she's convinced that your professional aspirations will keep you from cultivating a long-term relationship, then remind her that you still leave time for fun and tell her about your friend's brother, who you met on your last group vacation (and are still emailing).
Make Mom less worried about the things that aren't going on in your love life, and allow her a chance to get more excited about the things that are.
4) Use social media and online dating profiles to your advantage.
These days, people are waiting longer and longer to slap official labels on their relationships. This can be a great opportunity for two people to focus on their connection, and not on the rules and expectations that can come along with traditional titles. But not quickly jumping to the boyfriend/girlfriend stage can mean that it takes a little longer for parents to be brought into the mix.
Bring your "Guy I'm Maybe, Sort of, Semi-Regularly Seeing" to brunch with mom and dad? Um, no thanks. You'll save that meeting for after your Define-the-Relationship talk. But in the meantime, you can tell your mom about your new love interest and convince her that he's not a serial killer by showing her parts of his social media or online dating profiles.
Get out your phone and hop on Facebook (or your online dating site, if that's how you connected) so that she can see what he looks like. She can see that he went on a trip to India, and that he loves his dog and that he seems to have normal-looking friends. She can start getting a sense of this random guy who's been hanging out with her daughter, and she can start feeling a little more included in your life. She might even stop bugging you about meeting him for a few more weeks.
5) Ask for her advice.
Here's the truth: Most of the time, your mother just wants to be included in your life. She just wants to feel close to you. And on top of that, she'd really, really like for you to think she's cool and relevant.
The perfect way for you to help her feel all these things is to ask for her advice about your love life. Suddenly, instead of grilling you about your choices, she'll be putting on her "Wise Mother" hat and trying to be helpful. Even further, she'll likely start looking back on her own romantic experiences and realize that your love lives are not so different.
Maybe you text when she used to call, and maybe you fall in love over first-night hookups, ambiguous group outings and thoughtful email chains while she fell in love over phone calls, formal dates and traditional signals of interest and commitment. But ask your mother for advice, and she'll start connecting the dots to see that flirtation, connection, heartbreak and love never change -- and that the path to get there is the only part that's new.
See? Not so tough for her to understand.
For more of the Millennial women's perspective on modern life and love, check out www.WTFLoveLife.com!
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