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The One Thing I Hope My Daughters Learn From the Kardashians

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11:  Khloe Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian West and Kylie Jenner attend Kanye West Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden on February 11, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3)
Photograph by Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3

I don't want to brag, but I basically have a Ph.D. in pop culture. Not because I have a fancy degree hanging on my wall from a prestigious university, but late at night after everyone in my house is asleep, I stay up way too late doing what I'm rarely able to do when everyone is awake: Nothing. Sometimes nothing looks like reading a book or catching up on shows I've DVR'ed. Usually, though, it's surfing the web for important Facebook status updates or catching up on breaking celebrity news on Instagram and US Weekly. You know, critical stuff.

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On a recent late night mission for nothing, I tried keeping up with the Kardashians, although, of course, that was a joke. I never clicked on a single headline and yet learned that in just the past few weeks, one got engaged to the mother of his sister's ex-boyfriend's son (the fiancee is also the best friend of a woman who is the ex-girlfriend of another sister's current husband). One is changing her last name from her second marriage to the ex-husband who is now a woman and also dad to two of her kids, back to the name she had when was married to her first husband, who is the father of four of her kids, although maybe just three of them. And one is Kim, who is, truly, impossible to keep up with.

It's unclear how even the Kardashians have time to keep up with themselves.

What I would want (my daughters) to take away from the Kardashians is that they shouldn't apologize if their happiness doesn't fit into other people's version of it.

The next night, instead of continuing to follow what they're doing, I read some of what's being said about them, which is basically all criticism (kriticism?). Leading the way seems to be how they're famous for being famous. They're picked apart for losing weight, not losing enough weight, for getting too much plastic surgery, for being too ostentatious, for over-parenting, for under-parenting, for staying in bad relationships, for not staying in bad relationships, for wearing too little and for wearing too much. Really, they can't win for losing, although they're often accused of losing for winning.

The Kardashians have captured the fascination of their lives and turned it into a profit through clothing and makeup lines, reality TV shows, endorsement deals and personal appearances. The spotlight has hurt some of them personally while allowed others to thrive professionally. What they all have in common (besides the K thing) is how they keep going and don't apologize for their success, or their method by which they achieve it.

I was previously indifferent to the Kardashians, although now I rather enjoy them. I admire them, even, especially when I think about how my daughters occupy a space on the same planet. Because when I envision the future for my 4- and 7-year-old girls, I suppose I see them ambling down a path toward college, career and family. But sometimes I realize I don't really want to project on them a life of expectations. If their futures end up looking like mine, with a legal marriage to someone of the opposite gender, a degree from a good school and a rewarding career, then I'll be happy for them.

On the other hand, should one or both choose to marry or not, have kids in or outside of a marriage, be with women instead of men, forgo college for the potential to chase something alternatively fulfilling, then I'll also be supportive.

But really, what I would want them to take away from the Kardashians is that they shouldn't apologize if their happiness doesn't fit into other people's version of it. Working hard—as the Kardashians clearly do—comes in different flavors. One woman's idea of a long day at the office might not look like a red carpet photo shoot or fancy vacation, although one isn't less dignified or legitimate than the other. More than a desire to ever seem my girls fit in, I want them to do their thing and not back down because others envious of their success or happiness think it should look otherwise.

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The Kardashians' version of a life well lived may not jive with everyone keeping score, and clearly that hasn't stopped them from enjoying the passage of time. If not exactly in practice, and also not exactly practical, it's still an outlook worthy of emulation.

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