Swipe right: Mother knows best

App titled "Mama Knows Best" displays a mother figure approving/disapproving potential matches for her child.
(Cassie Wang • The Student Life)

“Whatever you do, do not make the first move with a boy. Under any circumstance. Ever.”

This is one piece of (questionable) relationship advice given to me by my mother. She told me this after telling her that I downloaded Tinder and had messaged a match first. 

“What’s wrong with messaging a guy first? Don’t guys like assertive women?” I innocently asked.

She answered, “I know this isn’t a ‘feminist’ thing for me to say, but I think men should pursue women, not the other way around.”

Whether we like to admit it or not, we inherit a lot of our beliefs surrounding romantic relationships from our parents. It’s often the first model of a partnership we see as children, so it’s easy to see how their perspectives can easily shape our understanding of love and sex. 

However, as I have grown older, I’ve realized how outdated my mom’s understanding of gendered power dynamics is. A lot has changed since the time my mom was dating, so I can’t blame her for having a more traditional perspective compared to me. From hearing stories about my mom being catcalled while driving on the freeway, or random suitors showing up to her workplace with flowers, it makes sense to me why my mom is so uncomfortable seeing women as the initiators in relationships — it wasn’t socially acceptable for her to assert her own agency as a young woman.

However, it seems that cultural dating norms are shifting, empowering women to attain what they want in relationships. With apps such as Bumble, which is designed for women to make the first move, more and more power is being given to women.

After coming to college and experiencing new relationship dynamics (cough cough hookup culture), my perspective on dating has changed dramatically and not in the ways you might think. 

After coming out of a long-term (and very toxic) relationship, my mom warned me against hooking up with someone too soon. She worried about me “giving myself away to strangers.” I scoffed at her outdated perspective, rolling my eyes.

So what did I do? 

As most daughters do, I ignored my mom’s advice. I thought she was giving me archaic and misogynistic advice. So, I fully embraced hookup culture. I wanted to prove my independence and empower myself through sex. I flirted with guys at parties, downloaded Tinder, tried casual things and for a while, I was fine. I only felt (moderately) empty and used. But I was fine. This is how everyone feels, right?

Cut to winter break at my house. I’ll paint the scene for you.

It’s midnight. Tea in hand, I’m eating spoonfuls of vegan Nutella. Listening to “Cellophane” by FKA Twigs. Safe to say I was “in the feels” and feeling vulnerable.

My mom walks downstairs, somehow sensing that I am repressing my emotions (as if the sad music didn’t give it away immediately). After some prodding, I explode, opening up about how casual hookups often leave me feeling empty and sad. She comforts me and shares that she had similar experiences as a young woman too. 

“I can’t even begin to tell you the number of guys who never called me after we went out. It’s just the way it is,” she tells me.

After forcing myself to try non-committal things, I realize that I should have just listened to my mom’s advice after all. I wasn’t ready to jump into the field yet. She knew that I needed to protect myself before I even realized what I needed. Moms have little advantage over us as daughters; they don’t know what it’s like to date in college, and they don’t quite understand hookup culture. But they do have one thing over us, and that is the wisdom of experience. 

As much as it pains me to write this, I will suck up my pride and admit: I should have listened to my mom.

Meghan Condas SC ’22 is one of TSL’s relationship columnists. She’s an English major who can be found making Spotify playlists, consulting Co-Star for dating advice and searching for the best vegan cookie in Claremont in her free time.

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