Pregnancy Pacts, And Other Stupid Decisions

26 02 2010

In the summer of 2008, 17 girls at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts turned up pregnant– more than four times the average number of pregnancies in previous years at the 1200-student school.  School officials and reporters across the nation began to speculate that the girls got pregnant on purpose, particularly after the school nurse noticed that girls were flooding into the school clinic to take pregnancy tests and acting more upset when they received “negative” results than positive.

On June 18, reporter Kathleen Kingsbury made a big splash at Time Magazine when she published an article claiming that the girls had confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together.  The high-school fathers, obviously, were not in on the pact, and were all very dismayed to hear that not only had they been manipulated as part of this master scheme, but that they were likely to be paying child support for life and facing charges of statutory rape for having sex with minors. Whoops– bet the sex wasn’t worth it!

Anyway, I remember being captivated by the story when this article came out after a string of movies that glamorized teen and accidental pregnancies– Juno and Knocked Up to name a few– and wondering whether Hollywood had anything to do with this high school pregnancy boom.  So a few weeks ago, when the made-for-TV Lifetime movie called “Pregnancy Pact” aired, I was sitting on my couch with a biiiig bowl of popcorn and a smile.

My curiosity about these girls and their idiotic decision was insatiable, and the movie did not disappoint.  It followed the girls from the initial stages of making the pact to peeing on a stick at the guidance counselor’s office, to drinking til they passed out at a graduation party when they realized their boyfriends didn’t want the babies as much as they did (uh… duh.).

I had SO much fun watching this movie, in fact, that my friend Ashley and I spent the entire next day watching a marathon of the reality show “Teen Mom” on MTV.  Here’s a clip of Farrah fighting with her parents over the fact that she wants a social life despite the fact that she has a 9-month old to take care of.

If that didn’t steer you teenagers away from getting pregnant, here’s a clip that will, from MTV’s other reality series, “16 and Pregnant”:

Yea– that’s why you don’t let a 16-year-old knock you up, dumbass.  I can’t even believe Nikkole slept with that guy in the first place, much less wanted him in the hospital room while she was in LABOR. What a little twirp.  I would punch him in face if I saw him on the street.

My hope for these shameless reality series is that they shake a little sense into modern teenage girls by showing them the reality of actually being huge for 9 months, then pushing a 9-lb. baby out of a hole the size of a sand dollar, and then having to actually raise a person with or without the help of your idiot quarterback boyfriend.

As to the issue of why I find these shows so personally entertaining– well, I really don’t know.

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Marriage: How Young is Too Young?

24 02 2010

It is generally accepted in today’s society (and with today’s divorce rate) that it’s preferable to take as much time as possible to choose a life partner, especially in urban areas chock full of young professionals.  Conventional wisdom tells us to wait on marriage, take our late teens and early twenties to get to know ourselves, develop our careers, learn to live on our own and “sow our wild oats” before marching down the aisle.

But in an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal a couple weeks ago, 23-year-old David Lapp makes the case for marrying young.  He married his wife Amber when she was 21 and he was 22, much to the chagrin of their parents.  The two self-described “college-educated, professionally aspiring young adults in New York” bucked the social script of waiting on marriage, despite the fact that both still had college debt to pay off and neither had a lucrative job.

Lapp writes:

“Social scientists frequently note that “early marriage” is the No. 1 predictor of divorce. Additionally, the average student graduating today has about $23,000 in debt, and money problems don’t exactly help a marriage. It’s not surprising, then, that many young couples hook up and shack up instead of tying the knot. The median age at marriage today is 28 for men and 26 for women.

So what’s a young couple, in love and committed, to do? Was our decision to marry in our early 20s shortsighted and irresponsible?

First, let’s take a closer look at that term “early marriage.” While it’s true that teenage marriages are a significant predictor of divorce, it turns out that marriages of people in their early to mid-20s are not nearly as much at risk. According to a 2002 report from the Centers for Disease Control, 48% of people who enter marriage when under age 18, and 40% of 18- and 19-year-olds, will eventually divorce. But only 29% of those who get married at age 20 to 24 will eventually divorce—very similar to the 24% of the 25-and-older cohort. In fact, Hispanics who marry between the ages of 20 and 24 actually have a greater likelihood of marital success (31% chance of divorce) than those who first marry at age 25 and older (36% chance of divorce).

Further, a recent study by family scholars at the University of Texas finds that people who wed between the ages of 22 and 25, and remained married to those spouses, went on to experience the happiest marriages. While the authors caution against suggesting that 22 to 25 is the optimal marrying age for everyone, their finding does suggest that ‘little or nothing is likely to be gained by deliberately delaying marriage beyond the mid twenties.'”

First of all, I really have a problem with using any kind of statistic to determine the relative success or failure or happiness quotient of a marriage.  “People who wed between the ages of 22 and 25…went on to experience the happiest marriages.”  How do they know that?  Happiness is so subjective.  If you ask me on a given day whether I’m happy in life, my answer will be tainted by the kind of hair day I’m having, whether I’m feeling challenged enough at my job, what the weather is like outside and how bloated I feel from having eaten an entire bowl of overly-salted popcorn the night before.

Also, whom are they asking?  My parents are married, but as far as I know, nobody has ever knocked on their door and asked them to rate their happiness quotient.  In fact, I don’t know any married couples whose relative happiness has been surveyed.   Obviously, a divorce rate is measurable and it denotes the failure of a marriage.  But a lack of divorce doesn’t necessarily suggest a successful or happy marriage, and I think it could be argued that a number of people who married very young in our parents generation because it was the “thing to do” stayed in their marriages because that was also the “thing to do,” despite the fact that one of two parties turned out to be gay or a cheater or just unhappy in general.

I also have a problem with the study Lapp quoted as saying that “little is to be gained from deliberately delaying marriage beyond the mid-twenties.” On that contrary, I think for a lot of people, there is much to be gained.  When I was 21, I was still convinced that I was in love with someone who had zero romantic interest in me at all, and I had the “ew, boys” attitude about anyone who did.  I was insecure, I had never had a full-time job, and I had never experienced what it was like to actually enjoy being single and on my own.  I look back on those times and laugh at the person I was in terms of emotional maturity, and I can only imagine the kind of person I would have chosen to marry at that stage in my life.  He would have been really good looking, probably, and a real asshole too.

I’m not saying everyone is like me, and I know a few people that did marry young and have been successful in their marriages so far, and I applaud those people.  But I think it would require a great deal of work and a great deal of luck for two 21-year-olds to get married and just happen to grow and develop in the same direction, navigating their careers and their maturing ideas of what they want out of life.  It seems like a “fingers-crossed” kind of situation, unless you’re the kind of person who really, really knew what you wanted and who you were at a young age.  Throwing a bunch of statistics at people and citing the success in your own young marriage does not make a strong argument for early marriage in general.

Lapp writes:

“As focused as we young adults are on self-development, what if the path to that development is actually learning to live with and love another person? We may be startled to find that the greatest adventure lies not in knowing oneself as much as in knowing and committing to another person. Sure, freedom is great—but as John Paul II reminded us, ‘Freedom exists for the sake of love.'”

Again, I disagree.  Relationships do promote self-development, but I don’t think they can outright replace the kind of self-development and introspection you experience by learning to live on your own.  The advantage of waiting to marry is that you can have your cake and eat it too– you will learn to live with and love another person, but you will do so after you’ve learned to live with and love yourself.  Ick, I’m starting to sound like a self-help book.  Moving on now.

In conclusion, I enjoyed Lapp’s article and I’m thrilled for him that he married young and “beat the odds” (although he hasn’t even been married a year…so… I guess we’ll check back with him in 2012?).  But I don’t find his argument for marrying young compelling.  I think he’s the exception, not the rule.

What do you guys think? Does he have a point? Do you buy his marriage statistics?





This is Why I Watch the Winter Olympics

23 02 2010

What do you think they’re saying in their wardrobe consultations?

Johnny Weir: “I want to look like a gay popsicle, dipped into a sweaty NBA jersey and then clawed by a tiger.”

Michal Brezina: “For this routine, I’m thinking underage caddy prostitute in pink.”

Tomas Verner: “I really wanted my costume to resemble a normal man’s outfit, but I just can’t resist this cherry red sailor scarf.”

Evgeny Plushenko: “You make the red sequin vest, my mullet will take care of the rest.”





Would you have been a hippie?

22 02 2010

The Cast of "Hair"

I saw “Hair” on Broadway this past weekend with my parents.  The music was great– “Age of Aquarius” is one of my favorite songs, and it was cool to see it dramatized live.  The play itself was ok.  It isn’t really story-driven so much as it is a snapshot of the extreme hippie culture of the late 60s.  Two minutes into the play, the main character had taken his pants off and was teabagging (aka dipping his balls onto the head of) one of the lucky front-row audience members.  The entire cast was pretty much making out and humping each other throughout the play, and just before intermission they dropped all their clothes on stage and faced the audience, buck naked.

There was plenty of pot smoking, of course, and plenty of hippie lingo.  The white cast members had long, wild hair, and the black actors had afros.  They all hopped around like mental patients, slapping the ground and licking each other and shouting unintelligible exclamations about freedom and love.  One of them gets drafted for Vietnam, and they all stage a “love-in,” where they dance around in technicolor outfits and burn their draft cards.

Now, I’ve seen the “hippie” thing dramatized before.  I saw Dazed and Confused, Forest Gump and footage from Woodstock.  I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what hippies were like, and I understand the historical significance of the movement.  But this play took the character of the hippie to a new level.  They were downright insufferable.  I thought I was going to leap onto the stage and punch one of the guys in the face if he acted like a psychologically unstable freak for one more second.

I thought that surely these hippie characters had been exaggerated for the stage, so I asked my Mom.  “That wasn’t what they were really like, right?  They weren’t that nuts.”

“No, that’s pretty much what they were like,” she said.  “They were obnoxious, but they had to be, or they wouldn’t have gotten heard.”

Assuming my mom is right, I have to wonder: If I had been living in the late 60s, and my friends and brothers were getting drafted for a war I didn’t believe in, would I have grown my hair down to my butt and started taking hallucinogens and babbled all day about peace and love and the universe?  Would I have attended sit-ins and danced around naked and stopped taking showers?

I guess what bothered me the most about the hippies in the play is that they were just militantly counter-culture– whatever it was that was normal to do, they wanted to do the opposite.  How is that useful?  I’m not a champion of normalcy or pop-culture, but I also don’t understand how it’s productive to position your entire life and personality as a reaction to that.  Why not just be yourself, like the things you like and dislike the things you dislike?  The hippie movement was such a dramatic production.  Even if there was an important motivating cause behind it, it was still just a social trend that people were buying into.  Can’t you hold strong opinions on the war and protest the draft without eating mushrooms and wagging your genitalia around in public?

I guess, retrospectively, it’s easy to say how you would have behaved during any particular historical social movement.  What if you were a German during the Holocaust?  Would you have hidden Jews in your basement? Everyone would like to say yes, but based on the statistics, most people would actually not have done that.

I’d like to say that I would have struck some kind of a balance in the 60’s.  I’d be a peaceful protester, minus the obnoxious hippie affectations.  But who really knows?  I definitely would have had a sick record collection.





Rattlesnake: It’s What’s for Breakfast.

16 02 2010

Part of my job lately is to round up interesting/tragic stories of former middle class families who are now slipping into poverty as a result of the recession.  In an article I wrote a couple weeks ago featuring a couple of these families, I put a little note in the introduction asking people to email me their own stories.

As a result, I’ve spent the entire past week combing through hundreds of the most depressing e-mails you could ever imagine. “I lost my job, my husband left me, my child got the plague and my dog got run over by a truck, all in the same day.”

E-mails like that.  E-mails that make me want to pour steaming hot coffee in my eyeballs and jump out the window of my office building.

But today I received one that caught my eye.  This guy Jeff wrote me a very upbeat, optimistic e-mail describing his turn from middle class to homeless.  His story is similar to the others– he had a 2-story house, a deck, a pool, his own business.  Business plummeted, he lost his house, couldn’t find a job, and now he, his wife, and his two young boys are living in a mobile home, moving from city to city in search of work.

I liked his attitude in the e-mail, and I had a feeling he might have some interesting stories to tell, so I gave him a call.  “How do you cope?” I asked him.  “How do your kids cope?  How do you feed them?”

“Oh we do just fine,” he tells me, “My kids see it as an adventure.  Last week, a giant rattlesnake actually slithered up to the campground.  Since I’m not receiving a paycheck, I figured, What the hell?  So I speared it, roasted it, and fed it to my 3-yr-old for breakfast.  Real depression-era shit.  But he’ll be all the better for it.”

“What do you mean he’ll be better for it?” I ask him.

“Well, my grandfather grew up during the Great Depression,” he says, “And he’s a bad-ass old man.  He eats moldy pizza.  He’s the hardest working mother-f*cker you’ll ever meet.  And he doesn’t take a damn thing for granted.  That’s how my kids will be, and I’m proud to say so.”

You know, this is something I hadn’t thought about.  How is the next generation going to be affected by this depression?  How are we going to be different, having experienced such a ridiculous unemployment level at this crucial time in our lives?  Will we be more careful with our money?  Will we be penny-pinchers?  Will our kids be less spoiled than many of us were? Will they be stronger, harder working?

Talking to this man was enlightening, despite the fact that he was a little bit nuts.  I think I’d be a little nuts too if I were stuck living in a camper with my entire family for over a year, eating rattlesnakes for breakfast.  Can you imagine?  But he’s really got such a positive attitude.  He didn’t complain once.  I was practically begging him to complain, you know, for the pathos element of my article, but he refused.  He kept calling his situation an “adventure” and assuring me that it could be worse.

Jeff is currently on his way to Austin to try to make it as a blues singer.  It’s a long shot, but maybe he’ll succeed.  And you know what?  He’s probably right about his 3-yr-old… that kid is going to be a bad-ass.





Free as the Winds and the Dolphins

16 02 2010

For the record, if I were a D-list celebrity, I would not write the following Valentines Day poem to my husband and post it to my Facebook and Twitter accounts for the world to read:

Um, wow.  Thanks….. for sharing?

I read in an article on Jezebel that Heidi had actually written this, but I needed to see for myself, so I visited her Facebook and Twitter pages to confirm.  Sure enough, she posted the poem for all of her 88,058 Facebook “fans” and over a million Twitter followers to read.

Here’s why this is interesting to me, because I’m sure many of you are wondering: I’m a writer.  I write this blog, I have a twitter account, and I also write for a high-traffic website.  Every time I post something that I know a number of people are going to read, whether it’s a 20-character tweet or a 3-page investigative article, I agonize over it before making it public.  Are there any spelling or grammar errors?  Is this going to be funny or interesting to anyone besides myself?  Do I come off as a huge douchebag? Dumb?  Dull?  Racist?  Is there a better adjective I could have used right there?

But Heidi, whose inexplicable celebrity grows by the day, seems to have no qualms about publicly posting the worst, most profoundly terrible love poem I’ve ever read in my life without even proofreading it.  Her husband’s name is “Spencer,” not “Specer.”  Did she really not even glance over this poem before posting it to Facebook and Twitter?

I guess what’s most confusing to me is the fact that she obviously cares enormously about public opinion– she paid tens of thousands of dollars to have some doctor butcher her into the ultimate Playboy bunny to boost her album sales– but where is that intense self-doubt when she really needs it?

Also, isn’t it a little strange how she comes off in this poem as the most pious, God-fearing Quaker bohemian that ever existed?  “We are as free as the winds and the dolphins.”  No, you’re not– you just had your ears surgically pinned back and your back muscles carved out.  You are not exactly the Statue of Liberty, you delusional quack.

I mean, if Heidi Montag wants to embark on a new career as a poet, far be it for me to discourage her.  I guess it’s just kind of fascinating from an anthropological standpoint.  There are people in the world that have a little bit too much shame and self-respect to post weird, personal love poems to the internet without proofreading them, and then there are people like Heidi Montag.

“With your arm around me we are buckled in for the flight.”  Well make up your mind Heidi, are you free like the winds and the dolphins, or are you buckled into a metaphorical airplane seat next to your domineering husband?

I can’t talk about this anymore, I’m going to break out in hives.





Crappy Valentines Day

11 02 2010

I always get a kick out of Valentines Day.  No one I know has ever admitted to liking it– I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say that Valentines Day is a meaningless, corporate-created, consumer-driven holiday, and that he/she prefers to be romantic on every other day when it’s less expected.

Be honest– that’s not why you hate Valentines Day.  You hate it because A) you are single, B) you are dating someone who hates it and don’t want to get your hopes too high, or C) you were one of those kids that never got a Valentine at school.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just as corporate-created and consumer-driven as Valentines Day, but I never hear anyone complaining about how dumb those holidays are.  That’s because those holidays don’t make you feel like a loser.

Valentines Day always made me feel like a loser.  I went to an all-girls high school, so it was an extra big deal when a boy went out of his way to send a girl flowers.  Some girls could count on receiving flowers from one or multiple boys every year.  The bouquet would arrive with a cute little note in it, and we would all stand around ogling it, green with envy, while she acted like it was no big deal because Gross, he’s my neighbor, and he’s had a crush on me for like, forever.

The only gift I ever received from a boy in high school was a Chipper Jones keychain on my sixteenth birthday, because I had apparently mentioned one time that I thought he was hot.

Chipper Jones

How romantic.

Girls like me who were conditioned to measure our self-worth by the amount of valentines we received on February 14 will always have a little bit of a complex.  We hate Valentines Day, and we fully realize how dumb it is, but at the same time, we are secretly disappointed when our boyfriends fail to acknowledge the day altogether. In fact, I would venture to say that all girls, especially the ones who vehemently proclaim they don’t care, still hope deep down for some form of valentine.

So, in case you’re scrambling for a last-minute card for your “too cool for Valentines Day” significant other this year (and E-bay is out of Chipper Jones key-chains), here are a few great ideas, courtesy of SomeEcards.com:

And my personal favorite:

Happy Valentines Day all!