Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

I’m an attractive, independent 23-year-old woman enjoying my first “real” job, apartment and adult life. Everything was great until last Saturday morning when my mom unexpectedly showed up at my apartment. Long story short, I had a guy over. My mom was polite, but later that day, she called me and said she was surprised because she didn’t think I had a boyfriend. Then she started asking what he did for a living and whether or not we were planning to get engaged.

When I told her the guy and I are “friends with benefits,” she threw a fit! Now, things between my mom and me are strained.

My private life is none of my mom’s business. Still, I love her and hate to see her worried. How can I convince her that times have changed and that I’m grown up and know what I’m doing?


Dear 23,

As an adult, you have the right to make your own decisions. You said you and the guy are “friends with benefits.”

I’d like to pause here since people throw that term around a lot these days. Too often, friends with benefits is a misnomer that doesn’t live up to the definition of a true friendship.

Before you dismiss your mother as an out-of-touch fuddy-duddy, I want you to ask yourself four questions:

1) If you woke up alone with an extremely high fever at 3 a.m., would you feel comfortable calling him and asking him to rush to your apartment and take you to the hospital?

2) Would you feel comfortable asking him for a loan if your bank account got hacked and you needed to pay your rent?

3) When you’re feeling sad and not in the mood for sex, do you feel comfortable asking him to take you out to cheer you up or to let you pour out your heart and cry on his shoulder?

4) Has he introduced you to his friends and family?

If the answer to those questions is “no,” that guy isn’t a true friend, and that could be why your mom is instinctively concerned about the “benefits.”

At 23, you have the right to make your own decisions, but you also need to be aware that intimacy can have serious emotional and physical repercussions. Believe it or not, your mom was once 23. Her memories of dating are probably as fresh in her mind as if they were yesterday, and that’s exactly why she worries.

Part of being an adult is understanding your mom’s point of view while being true to yourself.

Age 23 is a very formative time. Think carefully about your choices because some of them will influence your future — and you won’t always know which choices those will be.


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