“I saw this cute lifeguard…” she told me and then went on to describe his cute qualities.

I chuckled.

Apparently, the next conversation was going to require me to remember what it was like to be a teenage girl…with crushes and opinions on sexiness and – you know – all those kinds of things.

“Mmmm….it’s always nice to see a handsome lifeguard, ” I agreed with her.

“When it comes to guys, I really like…” and she continued to list physical qualities that mattered to her.

I responded when/where appropriate, but pretty much just let her talk.

Technically, we’re second cousins, but my age puts me more at aunt status…and so, that’s how we engage with each other. I get it, she needs an older female character in her life (someone she can trust) to talk through all these “teenage” experiences without being judged or scolded. And that’s what I give her, space. I leverage positive input when needed, but mostly, I just try to make sure she knows – without a doubt – she can be totally herself, say whatever she needs to say, and it’s okay.

But I will be honest, “teenage” experiences aren’t what they used to be…and certainly not what they were in MY teenage experience…but that’s another conversation for another post.

“What about you, Tia? What do you like in a guy?” she asked.


“Well…I, ah…”

I was stalling.

Really, trying to figure out how much I needed to explain that my list is more internal qualities than physical at this point. And though I knew somewhere in her mind and spirit, she would appreciate that, it wasn’t what she was asking.

“Let’s see, ah…”

Physical qualities. It’s not like I don’t appreciate physical qualities. I totally do. But, they’re just not that important to me.

Ugh. It’s not that they’re not important. Obviously, physical attraction is important, but it changes.

We change. Our bodies change: skin discolors; hair lightens; body tone ages. It seems pointless to hold certain physical qualities as standards, when our physical state of being is always in flux.

Gah. Just keep it simple. 

“I like shoulders, ” I grinned at her. “Wide shoulders that I can grab onto.”

She giggled.

“I like someone who smiles a lot. Not like in a goofy way…just someone who isn’t grumpy all the time.”

She agreed.

But that was targeting someone’s disposition more than anything, so I tried to go back to physical qualities…

“I love it when someone has glasses. And at the end of the day, when they take out their contacts and put their glasses on…”

“OMG. Yes!”

It took me by surprise that she was with me on that one, and we talked it out a little bit further.

“One more thing that gets me just as much as the glasses thing, if not more…”


“Freckles. Every time. I love them! I used to date a guy that had a freckle just where his upper lip dipped down,” I pointed to the area on my lip as an example and gave her dreamy eyes. “I couldn’t stop kissing him right on that spot.”

We laughed together.

And then the conversation took another turn.

It never stops surprising me how offering vulnerability and transparency in one part of a conversation unlocks other areas of the discussion, and how trust builds and secrets unfold.

Under the cloud-filled sky, I listened to her tell me dreams of the future.