Autonomy 🤸🍔✊ GMB Fitness

Raising Strong Girls, Part 2 (Juliet Starrett)

June 18, 2021 GMB Fitness Season 3
Autonomy 🤸🍔✊ GMB Fitness
Raising Strong Girls, Part 2 (Juliet Starrett)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

As a company founded by three dudes, GMB might seem like a very male centric company. But about half our team is women. The three dudes are married. Two of us have daughters, so raising strong girls and women is something we actually care about deeply.

So we got in touch with one of the coolest, most successful and badass women we know: Juliet Starrett. She’s the CEO of TheReadyState.com, an attorney, and a champion athlete. She’s also a mother of two teen girls and has managed not to tear out all her hair, so she’s got a lot to say about parenting girls in today’s world.


Key Points:

  • Body Image: You don’t have to be a size 2 to wear spandex, tactics to instill body positivity
  • Role Models: There are many measures of success, role models can show what is possible
  • Sex, Porn, Difficult Conversations: This conversation is going to happen when you least expect it, have it early
  • Letting Go: Your children’s job as they grow is to learn how to separate from you, letting go of them and your own expectations

Resources:

Support the show (https://gmb.io/podcast/)

Raising Strong Girls, Part 2

Intro

Andy: [00:00:00] Hey, welcome to the Autonomy Podcast, where we talk about how to develop yourself physically so that you can do the things you want to do with your body and live a full life. My name is Andy. As one of the founders of GMB fitness, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can help our clients develop the physical autonomy that they're looking for. 

But as a father, same as Ryan and Jarlo, my other partners in GMB, we also think a lot about how we can be strong for our children and develop them to be strong as they grow. Especially with a daughter, it's something that I think about a lot. So for this episode, I got in touch with my friend  Juliet Starrett who is one of the most badass women I know, and a mother and knows a few things about autonomy, both physical and otherwise. So we're going to talk to her about how to raise strong girls into strong young women in today's world. 

All right, this is Part Two of talking with Juliet Starrett ostensibly about raising girls and parenting.  The bias or the expectation when you say that topic is that, since Juliet runs The Ready State with Kelly and this is GMB, that maybe we'd be talking about  fitness and health and strong bodies, but we have not even touched on that at all yet. 

And there's been so many things that we've covered with social media use and technology and instilling good values in our kids. And I think that we're going to get into this portion of the discussion into some of where the really sticky rubber hits the road kind of stuff, especially as our daughters become teenagers-- and you have a daughter in high school so this is probably top of mind for you often-- is: body image, relationships, sexuality. How as parents do we even cope with this? 

Juliet: [00:01:56] Man, this is a deep topic and so complicated. I'm 47 and trying to just keep up with all of the different sexual identities and so forth. Literally any given day, I'm like, okay, so this kid is a pan romantic asexual, and this kid is, and so I'm trying to go to school so that I am at least  up to speed on what's going on for kids and what the choices are. 

I will start by saying I am so supportive of whatever language kids need to use to describe their sexuality and their gender identity. And, I'm like great whatever works. So if you want to be pan romantic then you just widen the pool of humans to which you can love and find love with in life. And that's great. 

Body Image

Juliet: [00:02:37] But the body image thing I think is scary for me. And we touched on a little bit in the last time because  now that my daughter's in high school, I actually am starting to see some kids in our neighborhood who, and friends of mine's kids who have suffered with eating disorders. 

And I think as a mom of a girl, it is a scary thought. And then it's exacerbated by the fact that I'm in the health and fitness business. And I worry that all the input we have in terms of things we're trying and experimenting with and foods we're eating might actually ultimately have a negative impact on my daughter's perception of body image and so forth.

So, the first thing is that, and actually, I think this was really  healthy for me as a teenager, I don't have a traditional, whatever the, I don't know. I think, especially because I grew up in the eighties and nineties, it was just like,  if you're skinny, you look good.

Otherwise not so much. Right? That was the eighties, nineties philosophy. One, I do think evolution we've had is that we have done a better job as a society sort of welcoming all different body types. And in many ways I actually feel like both my daughters are the recipient of that.

I feel like there's a space for them and there's no longer this expectation that  it's Kate Moss or nothing, which was my childhood. That's what we saw. So I do think the images and the media  and otherwise have been actually very helpful and are  a gigantic improvement from when I was a kid.

So I'm grateful that my kids see that. I think it's also cool that I raised my kids in this CrossFit community environment, because in that environment a strong woman is totally valued. I think there's also problems with that, right? Because not every woman can have a 12 pack abs and people's bodies change over their lifetime.

But nevertheless, I think for me, what really saved me not having a Kate Moss body type in high school was being an athlete. And, fortunately, both my daughters are sporty and athletic and my little daughter is actually at an Olympic lifting club right now where you see all types of bodies.

And obviously they'd been around the CrossFit community. Both my daughters play water polo. And so I will say that it does give me a sense of calm. That's one of the reasons I think I don't have a non-stop continuous panic about body image and eating disorders is I do think their participation in sports and athletics really is an antidote to a lot of the body image things.

I think that they've learned, being around us, to see strong bodies and fast, athletic endurance bodies and all kinds of bodies. And we've just try to teach them that their body's a tool for whatever they want to do. So if they're water polo, their body's going to kind of adapt and they're going to have kind of a water polo body. And if they're weightlifting, it's going to adapt and do this. 

And really they just want to have the body that allows them to do the things they love, whatever that may be. But it is scary to see kids, literally like clockwork work, the 15 year old daughter,  we know several families personally, whose daughters are going through challenges with eating disorders.

 I think one of the things that I've done though is, and maybe the pendulum has swung too far, is that, I've just tried to sort of let my kids eat what they want to eat. Now don't get me wrong.  We cook and eat healthy food, but we also don't restrict things.  We aren't like, "You can never eat cereal and you definitely can never eat bread."

We actually have some chips in the pantry and cereal and we have bread around. While everything is biased towards healthy food and the food we cook is super healthy, and we're focused on making sure our kids eat vegetables and have a balanced diet and get enough protein, we also aren't so restrictive that it becomes a thing, right? 

Our kids eat chips, our kids eat cereal. We definitely let them have dessert sometimes, not all the time, but we try to just really keep as much of a normal with a focus on healthy nutritional household. The other thing I'm really focused on is cooking and I've taught both of my kids how to cook. My 15 year old daughter could cook you a 10 course meal, a complex 10 course meal  that you could see in the New York Times or something.

One of the things I think is so important just about nutritional health is actually just cooking food and learning how to do that. Yeah. And so that's been a focus. 

Andy: [00:06:16] Learning how to actually put a meal together changes the way you think about the ingredients and makes you appreciate all the stuff that goes into a meal. And that's what you eat. 

Juliet: [00:06:26] Yeah. And I don't want to give off the impression that we have Doritos in the household.  There's a balance. But also we wanna make sure that we're not so restrictive. We're not saying certain things are off limits. We're always trying to teach our kids is you want to eat a balanced diet. You want to make sure you're eating some micronutrients. You want to get some protein. You occasionally want to eat some fun stuff. And then now that my high school aged daughter is an athlete, they're both athletes, but it's more important for my high school daughter is, I've taught her about what low energy availability is and making sure that she's getting enough fuel to actually support her athletic endeavors and her academic endeavors. She goes to a very academic school. And so I've tried to teach her like, look, you can wake up and just eat cereal every day for breakfast, like I did in the seventies, eighties.

Andy: [00:07:11] Right. 

Juliet: [00:07:11] But you may actually not be on your intellectual game if you do that.  You might want to add in a protein or maybe a little bit of fruit or a vegetable. So we've tried so hard to be as reasonable as we can be while still saying, okay, you need to eat vegetables and protein.

Those things are kind of clutch in life. You need to know how to cook food. You need to know what goes into cooking and whether that's baking or cooking. And also no foods are off limit. Nothing is bad. Carbs aren't bad. Sugar is not bad. Right. It's all just about a balance. That's what we've really tried to convey to our kids.

Again, I think one of the challenges as you raise teenagers in particular is their whole job is to figure out how to separate from you. I saw some graph at some point where by the time they're 14, they're getting 50% of their life advice from you and 50% from their peers and then 15 it's 60/ 40. So your influence is going downhill as they go through their high school years, which is natural, right? We've been trying to set it up but no matter what, there is just this, there's external influences that you can't control.

And the hope is that you've set your kid up to make the right decisions. And maybe when they go out in the world with their friends to dinner, maybe they'll eat a vegetable. That'd be awesome. Yeah. 

Andy: [00:08:23] Yeah. I think that's hugely important. And this is something that I think most parents, a lot of times, by the time we think we need to start thinking about something, it's often too late because that influence balance shifts, right?

Oh, your daughter's 15. You need to start thinking about sex. Too damn late.

Juliet: [00:08:42] Way too late. The time's now for you, Andy, the time is now. 

Andy: [00:08:46] It is. This is why we're having this discussion. I'm taking notes and I'm learning what to do, but these things are all super important. And they have to be instilled early if they're going to stick. And it's not to say that, once your kid is over 12, you can't talk to them anymore. You still have so many opportunities to be a role model and a coach and to offer good advice. But so many of the things when we're talking about, and you mentioned your daughters both being athletic and that being something that they can pin a little bit of self-confidence and body image on.

And I think that this is a really key point is body image is a part of your identity. It's not a thing that you just look at it in a mirror. It's not separate from you. It's an identity thing. And so if we want our children to have a good body image, or to be confident in our bodies, or to at least accept their bodies, they have to understand that that's a part of their identity and they have to be able to be building that sort of sense of self around what they look like and how that interacts with the other parts of them.

 And I think, as athletes, that's pretty easy to show a direct correlation between the way you look and the things you do, who you are. "Oh, you're a swimmer." Ryan's daughter is a swimmer at a very high level. And talking about eating, she cannot consume enough calories in a day.. And so you're a swimmer, of course it's going to be like this. But some children, they may not have an identity as an athlete, but they are going to have a physical identity that they're trying to connect up with.

Juliet: [00:10:18] Yeah. Well, back to the values. One of our values as a family is that you have to move your body, but how you do it is your choice. So it's not a choice in our family whether you move your body.. Now, whether you want to do dance or martial arts or a formal sport, or you want to do circus arts. Literally the sky is the limit. And for our kids too, there's all these sports we've never heard of. I don't care whether you're on the ping pong team. I literally could care less what my kids do that's physical. So the choice is theirs, but what's not a choice and where it becomes a values thing is that you must move your body as a human. 

You must move your body and we value that. And so I think ultimately every kid should be doing something physical whether that's walking their dog or playing ping pong or dance or ballet.  You name it. There's a thousand ways kids can be physical.

For me, whether a kid describes themselves as an athlete, I still think it's so clutch that every kid learns how to use their body in some way. And in a way that brings them joy.  Kelly and I, even though we owned a CrossFit gym forever, we could not be more agnostic about exercise.

If you want to do Zumba or Peloton or hike with your dog, we literally could care less. You move your body, win. Great. And I feel the same way about kids. I really do. I think it's a value that we need to instill. You can choose how you move, but you need to move.

One of my parenting styles is radical honesty and total openness with my kids. And- 

Andy: [00:11:40] I did not get that impression from you at all Juliet. You seem so closed off and just, you're hiding constantly. 

Juliet: [00:11:47] I'm constantly hiding. But, I think really open discussions with girls at an early age about how complex it is for women in our culture when it comes to body image and that genetics plays such a role in the way our bodies look in ways that we can't control and that at some point, we have to learn how to find peace with what we've been given as far as our physical stature.

And we certainly can change that depending on how much we move or don't move and how we eat. But ultimately we have a body type. And that's okay. Again, I do think it's actually getting a little easier for us in that department as parents, because there is actually some reinforcement now in the media.

There's this whole body positive movement. Athleta just came out with this whole campaign where they have women of very different sizes wearing athletic clothes, trying to send this message. Look, you can still wear spandex if you're not a size two. 

For me as a mom, I feel like that's really helpful. Those external forces when I was a kid were not there. 

Andy: [00:12:42] External validation that this is okay. 

Juliet: [00:12:45] Yah, it's okay. And I think we've also kind of joked our kids' entire life,  our genetics are all 100% Viking people.  We've just told our kids, " Look, we're just not small people. That's not who we are. We're not little teeny people. That's not  Starrett people. And my family side, no one's a small person and that's who we are. And it's totally okay. And, you can use your body, however you want to use it or not, but it's okay. And you're beautiful." 

And I think there's many ways to get around it, but I think also even an 8 or 10 year old would be old enough to really have a frank discussion about how this is actually a challenge for girls and women. And it's not too early to start talking about why it's a challenge and both the positive and negative external influences that come to play and how there is room to look a whole variety of ways in this world and that's okay. 

Andy: [00:13:33] We talk a lot about things that are harder now or getting worse or whatever, but you've mentioned this a few times is we are living in a time that there are more options, more exposure to a variety of things that are okay, that are good, that are permissible. That when we were kids,  we didn't know about, or didn't see at least to the degree that they are now.

And I think the availability of that is something that is absolutely a strong, positive force for kids to just to know that all of these things exist for them that they can try and experience. 

Juliet: [00:14:08] Yeah, I'm sorry. I have to just slightly interrupt this because my daughter, Caroline, just came in and she said, "Mom, I front squatted 77.16."

Is that kilos? Pounds. So that's, that's your future, Andy. Front squat, 77. I apologize. You'll have to edit that section out. 

Andy: [00:14:25] That's staying in. 

Juliet: [00:14:26] 77.16 is what the flashcard said. 

Andy: [00:14:30] All right. Well, that's great.  It's great that your daughters have some sense of pride and progress in being able to, not just use their bodies, but feel like they're going somewhere positive with it. That's great. 

Juliet: [00:14:43] The weightlifting thing's been really fun for our daughter and there are some strong women there, so I think it's cool for her to see that. 

 Andy: [00:14:49] Role models. Role models are hard because it's another thing that we, I think that there's probably a wider variety of maybe different kinds of role models than there might've been in a world with more limited media. But there's also just so many things that you don't know what your kids are seeing and you don't know what they're  finding value in that they want to emulate. I don't know. I'm sure this is something you've thought a lot about, especially your kids growing up around fitness people.

Role Models

Andy: [00:15:16] And like you said regarding, potential eating disorders and things. Growing up around very strong, very skinny, very fit women too. How do you steer them towards better role models? 

Juliet: [00:15:28] Yeah. One of the things we actually did at our gym and it is one of the things I will I think always be the most proud of is I was very conscious and specifically hired people that didn't have a certain body type. And you go to a lot of CrossFit gyms and they'll just be like the classic guy without a shirt on with ripped abs and he does 79 million kipping pull-ups. Our whole ethos at our gym was I want anyone with any body type to walk in the door and feel welcome and seen and not afraid. 

Over the years I got all these calls at our CrossFit gym, "Okay, so I want to come to CrossFit, but first I'm gonna work out and get fit before I come." And I was like, "No, no, no, that's what we're here to do for you. You don't need to go get fit in order to come to CrossFit. You don't need to show up fit. That's what we're here to help you do. We're here to help you get fit at any weight, any body size, whatever."

I instinctively early on realized that if I want a 47 year old woman to come into my gym and feel comfortable training there, I better have one of my coaches be a 47 year old woman or older.

If I want people who have 40 pounds to lose to come into my gym and feel comfortable, they need to see other members and other coaches who look like them. And so I've been super conscious actually from a business owner standpoint, especially in a public gym like that, of making sure that look, people need to see people who look like them.

I mean, it's, it's no different, right? It's why Barack Obama was so amazing for so many African American kids. Cause they were like, "Oh my God, I could be president." So just seeing--

Andy: [00:16:56] It's possible. 

Juliet: [00:16:57] It's possible! So I was very tactical about who I hired. Now don't get me wrong. All of our coaches were athletic. They were good coaches, they understood movement, but they did not all conform from a body type standpoint. So I think it's important that my kids were able to see that. And I think we could do more of that in the fitness industry-- I think we're kind of getting a D in that generally speaking-- is to feature more people who have different bodies.

I'm conscious of the fact that  on any given day we'll have this world champion weightlifter here at the house and then this other person there and this Olympic gold medalist here.  But I will say though that in my local community and many of my local friends are actually not athletes at all and actually have a very  wide array of body types.  And I think that's also great for my kids to see,  we don't associate exclusively with athletes. Those aren't just the people who come through our doors. We see people, our friends who are struggling to lose 50 pounds. I have some amazing friends who are the best in the world at what they do professionally.

And I think they're amazing women and literally have never exercised once in their life. Again, it's all about modeling. We have so many different kinds of people in our life. And I think my kids are able to see what success means and success means so many different things, which is another thing I've been trying to instill into my kids.

Look, you can be amazing and successful in your professional life. And yes, it is important to me that you are healthy, whatever that means as an adult. I want to raise you to be a healthy person, but man, there is a huge range in what that means. And I think that's just such an important value for us.

Andy: [00:18:22] Absolutely. Talking about success and, since we're, in the fitness industry, success always and only means being physically healthy and having a superior physique or lifting high numbers or whatever metric it is. But one of the things, and this is one of those weird things that I've noticed about my daughter is she's always able to find what someone is good at, which I've always loved that about her. She did not get that from me because the most critical and just horribly like black hearted people you could ever meet in your life. 

But my daughter is great at finding what people are good at. And I think that that's a fantastic thing. Like you mentioned, there are other measures of success. There are many measures of success and it's important that we try to instill values in our kids, but they're going to find their own set of values that they feel that they want to emulate. And they might have a different measure of success that they hold themselves to as they grow older into adults.

So you were a world champion level kind of athlete, you're a lawyer, CEO of two different companies, clearly pretty ambitious and successful on the career and athletic front. I think maybe most girls don't have a mother like that, but at the same time, I don't think that that's the only standard to which you would hold somebody either. Right? 

Juliet: [00:19:44] No. And this is gonna maybe be controversial, but sometimes I actually worry that what's on paper in terms of my success as a human is not great for my daughters. Because I don't want them to feel like, "Oh my God, my mom," because we could have an entire two hour podcast on all the ways in which I am a flawed human, and including suffering from lifelong imposter syndrome, which you and I were emailing about, lifelong imposter syndrome.

But that's not what's out in the public. Right? Of course they see that. They live with me and they see the ways in which I am a deeply flawed person. And I hope that they can see and appreciate that I'm willing to accept my mistakes and acknowledge when I'm wrong. I hope that they see that I'm a complicated person, but I do worry a little bit the success on papers. You don't want to create a thing where your kids like, "Well, I'm just going to give up on life because my mom is so successful." 

Andy: [00:20:27] I gotta measure up to this or I'm a failure. 

Juliet: [00:20:29] Right? Exactly. Because that's so not what I expect of them at all. And yes that's what I put in my bio on my website or something, but ultimately that's not really what I value. I'm sure like you, what I value is, am I a good wife and do I have healthy relationships?

And am I a good friend to people? Like those things that you were talking about in the Harvard study. Those ultimately are the things I value as a person. And those other things are accomplishments and of course, part of who I am. I think this is going back to our original conversation piece is why I think the community thing is so important and why I have actually worked hard to surround myself with women, diverse women who do very different things and have different motivations in life.

And man, if I look at the women that I'm friends with, they all do, from advertising to running their own businesses to being a stay at home mom, you name it.  I have this very diverse group of women in my life, all who I have unequivocal mad respect for. And I think having those women in my life, I think this is regardless of what any mom listening to this does, making sure that you have a cadre of women around you, that your daughters get to know and see, I think is one way to make sure that they're seeing what's possible in the world. 

Andy: [00:21:35] Stack the deck.

Juliet: [00:21:36] They stack the deck and they see look I can choose this is a path in life or I can choose this as a path in life and all these people are successful in whatever it is that they've chosen to do and have healthy relationships. I think that's the way to do it is to just make sure that you again, create community and include your kids with that so that they can see what's possible.

Sex, Porn, Difficult Conversations

Andy: [00:21:56] That's fantastic. Okay. All right. So let's just change gears completely and get into, let's get into sex. 

Juliet: [00:22:05] We got to talk about it Andy. 

Andy: [00:22:07] We have to. It's funny because I'm not old, but I was having sex before I had ever actually seen a pornographic video. So I think this is weird because if you think about that today,  that sounds  impossible, by the way things are today.

Porn is ubiquitous. It's everywhere. It's free and available and it can't be stopped. And you mentioned in the first part of our talk, that it's something that changes expectations for boys. It changes expectations for girls. They've seen it, they've experienced that and it changes the way they think about themselves sexually and how that experience should be for them.

So I think it's a huge thing that every parent needs to form some sort of a hypothesis and understanding of in order to relate with their sons and daughters both but especially daughters as they come into teenage years. 

Juliet: [00:23:03] Yeah. I think it's a natural human instinct and and it really comes into serious play when we're parents of teenagers. And that is denial. Denial is the force we have to fight against as parents because it is scary.  My daughter is about to get her driver's license in two months. And while I'm excited for her, she's going to drive off and I'm going to be like, "Oh my God. I can't even think about what she's doing out there."

At some point this process of letting go or denial or whatever it is it's sort of this way we've protected ourselves. Now I can't say that my approach to sex is what everybody should do, because I've been  exceptionally open about it. But my perspective is that having a healthy sexual relationship is a) is key to a happy and long marriage. And I want that for my kids. So that's again, when I think about a value. 

The other thing is I did a bunch of early,  right around when my daughter was your daughter's age. And I learned that people who in the world who have the healthiest sexual relationships are in Denmark and their value as a culture is that they're really open about sex. They talk about it. They assume teenagers are having it. They don't assume they're not. They assume they are and they actually create a space for it to happen.

 They let kids sleep together in the same bed under the same roof, God forbid. But what that produces is  really healthy, lifelong sexual relationships and very little sexual abuse, which we do not have in this country. Man, we talked about that by email, that statistic where it's  literally this is not a joke, but some of our friends, we read things and we're like, "Wow, is sending your daughter off to college just signing her up to go get raped?"  As crazy as it sounds to say that, when you read the statistics, you're literally like, wow, should I even send my daughter to college? Because the chances of her being sexually assaulted are extremely high. So, I was acutely aware of that and we're doing something super wrong in this country.

And we just, we can't talk about sex. We're not open about it. So I decided that I was like , I am going to be ultimately so open about sex. And for anyone who's a reader,  I cannot emphasize enough and it's right now is the age,  elementary school. You should read "Girls & Sex" and " Boys & Sex" by Peggy Orenstein.

 You should buy those today and read them. Those books are exceptionally eyeopening. And actually your daughter is the perfect age to read those books. Because you just learn a ton about really what's going on in the minds and lives of boys and girls and their sex lives. One of the things I learned from those books is that boys in particular are getting their sex ed from porn.

And often, and I don't mean to be too graphic, but  porn follows a certain playbook and does a lot of more extreme sexual acts as the norm. So there's this culture now where boys expect it to be first we do this and then we do this and then we do this and we do these things that are extreme from a sexual standpoint and oh yeah, we're 15. And mutual pleasure is not even part of the discussion. 

Since my kids were at a very early age, I've been talking to them about sex, open about it, what it means, but what I've mostly been talking about is not the anatomy of it. This happens here and this happens here.

What I had been telling them is sex is about mutual love and mutual pleasure. And if you are with a partner who does not understand that it's about mutual love and exploration and mutual pleasure, you are with the wrong partner. Because I think what's happened to a lot of girls is that they and then porn perpetuates it as that, it's this one way pleasure situation. 

Andy: [00:26:10] Porn is made for men and, so it's asymmetric kind of thing. And from my experience as a teenage boy, I can tell you for a straight up fact, I was selfish as hell. I wouldn't have thought that about myself necessarily because it didn't occur to me that there was a mutuality that I wasn't fully capable of respecting. 

Juliet: [00:26:30] Let kids be kids. And part of that is they have to discover that, right?  You can't expect two 15 year olds to be totally sensitive to each other. Realistic expectations, you can't expect that. But I also just,  I just wanted to make sure she knew and they both know that that should be at least the ultimate goal and that really it's about  playfulness and connection and mutual enjoyment and pleasure, and the key word being mutual.

I can't say that enough. I've been totally open about, actually Peggy, I wish I had the name of it and I can look it up after and you can put it in the show notes, but there's actually this  encyclopedia that I bought for my daughter, Georgia, the high schooler that has the name "sex" in the title, but it's similar to a book we had in the seventies and eighties, nineties called "Our Bodies Our Selves," which was an encyclopedia of all things sex.

But I basically plopped that thing in her room at  age 10. And it's a pretty advanced book and talks about some advanced sex stuff. And I was like, "If you have any questions, let me know. I'm  open to talking about it." Right. And we had a funny experience, which I'll tell you. It's actually embarrassing, but I'm gonna tell you. It's 9:30 at night. And my daughter is maybe like 12 and I'm in my pajamas, walking by her room. And she said, "Hey Mom, what's a dental dam?" And all brain cells escaped my brain. And I literally was like, "I can't remember. I actually don't know." I had this horrible parenting fail because I'm like,  let me give you this book with all these advanced things you can learn. And then in the moment I wasn't expecting, all conscious thought left my mind. 

Andy: [00:27:52] It catches you off guard. 

Juliet: [00:27:53] It caught me so off guard that I wasn't able to answer. So I was able to collect myself and then actually give her a clear answer.

So be careful what you wish for, but I've taken the approach that you've got to talk about it. You have to talk about it early. You have to actually say the words porn and tell them what the challenges around porn are. You actually might need to say with actual words what the porn playbook is and why that's not what a normal sexual relationship looks like.

You actually might need to say it doesn't always start with a blow job followed by this.  You might actually need to say those things and it's embarrassing. And it's embarrassing for you and them, but I've found that because I started talking about this with my kids pretty young, that it's not even really that embarrassing and it's just not a subject that's off limits.

Andy: [00:28:33] If you can begin a dialogue with them before it's as emotionally charged. Cause my daughter, she doesn't even care. She's  

Juliet: [00:28:41] Boys? Yeah. Or girls or whoever she's into.

Andy: [00:28:43] Yeah and I love that because it's so much easier to talk about now than it ever will be. 

Juliet: [00:28:48] No, it's not charged. Yeah. And then I think the other thing, just to finish up what I'm so focused on with the sex thing is I have been telling them since they were nine when it comes to sexual assault that alcohol is this gigantic contributor to this problem. And what I've told them is look, you're going to be, when you go off to college, you're going to be an adult. You can make whatever decisions you want. Presumably some of those will be at least experimenting with drinking or whatever else you want to experiment with but what you have to know is that alcohol  mutes everybody's everything and is part of the reason why kids get into uncomfortable situations, make bad decisions where consent starts to get really blurry.

One of the stories I remember from Peggy Orenstein, and I don't remember if it was Girls & Sex or Boys & Sex, but she said that gay kids actually are much better at figuring out consent than heterosexual kids. And apparently it's because there's this well understood phrase which is, you are with a partner and you say, "What are you into?" Those simple words, what are you into? Right. Because and it's interesting cause she said, look that's a conversation that's happening amongst gay kids. It's not happening amongst heterosexual kids and could literally save so many kids from so much pain around  blurred consent and alcohol, right? If you just started any sexual encounter with " what are you into" then immediately consent is going to be understood, whether it's there or not.

And then also you have a better chance of actually having a mutually satisfying experience, because you're actually going to have a slight conversation about what are we doing here? So anyway, I have been really clear and open with them about how look, it's never anyone's fault if they drink and something bad happens.

That's not it at all. It's more complicated than that. It's just that drinking is going to mute everyone's judgment and make consent in particular, very challenging. This is especially, I would say in many ways as important if not more important for parents of boys because there's one person in a blurred consent situation who might go to jail and that's the boy. If parents of boys are not really clear about that consent piece. 

Andy: [00:30:50] This is absolutely key too because we talk about girls a lot, but it's not at all to say that the onus is on the woman at all. 

Juliet: [00:30:59] No. 

Andy: [00:30:59] Boys have so much responsibility and there are so many consequences too, if you mess this up. Jarlo my other partner in GMB, Ryan and Jarlo and I are all martial artists, and Jarlo teaches a free women's self-defense class in Seattle.

And speaking of consent, being able to have confidence in your ability to enforce that, I think is something that is really important for women. But the thing in self-defense is that we think about getting somebody to let go of  you or stuff like that. But this is usually the time when you're past the part of actually defending yourself. Most of self-defense happens before you get into the situation. It's preventative, it's cautionary. 

Juliet: [00:31:43] Right. 

Andy: [00:31:43] And like you mentioned alcohol, it's one of those things or other drugs and substances. You have to really, it's okay to experiment and learn to enjoy things responsibly, but then if you notice that somebody seems to have an invested interest in your drinking more, for example, you might have to consider their incentives. You know?

Juliet: [00:32:04] Right. It's just such a minefield. And again, my daughter's just at the beginning of high school and, we haven't really even seeing normal teenage behavior because they've been  stuck inside because of COVID. In some ways, actually as a parent, I'm like, man, maybe this has been a gift to me because my kid hasn't been out and about doing scary things that normal 15 year old kid would be doing.

I think the way to move beyond this college sexual assault and really move to a place where kids can have healthy, normal age- appropriate sexual interactions is really frank, honest discussions with parents. And they're going to be having sex. The reality is they're doing it. So it's never too early to talk about birth control and what all that means. 

And I would say that assuming that you can outsource this conversation to your school is  maybe the largest error you can make as a parent.  Literally they still at school put in,  my daughter's  sex ed is,  "Be careful if you have penis in vagina, you're going to get AIDS." Literally it's so bad. It's so bad. 

Andy: [00:33:04] If they even use the banana and the condom, they're in the top 10% is how bad it is. 

Juliet: [00:33:11] It's just, it's behind the times, right? What needs to be discussed is what we're discussing, right? There's all these  gender identities and gender fluid situations going on.

And we have LGBTQIA and those things all need to be discussed. We have porn. There's so many complex topics and unfortunately back in the eighties, our parents could maybe have outsourced it to school a little bit, but  it's so beyond that now that it cannot be outsourced.

And really read those two books. I'll be honest. They're hard to read because you're like, "Oh my God, this is my future." It's hard to read. Because I read Girls & Sex when my daughter was  nine and then Boys & Sex just came out  within the last two years.

And they're hard to read, but it's also if we're gonna really have, if we're gonna have honest conversations with our kids, that insight is invaluable to learn. What is really going on with kids? Where are they? What are they thinking? What are they worried about? Because often your own kids aren't going to tell you that.

Andy: [00:34:00] Right. And I think that this is something, and also just, in your story about your daughter with the dental dam earlier, it sort of highlights, we tend to have this outdated notion that this is going to be at the parents' convenience that, "Oh, when the time is right, we're going to sit down and we're going to have the talk," right?

Juliet: [00:34:17] Yeah.

Andy: [00:34:17] No, it's going to come when you least expect it. It's going to come when your child decides that they need to mention something and we have to be able to have that relationship and that trust already there for that to happen. 

Juliet: [00:34:31] Yeah. 

Andy: [00:34:31] For that to happen naturally and effectively, I think. 

Juliet: [00:34:35] Yeah. I think it's never, " the talk" is also such a folly in that it's this idea you can cover it all once. Yeah. Let me tell you one of my favorite parenting stories of all time, which  literally goes down in history as my favorite parenting story. A dear friend of mine, her husband actually passed away so she's raising her two daughters both of whom were in high school, by herself. Just to set some context for the story.

Amazing woman, amazing kids. And she comes home one night and her 15 year old daughter is on the couch making out with her girlfriend, a girl. So my friend goes into the room and she's like, "Okay, we're going to have to talk about this tomorrow. And I really don't want to fall on a rake. I want to make sure I do everything I can do to let my daughter know I want one hundred percent love and accept her no matter who she wants to be with." And she's like, "I'm going to get this right." Does all this Google research. And then the next day goes into her daughter's room and sits down and says this prepared thing she said, where she in her mind is, " I am winning as a parent. I am so progressive. I'm so open." Her daughter literally looks at her and goes, "Oh, I'm not gay. I'm a pan romantic asexual." And this was, by the way, four years ago,  nobody had ever heard of what a pan romantic asexual was before. And my friend Sarah literally hung her head and left the room and had to go  Google pan romantic asexual.

When we heard the story, our high schooler was  11 or 12. And we were like, "Oh my God, this is our future." So I think the sooner you can really get educated on what kids are experiencing in terms of gender identity and sexual identity which is  way vaster, the amount of ways in which kids can describe their gender and sexual identity. There's way more terms than any adults listening to this even know.

So there's homework to be done there. And just to be up to speed on what kids are experiencing and it just has to be this ongoing discussion.  It starts now in age appropriate ways for your daughter at eight, and then it just has to evolve over time and get more and more specific and careful.

And now we will have an actual discussion, just like I'm having with you, with my daughter about look you're at the age where parties are happening and kids are going to be drinking and you have to have a strategy to preserve your social status while still being able to say no and manage peer pressure. And remember if you are drinking  and there's sexual contact,  consent gets weird.  These are all things we have discussed ad nauseum with our daughter directly. 

Now again, going back to what we talked about at the very beginning of this podcast let's have a talk and where are they now in ten years. I have no idea if my way of being  radically open about this topic with my kids is  the way to do it. We shall see. We shall see, but I'm hopeful. 

Andy: [00:37:06] That's actually great because there's apparently this rule in podcasts that you're supposed to end with actionable tips or something. But I think that this is even better is the fact that you don't know what you're doing. I don't know what I'm doing. None of us know what we're doing here. It's an experiment that is ongoing. 

And I think really, if there's anything that you can just absolutely say is just that we have to be communicating with our kids, and we have to be doing the very best we can to be having that trust, trusting relationship with them with all of this stuff, because if we don't have that, then we lose our privileges to influence them or to teach them.

Juliet: [00:37:44] Yeah. And even to this day, I think my 15 year old daughter, and I hope it stays this way, she's really open and will talk to me about a lot of things that are going on. And I think part of that is just because of the sort of really open, honest discussions we've had  leading up to this moment.

Cause the last thing you want as a parent is your kid  sneaking around doing a bunch of stuff.  I would rather, my daughter be telling me that she's in a sexual relationship with someone at 15, than sneaking around and  having sex in the back of a car.

So that's what I'm trying to set up is this comfort and openness in her, if she has a scary situation or it gets uncomfortable that she's  willing to come talk to us. Hopefully she will, but yeah.  It's a, it's an experiment, right? 

 I think you're right about these sort of changes over time, but I think it's interesting cause we can't really look to our parents to figure out how did they deal with social media? Because they didn't. And we can't look to our parents to how did they deal with porn? Cause they didn't. 

And some of being a teenager is  the same.  We could literally be in the 1980s and  a lot of what they're doing is exactly the same as what we were doing.  The teenage brain is still, the teenage brain is still the teenage brain.

 They're doing the same things. They have the same motivations, they're  high drive to do certain things is exactly still there. It's just  the input is different, so it's not like we can ask our parents for advice, what should I do about Snapchat? My mom doesn't even know what Snapchat is. 

So I think the way to manage it is conversations like this and connecting with other parents. Like anything in life, the way that I've approached things is just one way. And I know that there's many other parents who have their own family's way of talking about sex or whatever, body image or whatever it is, it's their way. And that also works, right? 

There's never one, like anything in life, there's never one way to do things. And I think it's just about making sure, again, back to the community thing that we're  connecting with other people and talking with people about the challenges and  the ways in which we aren't doing a good job because we all aren't.

And just being able to talk about  how hard it is, which is why I think these conversations are so important, because again, there's not that many things in life where  you have no data points. You're like I hope I'm doing a good job. And I see obviously  our daughters are doing well in life and feel happy. There's obviously we do have quite a few data points that our daughters are  doing well, but also you're sorta like, I hope this is working.

Letting Go

 Andy: [00:39:50] All we can do is try to give them the tools that they can then go and use well and appropriately and successfully. But yeah, we won't know until we're far too old to do anything about it. 

Juliet: [00:40:00] Yeah. And I'll just maybe get to the end with this, but I have this lovely friend, Heidi, who I think is an amazing parent. And she just said, I never realized how much of parenting would be  letting go, right? Letting go of what you wanted for your kids or letting go of, " Oh, I wanted my kid to be a heterosexual and have a normal wedding. And then it turns out my kid is gay or whatever." There's a thousand things that happen as a parent that require letting go of what you thought it was going to be or what you hoped it was going to be.

And you have to just be with what it is and who your kid is. And that's hard for all of us, right? Cause wouldn't it be great if we could just design these perfect  robototrons to do exactly what we wanted them to do, but of course. That would never work. So letting go is hard.   

Andy: [00:40:44] Letting go of expectations. Ah, that's so good. Juliet, thank you so much for sharing all that you have, or a fraction of what you have to say, on these things. I think it's something that so much of our people they're trying to get better at their bodies and trying to be stronger. But the reason that they want to do this is so they can be better people for their communities, families, whatever.

This is something that is absolutely a part of that. And it's really cool to be able to talk about these things and share your perspectives with with people at GMB. So thank you very much. 

Juliet: [00:41:20] Thank you, Andy. It's my total honor to be on here and such important conversations and I'm just grateful to know you.

Andy: [00:41:27] Cool.  Thank you very much. 

Intro
Body Image
Role Models
Sex, Porn, Difficult Conversations
Letting Go