In light of recent events pertaining to the treatment (and mistreatment) of women, I realize this letter is necessary to share. Please read on, and join me in encouraging the young men in your life to live with great respect for women, too.
My sweet Theodore,
One day you will inevitably come to me telling me you have a “girlfriend” in your kindergarten class. I will smile, sit you down and ask you all about her. You will bashfully gush about how pretty she is, how lovely she smells and how sweet she is to you and others in your class. I will nod and encourage you to be kind back to her. Don’t pull her hair, tease her or call her names like some of the other boys might be doing. Be loving, listen to her when she speaks and always treat her with kindness.
When you’re in high school, you’ll be getting ready for a dance, excited after spending hours begging your Papa to borrow his car (which he will reluctantly grant…and then spend the whole night pacing in the kitchen wondering why you aren’t home hours before your curfew). You’ll bring with you a young woman wearing a delicate flower you placed on her wrist, and I will cry as I watch you open the car door for her as you leave.
You will go to college and drink. You will attend parties, forget about how important sleep is for the body (and soul) and call me asking me how to do laundry every few weeks (that’s probably as often as you’ll get to it – or you’ll ask me to just send you a new pack of fresh underwear and cut the middleman all together…). Yet, no matter what silly (and potentially regretful) experiences you have along the way, I will rejoice because I will know that your Papa and I taught you what is important: the treatment of others.
It’s not just that we’ll look back on all the times Papa held the door open for me, or when he brought me flowers on our anniversary. We’ll think about all the times we argued about something in front of you, and how you never once saw him raise a hand at me. We’ll think back to if he ever even raised his voice at me, and only come up with few examples, all of which included sincere apologies. We’ll remember how Papa set an example for you of how women should be treated, and we’ll expect you to share that deep respect for the women in your life.
You will be raised by a strong, loving Momma. One who loves you and cares deeply about your future. She will have instilled in you that acts of violence and trespassing will not be condoned under any circumstances. As you get older, you will know that drinking too much is not an excuse to behave badly, and never considered consent to engage in sexual acts. You will be expected to monitor your own consumption of alcohol, and require a woman to give verbal consent before you lay a finger on her. You will understand the emotional consequences of this kind of behavior, and learn to proceed with caution. You will respect women, as you respect all people, and always jump in to defend those who cannot protect themselves from others who do not share the same morals.
We expect these things from you – not as a white, privileged young man – but as a citizen of humanity, responsible for the harm you inflict on others. Your Papa and I sincerely hope we can instill this in you early in life, and vow to do everything we can to produce a kind, respectful friend/boyfriend/husband to the women you have yet to love.