I remember disgracing ourselves somehow or other at a Catholic Church “Confirmation” Retreat. I mean, as a group — not individually and surely I was not party to it in any significant way. I don’t remember how, though. It was such that my assholian History teacher mocked it the following Monday.
What I remember with more clarity was that four of us — whatshisname and “That Guy” and “That Guy”‘s girlfriend and I — walking off in and in some rooms we weren’t particularly supposed to, and Whatshisname and I having to gingerly back away when the other two started making out. Nothing too notable about it, I suppose, except to suggest that this the Moment of Conception did not happen thereabouts, as she gave birth … 18 months later? (A long term relationship in teenage terms, I suppose.)
The uproar over the “Pregnancy Pact” in that small Massachusetts village serves as a harbinger of a Moral Panic, and the line we get rippling out of it skews toward “we’re making it too easy for teenage moms” (the Daycare center attached to the school), “Hollywood is glamorizing teenage pregnancy” (Does Juno really do that?), we’ve let the stigma of teenage pregnancy lapse (Bring back good old fashioned shame). It’s been some years since the rate of teenage rate had been going down, and now the added elements to the equation: Sham of Sex Education and decaying Economic situation.
Whatever the hand-wringing, when it happens you are sort of forced with the physical reality of a teenage mom, somewhere around there a teenage dad (you would hope), and a baby– all of which society is best served navigating to a productive place. The contradiction hit me while sitting in my Journalism class and listening to my brash fellow student opin on the matter of teenage pregnancy and social mores and the annoyance of the contradiction where a girl gets a “bad reputation” then gets pregnant and everyone coos at the product of that “bad reputation” — a Whiplash, perhaps, a snap readjustment. So I watched the teacher nod in agreement with these sentiments. And then, a few days later, I watched this dynamic play out where that recently birthed teenage girl was roaming the halls of school, I suppose a home-coming of sorts, recently born baby in tow. And she walked in and the teacehr’s reaction was the pleasant “see the baby” you would expect. I thought this was an interesting experiment, which was to watch the “Brash Opinionated Student”‘s expression. Stiff upper lip, not terribly veiled contempt, terse greeting, awkward fidgeting until not so much she left but until her Moral Position of not coddling the teen mom from the part of the teacher would end. I almost wanted to ask to hold the baby, just to make her ever more uncomfortable — but like most things I let that lie. (Incidentally, why would she have a “bad reputation” — she, and he from what I can tell, were monogamous, right?)
The father was a curious test case, and I suppose one can say at least he’s around. First there was the odd spectacle of a sort of bonding connection being made between him and a teacher over child rearing. I learned there that you should not try to calm your crying baby down to sleep by simply driving around as serves as a crux you will have to break eventually as your child becomes addicted to those particular rhythms. Everything I know about that foreign sphere of Child Rearing I learned by listening to those conversations.
Mostly though the Father was aggrivating — easily sliding into one liners mocking his place as a teenage parent and not adequately ridding himself of his standard adolescent teenage impulsiveness. He was inappropriately irreverant, going off on an ironic tangeant against “Kids having kids” to a substitute teacher who did not know he was a teenage father. I suppose he had that luxury of remaining immature apart from his time with the baby, which the mother does not. The group of teenage mothers in Massachusetts, I presume, now have a crash course on how idiotic and childish the thought of “Raising them together” looks.
Hm… Yes, that Rhode Island middle school — another news item source of Moral Panic — had the right idea in stocking themselves up full of condoms. And telling everyone to keep their legs together, naturally, contradictory as those messages may be.