10.17.2007

Young Women Rewind

I will take this calling seriously. Despite my whining, I am grateful to have the opportunity. I desperately need to do more service and get out of my own head. As part of my commitment, I have come up with a list of things I wish I had learned in Young Women. Because, I don't know that I learned anything applicable to my life. This may be too harsh, something clearly sunk in since I am still hanging on for dear life to 'my virtue'.

Things I wish I had learned in my Young Women's classes:
  1. How to say 'No' when appropriate. Especially how and when to say 'no' to men. That skill would have saved me a few years of agony in college.
  2. When it's necessary to be rude, i.e. to stave off the drunks trying to hit on you. As opposed to re-enforcing the docile and submissive behavior that good girls are supposed to always exhibit, teach me to stand up for myself as a daughter of God that deserves respect.
  3. What qualities really make a man marriageable: no, being a return missionary and priesthood holder does not automatically qualify a man as good marriage material, nor does dental school. (What's the deal with all the Mo's becoming dentists?)
  4. How to tell when you are dating a loser.
  5. How to get rid of said loser.
  6. Exactly which sins/offenses need to be shared with the Bishop. (I still don't know.)
  7. Etiquette for turning down alcohol at social events.
  8. Etiquette for serving/not serving alcohol at your own social events. I deal with this by telling my party guests to brink their own beverages. Though I find that practice very tacky.
  9. Smart dating strategies. More than just saying "Don't date until you are 16." Teach the girls to avoid risky situations.
  10. Nutrition for healthy living.
  11. How to take care of yourself in a loving and respectful way. The importance of taking care of yourself emotionally as opposed to sacrificing your sanity to serve the family. "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."
  12. Learning how to love yourself.
  13. Career Planning, i.e. don't spend your youth pursuing a doctorate in the humanities.
  14. Study skills.
  15. Teach me the truth, that a temple marriage does not guarantee happiness, and being a 'good girl' does not shield you from pain or tragedy. (I already knew these things in high school, the fact that my teachers wouldn't tell this truth made me suspicious of everything else they said.)
  16. Teach me to use my voice to express my feelings and my needs so I don't grow up to be a depressed housewife on Prozac.
Now is the time when we dance! Add your own lessons to the wishlist, but don't touch my monkey!

16 comments:

Gritty Pretty said...

huh. being the first counselor in the young women's presidency was painful for me. i can't stand the forced smiles and the falsetto "meek" voices and the aversion to real content, dumbing down church history, etc. and the lesson plans were typically dull. i really had to go out of my way to rewrite lessons to have class participation If i taught it like the manual said you could hear a pin drop). unfortunately i was never brave enough to say what i REALLY thought or the questions about life and church that i really had/have. Maybe YOU can ask them what they are curious or interested in. i felt like we were training the girls rather than helping them to be empowered. i did my best, had some really good moments and then decided to call myself to service (outside of the church). service i knew was fruitful and could feel good about because i didn't feel like i was lieing to these darling kids about real life and difficult issues. hopefully one of your commenters will have something insightful to say about the young womens' program! i'd like to hear it. if i were that age again i'd love to have you as my ym teacher and tell me how life is!!

nicola said...

i think you're going about it the right way. the ym of today face harder and harder challenges as the world changes and they need some honesty and valuable lessons about how to cope and survive and thrive despite this as daughters of god and be proud of that.
and to be honest, only the really lucky ones (you know the ones with stable families - and how many of them are out there?) will get these kinds of truths at home, the rest will be fending for themselves. I'm so glad they called you to serve, they will really need your insight and experience, so many girls go without.

Mommie Dearest said...

um...I posted my other comment before reading your list. Please ignore my patronizing drivel about the scout merit badges and continue with being on the right track. As you may have detected, I am not a trained YW leader. I'll go lurk now.

the wiz said...

Most of these things will go over really well with Laurels. Beehives, however, not so much. It's such a gap. So I hope you have Laurels.

The YW manuals are not great. They're pretty bad. Be warned.

And here's my little soap-box issue: Anti-depressants are not a failure. "learning to express your feelings" will not guarantee you will not grow up to need Prozac. (It's a great skill, and will help immensely with virtually every relationship you ever have, and especially in that temple marriage you mention.) But it's not immunization for depression. Depression is far more complicated than that, and I would prefer you teach them that seeking help and getting it so that you can be a functional human being is not a reflection of how poorly you "express yourself". Depression has thousands of triggers, and if they connect with you the way I think they will, and learn that it's failing to be medicated, then it might hurt them more in the long run, especially if it runs in their family.

Teach them to identify and express their feelings, absolutely. But please also teach them that mental illness is not their fault, nor is treating it wrong. (the church does a poor job with this) Soap box over.

I would also like to add that fending off drunk men may be a good skill, but avoiding situations where they are hitting on you is also a good skill. Obviously, they can't all be avoided, many corporate parties will have many drunks.

I hope you have a good presidency that will work with you on this.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a good list. But rather than "how to be rude," I usually phrase it as "He is being rude. This is how to be firm."

Also, I suggest teaching how to complain about sexual harassment. For example, if it's a construction worker, call and report it to the building owner or the construction company, if it's a cabbie call the cab company, etc.. There's not always someone to complain to, but it's very satisfying when there is.

And it's great to have them use loud voices and say NO and yell GET AWAY FROM ME and stuff like that. Practice makes perfect and it is an essential skill.

Stephen said...

Sounds functional. I really think that teaching people how to say no is a core skill that young women need desperately.

JL said...

Wiz,

You are right. I only make light of antidepressants because I've been on them for 15 years and will stay on them for the rest of my life. I've reached that stage of acceptance where I can joke about it. I forget that other people are still struggling over the whole thing.

JL said...

Mommie Dearest,

Please don't go back to lurking! I like the merit badge idea. That would be a good thing to do with the younger girls, as was pointed out my lessons may be inappropriate. And I was always envious of my older brothers doing all their cool scout stuff.

Thanks for the good ideas folks, keep em coming.

Anonymous said...

Beware the "Big Woo" If a guy is sending too many flowers, too many gifts, trying to impress with too much stuff, he's probably trying to hide a serious character and trying to distract you from finding it until it's too late.

Anonymous said...

What a great list! I tried to teach my YW lots of these things (don't know how much stuck), but I wish I'd thought of with the "say no" bit, and practicing it with them. Great idea, one I still wish I had more practice with.

AzĂșcar said...

I was so lucky to be in Young Women for the past seven years. I got released a few months ago.

I really wanted to 'tell it like it is' and I hope I succeeded. I had an incredibly supportive president who is a family counselor, so she doesn't mess around. Like the Wiz said, however, I had the Beehives, so I had to couch my 'tell it like it is' to be appropriate.

Wishlist for all YWs:
YES, there's a reason you think boys are cute and you want to kiss them, and it's not a bad thing.

Learn to think independent from your friends and how to deal, really deal, with peer pressure.

What it means to be a woman in our culture and how that's different from your divine nature. What are people trying to sell you and why?

angryyoungwoman said...

Your ideas are fabulous. I think it's important for women to learn to value themselves enough to say no (that what they want--or don't want--is just as important as what the boyfriend wants). One thing I also learned (not from a Mormon, btw) was that in dating you figure out what is essential to you in a relationship (things like he is good/moral, he sees me as his equal, he is respectful of my decisions) and you play catch and release, basically. You date only those who have the qualities you're looking for, release the others. I wish I'd learned that when I was in YW. I would have avoided a lot of unnecessary drama from stupid relationships with stupid boys.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I know this probably isn't appropriate for YW (unless there are still those who get married at like, 18) but here's an idea I've been thinking about for a while and I don't really know where else to air it out:

As Young Women, we are taught to be chaste our whole lives. Which, don't get me wrong, is a very good thing. But what happens when you get married?

I am unmarried myself, and still a virgin (by the way - congrats JL, I know how tough it can be!) and am currently studying counselling. In this profession, I've become quite educated about sex, particularly all the emotional aspects that go with it. I also have some really great married friends who are very open with me, and it's raised this to my attention:

(OK, this is the real point of my post - lol).

Women need to be debriefed when they get married! We are taught to be chaste our whole lives, and contrary to popular belief, that doesn't just disappear when you get married. This can very easily lead to some fridigity, at least at first. It's quite an adjustment to go from "Nothing even REMOTELY related to sex whatsoever" to "Sex is now a very good thing" and if women aren't prepared for this, it can be quite traumatic. I've also been told that you may feel dirty afterwards; battle with feeling that now everything that you're feeling is ok, and such.

In a church culture that largely discourages speaking about sex - apart from the "don't do it" if you're not married, is it possible to introduce something like this? Is it even a good idea??

Anonymous said...

You could also teach them about what it means to be a part of a community, the importance of learning to love and be kind to one another, and how to be a good friend. The gospel is about love. The greatest commandments are about love. All the rest of it is just details. Teaching the young women to love their neighbors and serve their communities, families and friends are the greatest things you can do for them.

Tia said...

Someone said the YW manuals aren't great. Careful there... those are from the First Presidency. Sorry, but what is in there is inspired (from the Lord by the way...).
I think those list of things are great. I wish I would have known all of that, too. And I'd love to be able to blame my YW teachers for not telling me, but as I look back, they actually tried to tell me a lot of those things, and more especially, tried to teach me the IMPORTANT things, like LIVING THE GOSPEL. Saying my prayers, studying scriptures, going to church--those are the things that will protect us. Notice I didn't say keep us away from pain, being hurt, being abused, etc. But protect us as much as we can from being hurt, and then when and if we are, then we know where to go for answers, comfort, etc. That is what, after years of not completely following (not being the Molly...) I finally realized, and learned. Remember, did you learn quickly? The girls you are teaching won't necesarily catch on right away either. But, if you teach them correct principles, your hope is that one day they will remember them and turn to the Lord in their need.
Some things, by the way, are not the CHURCHes resposibility to teach. Some of the comments are, "the church didn't do a good job of this..." It isn't the churches fault. The leaders might not have been perfect, or maybe PARENTS didn't do all they could. But ultimately, they are making their own decisions. Leaders and parents try to help the girls to learn to make good decisions on their own. I made mannnnnnny mistakes, but I CANNNNNOOTTT blame my leaders or teachers. I made them. I did. Quite the contrary, I am thankful to my parents and leaders for teaching me the BASICS of the gospel so that I could find answers to questions in the gospel.
Good luck. I hated having the calling in YW because I felt like I was transported right back into High School and allmy insecurities popped back... YW need a friend, but they crave a caring leader.

Sheri said...

Hey, I just got out of YW a couple years ago, and I just want to root you on and tell you that your ideas are good. You can make HUGE difference in these girls' lives by helping them understand just the sort of things you named. One of my favorite young women counselors ever was a 40 year old woman who was married to a great man who wasn't a member, and who had been through nearly everything. In the end, she taught me so much just by being her. I realized that there were no standards of what kind of personality I should have. The only important thing is that they realize that God is their Father and he has a plan for them. Not just the plan of salvation, but a real plan for their life, which WILL be different from everyone else. And He will always forgive us if we always try. It's ok not to know everything, it's ok to have questions. I think sometimes YW leaders feel like they have to teach girls everything they need to know for life. They don't. Be assured, your best lesson will be who you are, not what you say.