Saturday, October 20, 2012

Not Much Has Changed.

A friend recently told me her thirteen-year-old daughter came home very upset. "Another twelve-year-old in school is pregnant," she said. This was the second friend of hers that "got caught". When my friend shared this story with me, I realized that so much has changed in the forty-two years since I became an unwed mother, yet nothing has changed. Girls are just getting pregnant younger and younger. Teenage pregnancies seem to be on the rise instead of diminishing. Why is this?

The other night, I heard John Tesh on his radio show declare that statistics show children who do not attend preschool are more likely to become "teenage parents" or go to jail than those who receive the socialization of the preschool experience. Really? I find it very difficult to believe that attending preschool could determine a fate like getting pregnant at twelve. What else could possibly cause a girl to become pregnant at a young age?

I got pregnant when I was twenty years old. I had a psychic vision at seventeen that I would get pregnant by my "first love", but not marry him. I was a virgin until I was eighteen, and I sought to get rid of it after my high-school graduation trip to New York City with two girlfriends. We met some "hip" people in "the Village" during that trip. They invited us to hang out in their apartment and when I proclaimed I was a virgin, they spat  their feelings of repulsion, condescension and absurdity at me. I left their company feeling ridiculous and immature at thinking that "saving myself for marriage" was still the right way to go for me. The most important thing to me my entire life was to be "accepted", by everyone. My virginal self was clearly not accepted by these smoking, self-absorbed intellectuals. I decided they knew better than I, which was my usual way of viewing the world, so I went to a hotel with a boy who loved me but I didn't love in the same way, and got rid of my virginity. It took me many, many years of self-help study and psycho-therapy to finally accept and love myself.

How many young girls still think this way today? How many girls think that being a virgin, even at age twelve, is acceptable; "hip" (if that is still the term being used)? My self-esteem was tied to what everyone else thought of me. How many girls still feel the same way I did forty-five years ago? I always confused love with sex. How many girls today still confuse the two? I never used condoms. Obviously, young people still don't use them, or the condoms are defective. Otherwise, it is possible there would be fewer pregnancies.

In Newton,, Massachusetts, where my family originated and I, as well as my son, spent our teen years, the "town fathers and mothers" tried to implement a program to distribute free condoms in the schools. Parents were outraged by the thought of the schools interfering with what they believed to be their duty and right: to educate their children about sex. But, in my experience interacting with many of my siblings who became parents, and with people in our community as I became politically involved, adults today still cringe at and avoid talking about sexual matters with their children. It is acceptable to teach sex education using films in school, but distributing a way to prevent pregnancy just went too far.

I didn't attend preschool, and I became an unwed mother. Does that mean John Tesh's quoted statistics are correct? I doubt it. I began having "feelings down there" at age nine. I saw kissing with closed and open mouths on television every day and in most every movie I watched that stimulated those feelings. I desperately wanted a boyfriend at that young age, and my son expressed similar feelings at the same age. He did attend preschool. But he did not get a girl pregnant as a teen or at any age before he married.

I began buying my son books to stimulate discussions about sexual development starting at age five. I paid attention to things he said and behaviors he exhibited that hinted at his sexual interest level at every age. I paid attention, and I asked questions. How many parents pay close attention to their child's sexual development? How many who do notice changes, actually initiate talks with them about those changes or give them books to explain things to them in easy to understand language or pictures? My mother never talked to me about sex or even my period. She let it happen and if I asked questions, she tried to explain things. I learned the technicalities of sexual intercourse and anatomy in middle school: "sex education class", and from my friends. How is this part of education different today? I suspect not much has changed.

Part of the lyrics from "Love Child" by The Supremes, 1968:

                This love we're contemplatin'
                Is worth the pain of waitin'
                We'll only end up hatin'
                The child we may be creatin'

                                                                         Love child,
                                  never meant to be
                   Love child,
                                  scorned by society
                  Love child,
                                  always second best
                 Love child,
                                      different from the rest.

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