Monday, 20 May 2013

The Important of Telling Grown-Ups Stuff

Being a teenager was difficult, but I was lucky. Until I was eighteen, I mooned around vaguely wishing I had a boyfriend. I never had to actually deal with having a boyfriend.

Now I don't want to demonize teenage boyfriends. It could be that many, perhaps the majority, of teenage boyfriends are like boyfriends on television or romance novels or movies like Juno, where the person calling all the shots is the girlfriend. It probably is that there are as many different kinds of teenage boys as there are different kinds of grown men. I don't really know because I went to an all-girls school, and generally I only ever saw teenage boys in the bus station and at dances.

But, as you can imagine, girls in my school talked about boys and boyfriends quite a lot. I knew one girl whose boyfriend was a perfect gentleman, who called her once a week, and took her out once a week. I knew another girl--actually at least two--whose boyfriend pressured her for sex. And I knew another girl whose boyfriend said he would never pressure her for sex because he loved her.  I knew girls who never lacked for boyfriend because boys asked them out all the time, and I knew girls who were absolutely forbidden to date. I knew a girl who entered into an arranged marriage right after high school. (I know what you're thinking, but actually she was Italian.)

Many of us talked incessantly about boys, which was probably a good thing, but I am not so sure many of us talked to adults about what was going on, even when what was going on was seriously messed-up. You would think that a girl being pressured to have sex by her boyfriend would tell her parents, but only if you have completely forgotten what it is like to be a teenage girl. Teenage girls develop strong feelings of loyalty towards other teenagers, and get mad when their parents don't respect these feelings.

Parents run roughshod over teen friendships at their peril: my mum's response to my crying over a sexually active friend's bad treatment by her sexually active boyfriend was to tell me not to be friends with that girl any more. What I wanted to hear was something like, "That's very sad. It's very sad that So-and-so, who is such a nice, friendly girl, was so poorly treated. Teenage sexual relationships are such a bad idea, because teenage girls' emotional intensity crashes into teenage boys' horniness like a truck. I wish they would drop Romeo and Juliet from the curriculum." Meanwhile, my poor mum had probably read some newspaper article about how girls are more likely to have premarital sex if their friends have premarital sex and did not know that I would rather have thrown myself out a window than have had premarital sex.

Parents are not mind-readers, so as embarrassing as it is, teenage girls should strive to tell their parents what they think, believe and value and not just shut up and go away and stop telling adults anything. However, if it is just too agonizing to tell parents stuff, then teenage girls should talk to trusted adults, and by trusted adults, I mean favourite aunts and uncles, grandparents, favourite female teachers and, perhaps, guidance counselors and youth ministers.

Update: Drat. Blogger is going very weird things today, and I have just lost half this post.

1 comment:

Urszula said...

Teenage girls should tell parents about who they are dating and/or interested in, as awkward as it may be. I feel like your mother was like mine in not wanting to talk about it - but it would have been helpful, in hindsight, to have had an 'older sister' I would feel comfortable discussing thee things with. I hope I'm that person now for my own younger sisters...

Also, one of my friends from high school (an all-girls school) 'dated' a 50-year old man in a 3-year relationship that stared when she was 15. We should have seen it for what it was - a pedophile - but we were just stupid teenagers not understanding the gravity of the situation. It didn't help that our homeroom teacher (a nun) seemed to think acquiring a man was a great achievement and would joke with my friend without ever once sitting her down and asking her if she was comfortable in the relationship, etc etc. As my friend never told her parents her boyfriend's age the romance went on until he became physically abusive. I always think back and wonder if there was anything I could have done to have stopped her or helped her but at the time I was just too young and naive to really know what was going on. :(