My dearest only child - Denise,

    Please accept my apology.  I hate myself for shouting at you.  I have spent almost all the hours since our phone-call, trying to understand why your words caused me to feel so much anger.  I'm ashamed of myself.  I should have paused, thought about what you said, realized you had no way to know your actions (which—like you said—are the actions of many others) would cause me so much pain, and I should have waited to talk to you about my anger on a later date.

    In order to fully understand my own thoughts on this issue, I’ve had a long conversation with myself – and – this is that conversation:

    What were the words, said by Denise, which made you feel angry?
    “Denise shared how she and her boyfriend met in a bar and then she said, ‘The next day or so, we exchanged messages and I almost decided not to chat with him because he never offered to buy me a drink that night.’  I didn’t immediately feel angry when she made that statement.  But I did begin to ask questions to learn if she was aware of what her words meant.”

    Obviously the answers she provided to your questions did make you angry.  Why?
    “She said that when she went to bars it was what was expected and normal.  That, ‘all men purchased drinks for all women.’  When I asked her if, ‘she had ever purchased a drink for a guy?’ She replied, ‘No.  She had never done that, and no woman she knew had ever done it’.”    

    Why were Denise’s words so upsetting?
    “I was shocked to learn that someone I love, someone I care about as much as I care about my daughter, would have such low self esteem.”

    Can you explain what that means, and why you think she has low self esteem because of this statement?
    “The reason a man purchases a drink-gift for a woman is he hopes she will accept it, feel obligated to talk to him for a short period of time (commonly understood to be the time it takes to finish the drink) which—he hopes—will lead to more drinks, more conversation, and eventually sex.”

    What does that have to do with a person’s self esteem?
    “Self esteem means:  self-worth.  How a person thinks about themselves; the cumulative good and bad thoughts one knows about themselves.  (This is not a dollar price tag.  Having high self esteem is not saying, ‘I think I’m worth a million dollars.’)  Self esteem is a vague picture that people hold in their mind about themselves.
    “If someone has mostly good thoughts about themselves; takes care of themselves; treats themselves with respect; considers themselves to be both caring and thoughtful; and behaves in a positive manner—they are considered to have ‘high self esteem’.  Conversely, when someone thinks about themselves in mostly negative terms; treats their mind and body terribly; knows that they are careless and thoughtless; and performs negative acts—they have ‘low self esteem’.
    “If someone expects men to buy them drinks, then they are expecting men to pay to talk to them; to ‘buy their time’.  Women who think this way are communicating to men (even if they don’t know it) that their time is for rent.

    Are you saying these women are prostituting themselves for drinks?
    “No.  I am not implying women who expect drink-gifts are prostitutes!  Not at all.  Instead, what I am saying is that when a woman expects a man to buy her a drink — instead of informing him (not asking...telling him), up-front, that she is going to buy the next round — she is telling him that she considers herself to be subordinate to him.  She considers all men to be superior to her.  She is telling him that she has low self esteem.  Simply put:  she thinks her life is worth less than his life. 
    “A woman with high self esteem doesn’t sit and wait for a man to offer her a drink.  She offers to buy the man she admires a drink—first.  If he gladly accepts and says he will buy the next round, she has found an equal.  If he refuses to accept her drink but offers to buy her one—he thinks all women are supposed to be subordinate to him (she should run away).  If he accepts and never offers to buy her a drink and expects her to buy him drinks all night long?  Well.... is she looking for a subordinate man?  If so, she found one.
    “At this point I should mention:  “buying a drink” is a dumb, irritating, ‘ploy.’  The entire situation and verbal game sounds wrong-headed; it doesn’t matter if anyone ever offers to buy anyone else a drink.
    “Think of it this way:  if a person (woman or a man) goes to a bar and then sits and waits for the opposite sex to approach, talk, and offer them gift-drinks...they have low self esteem. Or they are a narcissistic attention-whore (which is not Denise, so, no reason to expound on that).  Everyone should feel free to walk up to and talk to anyone whom they admire.  No drinks are ever need.  Approaches are made by people who are self-assured and confident.  All one needs to do is say, “Hello, I like your smile.”  That is how a conversation is begun.  If the other person is interested in talking to you, then it will take off from there.  If they are not, they will not offer you a seat, not engage you in conversation, and you can move on and tell the next person you admire that you, “think the color they are wearing looks good on them.”     

   Is this something you think everyone knows about?
     “About how to start a conversation with an attractive stranger?  I hope so.  Denise is not shy and she's in her mid-30s!”

     I meant awareness of one's own self esteem.  Is that something you think people have?
     “Unfortunately, far too many people have no idea.  This is not something many people have ever wanted to learn about themselves.  I also realize that many people have never even considered what the term ‘self esteem’ means and never think about their own self esteem.”

    Aren’t some women fully aware of their low self esteem and subsequent actions?
    “Yes.  Some women are open about their life’s expectations when they admit they expect men to buy them everything.  They have a clearly-stated goal of finding someone to take care of them.  Those women are derogatorily referred to as Gold-diggers and the men who keep them are derogatorily referred to as Sugar-daddy.”

    Did you get angry because Denise’s words made you think she was a gold digger?
    “No.  She said that she never thought about her behavior other than to think that it was ‘how everyone acted’ and that it was ‘normal’.  According to her, it was how every woman around her had behaved her entire life.  Since she and I have just reunited after 16 years, I think it’s possible she has never had a positive role model to show her how to act if she wants to attract a partner interested in an woman who is assertive and who expects to be treated as an equal.”

    Why didn’t you explain all this to her on the phone instead of getting angry?
    “The shock took over and I lost all my clear thoughts.  I love my daughter so much it makes my head spin at times.  When we talk, her words about her life make me feel emotions of concern, and worry, and pride, and contentment, and empathy, and excitement, and sadness, and so much more . . . all inside of one single conversation.
    “We have (so quickly) reunited to become parts of each other’s lives, that when I discovered she had adopted a long-term bad behavior—and it was something she’d done her entire life—I was so shocked I blew up.”

    And your shock turned to anger?
    “Yes.  Unfortunately all I could focus on was that she didn’t know how a simple act of “expecting free drinks from men” had informed every man she’d ever talked to in a bar that she had low self esteem.  And, then all I could think about was that she must also not know that almost all men with lower self esteem were only interested in finding women with low self esteem.   
    “Which made me think about all her previous failed relationships.  And, I wondered if all of them had been doomed to fail because of that.
    “Then I realized that if I had not lost contact with her 16 years ago, she would have known (because I would have told her before she was 21—before she went into her first bar) that she should only trust men with high self esteem, who gratefully accept compliments or drink-gifts from women and who are not looking for a subservient partner.  I would have also made sure she knew she should never talk to a man who only wants a subservient woman.  They are the men who always say: ‘I never let a little lady buy me a drink!’
    “I felt that, maybe, her low self esteem was caused by me.”

    How do you think you can fix this?
    “Denise knows how much I want her to be happy.  How much I love her.  How hard I am willing to work to help her in any way that she wants me to help her.  Over time, this will be thought of as ‘the phone call when I got angry and made her cry.’  I’m very sorry for not using my words very good.  I hope she will forgive me.”

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