Jan 11 A Dear Prudence question leads us to wonder if there is a "mature" way for a teenager to conduct a sex life while living at home with anti-premarital-sex parents.
Q. Pre-Marital Sex and Parents: My boyfriend and I are in a loving relationship and we have been dating for eight months already. He has been wanting to have sex, but since my parents are very against pre-marital sex, I have been really hesitant. Personally I want to, and am telling him that once I get a chance, to we can do it. I feel nothing wrong with having sex before marriage at all, but I feel morally conflicted by having to lie to my parents. What should I do?
A: Now that's some shocking news: Your boyfriend would really, really like to have sex. Are you 16 or 26? It makes a difference. I'm against premarital sex by high-school students. I'm not against pre-marital sex by responsible college-age people. (In fact, I can't imagine marrying someone one hasn't had sex with.) However, if you are making this decision based on how your parents would react, that tells me you aren't really old enough to start engaging in sex. Instead of lying to your parents, I think you should tell your boyfriend, "I really like you, but since I can't stand the thought of sneaking around on my parents to have sex with you, that tells me I'm not ready to have sex with you." If he breaks up with you or pressures you, that only should underline the wisdom of your parents' prohibition (for now).
Lulu: I don't think she is 'not old enough' because she doesn't want to create an elaborate web of lies for the people she presumably lives with. When you are 16, owning your choice to have sex and being upfront about it with your parents is not really an option.
Ashley: Well, it's that or web of lies. If she's unwilling to do either, then she's the one who doesn't want sex, and she should own that decision.
Lulu: It's not that she's "not ready" or "not mature enough" but that she doesn't want it enough for the downsides. That's not immaturity, it's logic.
Ashley: Well, I think caring what your parents think is a little immature. It depends if it's a convenience thing - she lives with them and doesn't want the drama - or if she doesn't want to disappoint. If she doesn't want to disappoint, she's immature.
Lulu: Is that a sign of immaturity? Wanting to disappoint your parents is pretty immature.
Ashley: Putting too much stock in what your parents think is immature, either way, especially if you haven't actually thought about the topic yourself and/or come to your own opinions. It's like... going to school to be a doctor because your parents want you to be a doctor. If you want to be a doctor, that's great, but if you never thought about it, that's immature.
Lulu: So in this case, do you think she should keep a low profile and sneak around, or challenge her parents on the whole premarital sex idea?
Ashley: If she lives with them, I'd say sneak around. If she doesn't, she doesn't have to do either. You just don't mention it. Who talks about their sex life with their parents anyway?
Lulu: I mean in general, just to say that you don't think it's wrong.
Ashley: Sure, if she wants to, and doesn't mind the fight. I don't think it's required.
Lulu: Hee hee, here's the same/opposite problem in Tween 12 and 20.
Q. I'm 18 and already graduated from high school. This guy I'm seeing is 20, and we have been dating for over six months. Everybody thinks Ian is the perfect guy for me. He doesn't drink, do drugs or smoke. And most of all, he isn't sexually aggressive.
He has a good job and is well-liked by his boss. I went to a company party with him. His boss told me what a good worker Brad is and how lucky I am to have him as a boyfriend.
My parents and my older sister feel that he is the perfect guy for me. Ian is everybody's dream. He sends me flowers on special occasions and writes poetry when he is in the mood, which is often. All my female friends think he is one handsome dude and feel I'm very fortunate to have him.
But as you have already figured out, I don't love the guy. To tell the truth, I want the freedom to date other guys, but I find it difficult to tell him this because I know I would hurt him severely. I also would hurt my family.
A. Love isn't decided by committee. This is between you and Ian — your friends, your family and his boss have no say in the matter. And as you are well aware, the time has come to tell Ian you want to end the relationship.
Ashley: Wait. He's Ian AND Brad?
Jan 16 Along the same lines, a prospective college freshman places too much emphasis on her parents' opinion in Annie's Mailbox. But this time, we're against the decision on its own merits. Then we veer off sharply.
Dear Annie: I am a senior in high school. My boyfriend and I have been together for a long time, and we love each other very much. We are attending colleges that are about 30 minutes apart. We want to get an apartment between the campuses so we can live together. This would be much cheaper than paying for room and board.Ashley: I don't think her parents are what she should be concerned with. She needs to consider her boyfriend as a roommate - is he going to be hell to live with if they break up?
I'd like to talk to my parents about this, Annie, but they are so protective that I'm afraid they won't allow it.
Dear Senior: We're going to ask you not to do this. We know you love your boyfriend. But the first year of college can bring tremendous changes to both of you. By living with your boyfriend, you are cutting off opportunities that may expand your horizons and develop your character. Please consider doing the room-and-board bit for your first year. If you still want to live together after that, you will be in a better position to talk to your parents about it, and they are less likely to object.
Lulu: I think that's what Annie is getting at, but there is no better way to alienate an 18-year-old than to tell her her character is not fully formed.
Ashley: Of course, if her parents are paying her rent, then they have a right to dictate who lives in their apartment. Did you know there's a webapp to convert your SAT/GRE scores to IQ? Since they're all standardized, it makes sense.
Lulu: Yeah--no, so wait, you have a higher IQ than me???
Jan 21 A typical Lulu rant spurred by an uncharacteristically black-and-white answer on premarital cohabitation in Tween 12 and 20. Again, we suddenly veer.
DR. WALLACE: My girlfriend and I have been living together since we graduated from high school two years ago. I love her very much and want to get married. She says she loves me, too, but she wants to wait another couple of years before making that decision. My parents are very unhappy about our setup.
Since she wants to wait, my question is, should we continue to live together (we are sexually intimate) until we say "I do," or should we separate until we make it legal? — Nameless, Hobart, Ind.
NAMELESS: It appears to me that your girlfriend wants the security of "married life" without the responsibilities. Separate now. It would be much better this way than to wait two years to find out that she still doesn't want to marry you.
Besides, if you separate, it could make her realize she can't live without you. And she just might decide to make things legal.
Lulu: I guess thousands of committed cohabiting couples want "the security of 'married life' without the responsibilities." Exactly what responsibilities do you have once you're married that you don't have when you're living together?
Ashley: Maybe like... financial? But not all married couples merge finances.
Lulu: I find this attitude so weird, it's not like being married magically changes anything. Statistically, sure, a random married person is probably more likely to have joint finances or whatever than a random single person, but you can do married stuff while not married and you can not do married stuff when you are married.
Ashley: Does your hair still look good on day 2?
Lulu: Pretty good! It started out MORE spiky because my spike wax is more spiky than the pomade they use at the hair place, but then I put a hat on.
Jan 23 In Ask Amy, a young intern complains about old people today.
Q. I am an 18-year-old intern working for a large office. I am the only student in the office, and everyone else who works here is old enough to be my parent or even grandparent.Ashley: Ha ha, yes. Amy's right, though.
I consider myself very good with adults. However, I am not sure how to respond in some situations. When they complain about their teenagers and kids, and then expect me to represent the entire under-25 demographic. For example, they say, "I can't understand how teenagers are so rude, they are always texting," or they ask me, "Why do you guys constantly disrespect us with your texting?" Meanwhile, they have never seen me with my phone out.
I would really appreciate a polite, diplomatic answer to respond when I am caught in the middle of one of these conversations.
A. I agree with you that this is tiresome. The next time this happens, go "Jeopardy!" and answer their questions in the form of a question. For example:
They: "Why are you kids so all-fired rude, always messing around with your textometer machines?"
You: "Gosh- I don't know! I don't text very much, certainly when I'm with other people. Are you saying your kids do this? What do you think is going on?"
Lulu: Yeah, but then you end up having to have a boring conversation about texting. "Yeah. Uh-huh. I guess when you grow up with a technology, it doesn't seem strange to you." "Yeah, I find it rude when people text other people while talking to me, too." "It's good for some situations."
Ashley: Or you could answer with the ever-popular "I dunno, why do all old people smell funny?"
Lulu: Well, you'd have to text them that. "Hold on." (pulls out phone)
And now it's today! Maybe now we can escape the vicious circle where we don't post because there is too much catching-up to do. Nothing can be done, however, about the problem where we don't post because we are lazy.