In spite of my feeling like boy-repellant growing up, my mom always did her best to make me feel as if I was the most remarkable, beautiful young girl who didn't have to worry about boys so much. When we woke up on a Saturday morning to our trees covered in toilet-paper tinsel, I thought it was a prank from someone who hated me. Instead, my mom took a broom to the branches and tried to appease my worries. "It was probably from a boy who has a crush on you."
When my first boyfriend broke my heart, she was there to hug me and tell me he must have grown stupid.
And as I went to my senior prom without a date, she went all out, letting me borrow her most bold and treasured jewelry. She even ordered a sweet-smelling fuschia gerber-daisied corsage that ran up my forearm. I might have been dateless, but I still felt loved.
Along with her support throughout the years, she's also passed along some solid dating advice that I took to heart. Not matter how far back my eyes rolled when she would say them, I was listening. Once I finally took all her advice to heart, I found a keeper.
"Go out with him anyway. He might have friends."
The more I dated, the more quickly I became frustrated. My criteria for who I would date became more specific and I didn't want to waste my time on guys who I didn't think matched me well. But my mom would continually suggest I cast the net wide, meet as many people as possible, and - most importantly - be kind. "He might have friends!" she would chant.
I thought she was nuts. I thought it was breaking some sort of unsaid dating rule to go out with someone and then date his friend, or roommate, or even his brother. Her reaction? I was overthinking and taking the idea of a "date" too seriously. I just needed to meet some people, widen my circle of friends, and see if any of the guys caught my interest.
Eventually I started to realize that she was right. I needed to take dating less seriously. I needed to simplify: meet people with the intention of making friends instead of being in desperate pursuit of finding the right guy.
"Keep thinking, 'He would be really lucky to date me.'"
Often I would wonder, "What's wrong with me? Why doesn't he like me?" My mother helped me realize that this line of thinking was becoming self-destructive. Too often, I was basing too much of my self-worth on one guy's opinion about myself. Mom suggested that I change my thinking and own a stronger, healthier perspective about myself. Instead of wondering about a man's current opinion about me, I should instead adopt the mindset that he - and any other guy - would be lucky to date me. Once I adopted this mindset, I realized I wasn't worrying so much about whether a handsome dude would be interested and instead found myself enjoying the moment.
"It's all about attitude."
My mother has continually taught me that my feelings are my choice, and that a change of attitude can dramatically change the way I handle any situation. I used to think of dating as a horrible punishment for single people. When I was dumped before my 31st birthday, I debated a dating drought and investing in a lifetime supply of sweatpants and upgrading my Netflix queue to include every version of Pride and Prejudice. Instead, mom's advice helped me get off the couch and make a big change in my approach to dating. I launched a dating project, 31 Dates in 31 Days.
It was through that project that I put all of mom's advice into action. I changed my attitude about dating altogether: I would stop trying to find a boyfriend and stop approaching dating as a means to an end. Instead, I would have fun, enjoy meeting people, and explore my city.
Thinking "he would be lucky to date me" gave me the courage and confidence to go out on one first date every day for a month in the face of naysayers who doubted I could get 31 guys to go out with me.
And even mom's advice about going out with guys because he "might have friends" ended up being worthwhile. Out of my 31 dates, some of my favorites were with men I'd met through guys I'd gone on at least one date with. In fact, that's how I met the guy I ended up marrying a year later.
No surprise: Mom was right.
But my mom's best advice wasn't advice at all. It was through showing her love for others and letting love into her own life. Something I'm still happily learning with my own marriage.
Mom, thanks for the love, advice, and example you've given me. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I hope to share your wisdom with her someday. I can't wait to see how much she rolls her eyes at me. I've realized that it's a sign that she's actually listening.
Tamara Duricka Johnson is a journalist and author of the award-winning book, 31 Dates in 31 Days.