Crosspost: Dear Sister, On Your Thirteenth Birthday

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on October 1, 2013.

I can’t believe you are almost thirteen. 

I remember holding you in my arms when you were a baby. I remember rocking you, smiling at you, cooing to you. I remember your tiny fingers and your dark, soft hair. I remember dressing you, bathing you, cuddling you close. I was always the first to jump up and volunteer to get you up when that sweet plaintive wail came from your cradle.

Thirteen. Wow. You’ve grown so big, so tall and clever. I know what thirteen means. Dad will take you out to dinner and give you a ring. You will put it on your finger and promise him that you will not have sex until the day you marry. I know you will because I did too. And when you say it, you will mean it. I know that. So did I.

But I want you to know something, my sweet little sister. You are worth so much more. Your worth is not defined by what has or has not been in your vagina. Yes I know, hearing that word spoken so openly embarrasses you. I remember. But what I’m saying is important. You have so much to offer the world. You are smart. You have interests. You have talents. Those things matter. In fact, those things matter a whole lot more than the state of your vagina. Yes I know, awkward. But it’s true, and I want you to remember that. You matter.

There’s more, too. It is wrong, what they are telling you. Should you choose not to have sex until your wedding day, your virginity is not the most precious gift you will ever give your husband. In fact, depending on whether or not your husband will come from the same religious and cultural background as you, he may not even see your virginity as a gift at all. And if he doesn’t, don’t hold that against him, okay? The idea that virginity is something of value is “culturally constructed.”

That’s just a fancy way of saying “made up.”

There’s something else I want to tell you as well. You probably think that I didn’t have sex until my wedding night. Well, that’s not true. We almost waited until the wedding, but not quite. Yes I know, telling you that is awkward.

But I want you to know that they are wrong when they saying that having sex before you get married will damage your relationship.

It hasn’t.

I don’t regret doing it, and I don’t think it messed up anything at all. In fact, I wish I hadn’t waited as long as I did. I tell you this not to tell you which way of doing things is right and which way is wrong, because that is up to you and is yours to decide, but simply to give you another perspective.

But the most important thing I want you to know, little sister, is that your body is yours

You get to choose what you want to do with it. You will have people telling you what you can and can’t do with your body, when, and how much, and how far. But you don’t have to listen to them. Your body is yours, and don’t let anyone make you forget that. What you do with it is up to you.  It’s your choice. Own that, and don’t let anyone else make your choices for you.

I’m not going to send this letter to you, little sister, because mom and dad wouldn’t like it. Putting it here is the best I can do. Perhaps someday you will find it, and read it, and then you will know how frequently you are on my mind.

I love you, little sister.

Libby

3 comments

  • Thank you. My 13 year old self would have loved to have had a sister to share this with me.

  • I was 16, and there wasn’t a verbal declaratory promise, but he picked rings for my sisters and me that were gold with a pearl. Gold stood for beauty, and the pearl for purity, he told us. The message was clear. Love what you wrote, and i wish i had known these things! I lucked out and am happily married for 10 years, but i think a lot of my struggles with sexuality could have been worked out prior to marriage. Fortunately my husband has been very patient and understanding of me, and urges me out of my box. I hope your sister gets to read this when it still has the chance to make a difference. Love how you point out that the state of our vag is not the most precious thing about us or the best gift to give a husband. Well done. You are a good sister.

  • That made me cry. I have a 12 yo sis. At the end “I’m not going to send this letter to you, little sister, because mom and dad wouldn’t like it.” I totally identify with that. There are many things I wish I could tell my younger siblings, but I don’t want to push mom towards keeping me away from them. I would think she never would, but if I crossed a line, she very well might.

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