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Back You are here: Home Feminism Culture Am I supposed to be offended when someone calls me a MILF?

Am I supposed to be offended when someone calls me a MILF?

MILFAn ardent feminist since she was a young girl, Wilson Diehl wonders why – now she has a baby of her own – she loves being called a MILF.

15 May 2011

For as long as I remember, I’ve considered myself a feminist. When I was a baby and my mom asked, “Are you my girl?” I apparently replied, “No. Woman!” I might not have known or been able to articulate the word “feminist,” but I’ve always gotten the gist. So how is it that now that I have a baby of my own, I love being called a MILF?

I grew up with Democratic parents in the liberal college town of Iowa City and quickly latched onto the notion that misogyny is bad and women can do a lot more than they’re given credit for. I believed women ought to be treated well and paid well and generally respected and revered—possibly even simultaneously.

My politics may have also had something to do with my mom having attended Wellesley (with Diane Sawyer and Hillary (Rodham!) Clinton), though the “You go, girl!” effects of that experience were largely counterbalanced by my mom’s, um—how best to put this?—willingness to put everyone else’s needs in front of her own. Maybe I simply had an internalized sense of equality, a desire for fairness where I felt it missing.

In elementary school I confronted my math teacher over what I perceived to be gender bias in his pattern of calling on students, and in high school I wrote essays on the importance of various insignificant female characters in whatever Classic-by-a-dead-white-guy we’d just read.

I minored in Women’s Studies and spent a lot of collegiate time and energy cultivating a romantic interest in girls. In addition to a 3-year stint in a lesbian relationship, my feminist credentials include donations to NARAL and Planned Parenthood, employment with an organization called Reel Grrls, an inability to laugh at myself, and a deep-seated belief that men are, as a rule, nincompoops.

But when a 22-year-old college guy called me a MILF recently, I wasn’t offended or outraged—and it wasn’t because I wasn’t paying attention. I was thrilled. Not “guilty-little-pleasure” thrilled but genuinely and overtly pleased. It didn’t even occur to me that a “good” feminist wouldn’t take the term as a compliment.

Two old friends and I had converged on Chicago from the coasts, gleefully leaving behind four sneezy children and three apprehensive husbands for the weekend. Thanks to the children, we had colds, too, and had to take turns coaxing each other to head down to the hotel bar instead of tucking into bed early with a bag of lozenges to watch Glee on Hulu.

We’ve never exactly been partiers, these two friends and I. We met in elementary school orchestra and solidified our friendship in the early nineties in a high school club called “Students Against Intolerance and Discrimination.” We organized symposia on gay rights and AIDS awareness and campaigned for an Equal Rights Amendment to the Iowa State Constitution. We spent the rest of our time eating slightly stale pretzels and trying to figure out how to make people take us seriously. Lobbying the administration to change the signs on the bathrooms from “Girls” to “Women” was a frequently visited topic.

We ate lunch together and collaborated on homework and had sleepover parties at which we watched PG-13 movies and consumed copious amounts of Coca-Cola and Cheetos. We didn’t drink, we barely danced, and only one of us dated in high school—and by “dated,” I mean she began a serious relationship with a guy who would become her husband.

While they attended prom together, the other two of us hitched a parental ride to Chicago for the weekend where we went out for dinner and stayed up until midnight so we could pick up a copy of the next day’s newspaper the moment it hit the stands.

It was miraculous, really, that the three of us were awake at 10pm on a Saturday night, dressed in not-too-badly-baby-stained clothing, drinking hot toddies, and engaging in ever-so-slight flirtatiousness with the two college guys perched on the giant leatherette ottoman opposite ours.

As the mother of a toddler, I was in serious need of flirting—even the ever-so-slight variety. It had been forever since I’d been made to feel interesting and compelling, much less kinda sexy.

The bigger and burlier of the two guys regaled us with charming tales of high school football and taught us how to use Twitter (late bloomers and late adopters!) so we could become his followers. The other guy—skinnier and more metrosexual-seeming—was more reticent, perhaps because the woman who was supposed to meet up with him wasn’t showing.

Perhaps hanging out with three married 35-year-old moms from out of town wasn’t the evening he’d had in mind when he’d donned his best form-fitting Banana Republic oxford in an elegant shade of charcoal and matching charcoal-and-black striped tie? I did get out of him the fact that he likes attending poetry slams even though he’s not a poet himself, and he encouraged me to perform some of my own poetry sometime, but mostly he kept his eyes on his cell phone, no doubt willing his lady friend to Call now, please, dammit.

I’m not sure how it happened, but before long both my traveling companions had whipped out their cell phones and were showing the guys pictures of their kids.

Mortified, I swatted at the phones and hissed at my friends to stop it. It wasn’t like I actually wanted to hook up with one of these guys. I just wanted—needed, even—to know that I could.

I don’t know who I thought I was kidding—like they weren’t going to notice our wedding rings or our post-partum belly flab or the sleep-deprivation-circles under our eyes and instead were magically going to assume we were single, childless, and a decade younger than we actually are. Why did I think if they knew we had children that would be the end of the flirtation?

Just in case the point hadn’t been clearly made, one of my friends said, “We’re oooooooold.”

The burly guy laughed while the skinnier one communed with his cell phone.

I started feeling bad for the guys. They were sweet and semi-engaging and clearly looking to get something else from their evening, but they were too Midwestern to say anything or to simply get up and leave. “We should stop monopolizing your time,” I said, finally. “You have places to go, girls to chase!”

The skinnier guy seemed to perk up at the idea. The burly one smiled and said with utter conviction, “No way, man! You all are MILFs!”

We smiled back at him, and one of us—I won’t say which—might have leapt across the ottoman to give him a hug.

“That was so fun!” I gushed on the way back to our room.

“They were sweet,” said one friend.

“Yeah,” said the other. “I had such an urge to put a sweater on both of them!”

“Totally!” the other friend laughed.

A sweater? We weren’t that much older than them—not old enough to be their mothers. Was I completely desperate and/or a total floozy for enjoying the tiniest hint of sexual tension with these guys—or with the one guy, at least? “He called us MILFs!” I tried again.

“Yeah…That term grosses me out,” the friend who had spearheaded an effort to bring an anti-apartheid exhibit to our high school said. She paused thoughtfully, then added, “Maybe because I didn’t want to sleep with the guy?”

Of course not! He was too young, too burly, too into football and Twitter. I wasn’t attracted to him in any way other than his attentions made me swoon. It was a revelation that a cute college student might want this slightly-poochy body housing a mind whose sexiest thought of the day for the past two years has been, “Mmmmm—bed!” I didn’t want to sleep with him, but man did it feel good to be considered “F”-worthy.

Somewhere along the way I’d internalized the wildly sexist notion that moms are inherently unsexy. Maybe I could be a hot 35-year old married lady, but a hot 35-year old married mom? Yes, moms get to be loving and cozy and forgiving, but damn is it nice—necessary, even—to be noticed and wanted for something other than a kleenex or a spare sweater.

I get that it’s not fair that dads get to be “F”-worthy without having to have a special acronym to point it out. I get that it’s not good to be valued as a sexual commodity. I get that the term MILF is crude, particularly when spelled out.

But what if the guy had said, “You women are so strong and powerful and obviously successful in every realm that means something to you, and I respect and revere you so much—it would be an honor, a privilege, and a joy to bring you intense, visceral momentary happiness, if that appeals…” Would that change things?

Back in our hotel room, my friends and I tucked ourselves into bed, surrounded by piles of kleenex and baggies of lozenges and numerous cups of water. We turned out the lights, pulled the blankets up under our chins, and dreamed about whatever it was that each of us was needing to dream about that night.

Wilson Diehl has an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa and teaches writing at Hugo House in Seattle. She has published various pieces in various places and once made a short film that pokes fun at straight men. She blogs at Not Quite What I Expected.

 

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