Friday, October 15, 2010

Three Letter Thursday!

Darnell told me this week feels slackish on MID, even though there was a twenty minute podcast, so yesterday, we discussed three (3) columns!

Afterschool Special Slumber Party

In yesterday's Hey Cherie, a girl described a slumber party I don't even believe because it seems too YA novel perfect: each girl was dealing with a different Issue Teens Face Today!
Hey, Cherie!

This is different from the usual letters that you probably get. I was having a slumber party with a bunch of my girlfriends. We are all in 10th or 11th grade. We were all downstairs in the basement, and my parents' room is upstairs on the second floor. The door to the basement was closed, so there was no way that anyone could listen to what we were saying.
Darnell: Well, it starts off sexy.
We made up a game called "What My Mother Doesn't Know." ... We just went around the group and each of us had to confess things that our mothers didn't know.

Here are some of the things that we all heard. One girl had been to Planned Parenthood to end a pregnancy and didn't tell her mother. Another had done ecstasy more than once. Another had cheated on a big math test in order to keep her grade up to an A. Another binged and barfed at least once a week. Someone talked about a Facebook boyfriend she had in another state. I heard a girl say that while her mom was on vacation, she took her mom's car and drove it 50 miles. Someone drove their own car 100 miles an hour. Someone else was a secret smoker (none of us knew that!).

I think you get the idea. Here is my question: How much do you think a teen girl should tell her mother about her life? Is it OK to keep the bad stuff secret? Is it OK to have any secrets? And how do you decide what to tell your mother, especially if you will end up being punished for what you reveal?
Cherie Bennett, the writer of this column, is herself a YA novelist, so she of course enjoyed this scenario.
This is one of the best letters I've received in the more than 14 years of writing this column. Fourteen years, 52 columns a year and two questions per column. You do the math! But I digress.

Different people, different cultures, different families and different sets of ethics mean that different people — and I count teens as people! — have different feelings about openness and honesty with parents. All I can share with you is my sense of it, which may be different from your sense or your mom's sense.

When it comes to me, I want to know. I would want to know all those things. If I don't know, how can I guide you through the minefield of growing up in the 21st century? Knowing is so important to me that I would consider a no-punishment rule if that's what it took to get my teen to talk to me. That is, I'd rather know and not impose a punishment than not know, hear about it later, and then punish. I understand many could feel legitimately different.

No matter what? Share as much as you can. I think you'll find most parents remember that they were teens, too. Parents had their secrets and they're pretty darn good listeners. Most of all, we care.

Darnell: Wow, she counts teens as PEOPLE. This is the most open-minded advice columnist ever.

Lulu: Right?

Darnell: This advice is terrible and vague at the same time.

Lulu: Yeah, it's not really advice. The question is "How much do I have to tell my mother?" and she answers as a mother, how much she would want to know; but I kind of feel like what she wants as a mother is not necessarily good advice for the kids. Parental instinct is to protect your kids but at 16 and 17 they need to start working stuff out for themselves.

Darnell: There is a bulemic in that group. Isn't that one of those things that after school specials teach us to tell people about, due to potential serious health issues?

Lulu: Yeah, in that case, if it's something where the girl needs a health professional, then she has to tell her parents so they can make an appointment for her. Sexual health is a possible exception since you can go anonymously through Planned Parenthood, like the girl who got the abortion. It sounds like she handled things well.

Darnell: I'm going to go secret by secret!

Planned Parenthood - I don't see the need to tell anyone about this. Aborting babies shows adult responsibility!

Ecstasy - Definitely no, parents are not understanding cuddlebears when it comes to drug use.

Cheated on a test - Good for her!

Binged and barfed - Yes? This seems like the one thing on the list that is dangerous, a regular habit, and something parents might actually deal with well?

Facebook boyfriend - I guess you could! I think she should have lost the game for having a boring secret. Maybe that girl should have a serious talk with her parents about how to be more interesting.

Secret driver - Rapscallion behavior and teenage rebellion loses its shine if you scuff your feet and admit it to your parents afterwards.

Speeding - Maybe tied for lamest secret. Do not tell anyone ever again.

Smoker - Nah, just stop doing that, it is gross.

Advice given!

Lulu: Okay! Thanks, Darnell.

Valium Frontal Assault

The second letter in yesterday's Dear Prudence also piqued my interest, touching on issues of impaired behavior, consent issues, and oral hygiene.
Last week, I had impacted wisdom teeth removed. A good friend from work agreed to pick me up after the procedure and drive me to the bus station. We're both younger and single and have many shared interests outside of work, except I'm a gay man and my friend is a straight man.

The dentist used intravenous sedation, and I remember nothing of the procedure or drive afterward—my first memory was getting off the bus at my stop. But the next day at work, my friend said that I was very sexually aggressive with him after he picked me up. He says I put my hands down his pants and he even had to stop the car.

My friend has been distant for the last week at work, and we haven't hung out since the incident. Needless to say, I'm embarrassed and horrified. While my friend is attractive, I would never make any sexual advances toward him (except, apparently, when coming off a Valium drip). I want to continue our good working relationship and friendship, but now he's creeped out by me or, worse, thinks I have a secret crush on him. How should I go about addressing this situation and repairing our relationship?
Prudence comes down strongly on an unexpected side.
I don't give a pass to people who try to excuse their bad behavior by saying they drank so much they no longer were aware of their actions. But that does not apply to the I.V. drip. I was knocked out for a medical procedure recently, and my husband said I babbled incoherently on the way home in the car, then fell asleep midsentence. Once home, I apparently asked my daughter repeatedly, and with increasing agitation, where she was going while she was simply standing in front of me. I remember none of this.

The reason medical offices release recently sedated people only to responsible adults is because patients could find themselves in deep trouble trying to make their way home solo. Your friend should never have dropped you off at the bus—you're lucky the Valium didn't prompt you to grope a fellow rider. He should have been thoughtful enough to take you home and make sure you were safely tucked into bed, no matter what kind of crazy stuff you were doing and saying about going to bed together.

You need to tell him that you're concerned your friendship has been damaged by your Valium-addled mental state. Reiterate that you have no memory of any of this, and now that your wisdom teeth are out, you plan to stay far away from I.V. sedation. If he remains cool, then he's just the kind of jerk who would dump an ailing friend at a bus stop.
Darnell: Prudence is a little harsh on the victim of sexual assault.

Lulu: I know!!

Darnell: Unintentional or not, that guy was well within his rights to remove himself from that situation as quickly as possible.

Lulu: Yeah, if someone is groping you, you are not required to take it if they are drugged. That's only true in the romance novels that I read.

Darnell: I think she has a good point that the guy should be more forgiving after the fact, and differentiating between drunken behavior and medically induced drugged behavior. If you get yourself drunk it is easy to shrug it off and say, "Well I was loaded!", but you do get yourself that way, usually on purpose.

Lulu: Right. This wasn't his fault. He may not even have had a choice of anesthetics if the case was especially bad, which it sounds like this was. Man, his mouth is probably still sore.

Darnell: Still, I feel like people should forgive drunken behavior, mostly because that is a stance I require to still have friends. You can't judge it cleanly without knowing the parties involved, but there is probably some homophobia in the mix there.

Lulu: Yeah? my thought was that there was probably some secret crush in the mix there.

Darnell: Probably a little bit of both.

Lulu: You probably wouldn't hit on someone you were totally unattracted to, even while drugged. But the fact that your friend is a little attracted to you doesn't mean you can't be friends. Which is a stance I require in order to have friends (WINK!)

Darnell: The number of people who are okay with gay is much larger than the number of people who are okay with gay when it is pointed at them. Because you can point gay at people, like a loaded gun. A loaded gun filled with rainbow bullets.

Lulu: Meh. I think it's legit if the driver's just upset at being groped.

Darnell: I'd lay good odds that if the LW was a lady, the driver would have still be uncomfortable in the moment but more willing to laugh it off the next day. I have seen this situation with a straight dude sober and a drunken drunken lady, and it was definitely more laughable than a serious offense.

Lulu: Hm. But if the driver were a lady (and the LW a straight man), she might be more creeped out. Maybe it depends on the relative physical strength of the parties involved???

Darnell: It could be! Science! I will make a chart!

DudeCreeped out and remains creeped out (situation in this letter)Maybe creeped out, quickly forgiving
LadyCreeped out and remains creeped out (according to Lulu)????
Lulu: Yeah, i dunno about lady/lady either. I guess it depends on the people, which is maybe true of all of these things.

Darnell: If a lady you weren't attracted to started groping on you while drunk or in a drugged haze, how would you feel?

Lulu: Who is this lady?

David: Patricia Heaton.

Lulu: Oh. I guess I would forgive her. I would be creeped out in the moment but I wouldn't hold it against her if she apologized.

Darnell: She is the darling of early evening television. Man, Prudence's advice is absolutely going to crush the friendship if the LW takes it. She is at least implying that the LW should be angry at the driver. Anger is not the emotion to bring to this conversation.

Lulu: True. If you're asking forgiveness, you need to be forgiving yourself.

Darnell: The LW can't even bring the attitude that he is forgiving the driver to that conversation. That might result in the sitcom situation where the party in the wrong is like, "Hey, I apologize for my terrible behavior... now don't you have something to say to me?"

Lulu: Yeah. It is weird for the columnist to take someone who is not angry and give them reasons they should be angry!

Darnell: Prudence, more like STEWdence... because of... stewing... in anger.

Lulu: No.

Darnell: No, not at all.

Lulu: So what is our advice? Do nothing, hope for the best?

Darnell: My advice is to apologize, if he hasn't already, the letter doesn't actually say. Make motions towards continued friendship in a space-giving way, group activities and the like. Sometimes you did kill the frienship though. If that doesn't work out, time to move on. Oh, and try to avoid situations that involve impaired judgment if you are going to hang out.

Lulu: I agree. And he needs to avoid any behavior that makes it seem like he has a secret crush, including but not limited to vehemently denying that he has a secret crush.

Vibrant Young Spinster

Ashley joined us just in time to mock me for being single as we discussed Love Letters.
Are some people just not meant for relationships? Here is a glimpse into my past:

In high school and most of college I dated many guys, generally for two months, from all walks of life: older, younger, the athlete, the nerd, the "gangsta," the preppy, the lead singer of a band, guy in the military, the cable guy, the nice guy, and the jerk. If you are wondering, I was only intimate with a select few at an older age. The one true relationship that counted lasted 9 months... Typically, I wind up losing interest after a few weeks and end it.

Present: today I consider myself very successful, confident, and independent at the age of 25. I work for a world-wide company and travel. Recently I have sworn into the United States Reserves and leave for boot camp very soon.

Future: My long-term goals include a career switch, continuing with the Reserves, and living in Massachusetts or the New England area. I feel very fortunate and proud to have accomplished all of this but I feel there is a piece missing. Perhaps the missing piece is a partner to share and enjoy life with.

I am afraid that my life will never calm down enough to share it with someone else. Everyone seems to be clingy nowadays. I am very independent and like to do my own thing but not necessarily 24/7 by any means. Maybe that could change if I met the right person. Friends have said that I need someone who will challenge me, be my equal, and have the same or very similar interests. Should I just live and enjoy my 20s even though I feel something is missing? Am I too independent? Should I be concerned that I hardly ever fall or "settle" for someone? It seems like everyone else I know can be happy or settle with someone. I just feel lost in this whole matter or that I am doing something wrong.
I don't actually have a problem with Meredith Goldstein's response.
You've dated a bunch of people, WIESD. You're 25. You're about to leave for boot camp. You're single and wondering why.

My thought is -- thank goodness you haven't met someone awesome. This isn't the right time. Maybe soon, but not now.

Now, everyone is going to tell you that you're whining about nothing, but before they do, let me remind them that there are some significant feelings going on here. Just because a person isn't ready to be serious with someone doesn't mean they can't get lonely. Loneliness can be overwhelming. It can make a person believe that they'll never be understood, that they'll never get out of their solitary hole, and that the rest of the world is experiencing something they'll never get their hands on.

Don't let the loneliness scare you. It doesn't mean that you'll never meet anyone. It doesn't mean that you're not capable. And being in the Reserves -- well, you'll be meeting people who share your motivation and drive. That sounds pretty promising to me.

The present doesn't stand for anything but the present. You're not doing anything wrong. It just takes time.

Darnell: Loneliness is a tough one!

Ashley: Yeah. I think that's a question for Lulu. Since losing interest after several weeks is what Lulu does best.

Lulu: Thanks. Thanks for that.


Lulu: Ha. Okay, well that's fair. Well, the thing is, I'm 25, and so is the LW. So I'm not coming to this from a grown up "oh you are so young, you are a BABY, don't sweat it" place. But: she is so young. Or he. It's a girl, right?

Ashley: I think girl, yeah. Presumably an openly gay man isn't joining the Reserves.

Darnell: Who has a successful life AND joins the Reserves?

Lulu: Not only is she young, but her life is in flux; it's not like she has a salary job in a small town somewhere and plans to stay there. In her circumstances, it's silly to think, "The way things are now is the way it will always be."

Darnell: In the same vein though, the idea that you'll eventually meet the right person when the time is right is laughably false.

Lulu: I agree, and it could be that she will never meet someone and will be single forever. But if she wants to have a relationship, she will probably eventually have an opportunity for that.

Darnell: If you don't make room for it in your life, those chances go up significantly.

Lulu: I dunno - I think it's fine for her to keep busy and keep her eyes open. No point in leaving Friday night open (just in case!!!!), that's just leaving the door open to wallow in self pity. If and when you meet someone you will be able to choose what other things in your life you want to blow off.

Ashley: Yeah, I think generally I'd rather fill my life with stuff and then give some of it up, than to leave it available for Someone To Come Along. But then again Galahad is busy a lot of the time. Saving kittens, etc.

Lulu: It seems like the LW would appreciate someone who is also busy a lot of the time. That seems do-able.

Darnell: There are plenty of busy people, they are just hard to meet.

Lulu: Yeah? I seem to exclusively meet busy people. People who are busy on Friday. Washing their hair. The people I meet have a lot of hair care needs, apparently.

Anna: I meet busy people at events, and then I never see them again. But I'm not looking for a romantic partner.

Lulu: But the LW's question isn't "How do I meet people" so much as "Is there something fundamentally wrong with me such that I will never settle down?" And to that I say probably not. A good percentage of the people in the world do eventually settle down, at least for awhile, in a long-term relationship, and the fact that you are flighty and single at 25 is not necessarily an indicator of the future. Lots of people are flighty and single at 25. LOTS OF PEOPLE. DAMMIT.

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