Monday, September 29, 2008

Too much information...or too little?

I think the Luann strip from Sunday, September 28, is appropriate. I assume TMI is text-talk for Too Much Information...? Unfortunately, there isn't too much information when it comes to talking about sex.

The world is a different place and a lot more tolerant than when I grew up in the late '50s and early '60s, and the stigma of unmarried girls getting pregnant has mostly disappeared. That's why a woman with a 17-year-old pregnant daughter can run for Vice President. It could not have happened in the 1960s.

When I was a teenager what sometimes happened to girls who got pregnant was that they suddenly disappeared, with a cover story: "She's gone to live with her aunt in Iowa for a few months." Uh huh. Everyone knew that was code talk. The girl would show up a few months later and that would be that. We all knew she'd had a baby but no one was asking because the most likely scenario was that the baby was adopted before it was born. That was one way of handling it; the other was to have the young man "do the right thing" and marry her, which is what happened to a couple of friends of mine. When I was a teenager we accepted those two ways of handling a teen pregnancy without thinking much of it. Unless we were one of the principals in the drama, that is.

It was in the days before abortion was legal, and even so some young girls had illegal abortions, and nowadays I'm sure there are a lot more who terminate pregnancy that way.

By the time I started working for the school district in the 1970s most of the older social rules had been displaced. Even 30 years ago some girls who got pregnant were opting to keep their babies. We had a program called Young Mothers, now called Young Parents--to make the young fathers more involved--but it's still mainly mothers. Then, as it's always been, a lot of fathers are absent from the girls' and babies' lives. What surprised me was that in 1976 it was housed in two classrooms in an old elementary school. In one classroom were 6th graders, and right next door there was a nursery, then next door to that a classroom for the young moms. Some of the girls carrying babies didn't look much older than the girls in the 6th grade, and I wonder if that caused problems. Over the years the program has been moved several times. It's found a home now, in its own building, but it needs it, because there are always more than enough young pregnant girls, and recent moms, to fill the classrooms and nurseries.

I guess there isn't a solution to any of this unless you were to implant an IUD into a young woman just before puberty and remove it when she gets married. If you think there's a cry about abortion you'd hear an even louder howling should something like that be proposed. People don't like to mess with their reproductive freedoms, but those freedoms sometimes have a high price. Ask Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, whose pregnancy is at as high a price as you can pay.

Teaching children about sex and what can happen is preferable to ignorance and finding out firsthand what can happen. But then, your daughter doesn't have sex, does she? Your young man keeps it in his pants, doesn't he? Sure. Just keep thinking that, but lay in a supply of diapers while you're at it.

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