Monday, December 1, 2008

Passport 2 Teen Pregnancy, Part Deux

Awhile back I wrote about some concerns I had about spending the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday with Boyfriend's family. You can read all about it here, but it you're anything like me, you generally don't follow the links back because you're a lazy sonofabitch. So I will be really nice and sum it up for you: Boyfriend has an Aunt and Uncle, with two daughters, Cute Cousins 1 and 2 (CC1 and 2). They are some sort of crazy Southern Baptist, from a VERY southern state. This year, CC1 is 12, and Aunt is doing an abstinence-only sex ed with her called Passport2Purity.

Boyfriend and I are quite concerned about this abstinence-only sex ed, for all of the reasons illuminated in my last entry (I know you didn't click the link, jerk). So we had talked about it and decided that if the opportunity arose, it would benefit CC1 to give her our perspective on sex (that it's AWESOME).

Ha! No, that would be age-inappropriate (that talk doesn't come until next year). We just wanted to let her know that A) She should ALWAYS seek either birth control pills and condoms if and when she decides to have sex, without shame or embarrassment and B) It's totally okay if you decide to have sex, so don't think that you're any less of a person (this is an especially important message if she gets molested or raped. Not that it's okay to be raped, but that it won't devalue her in any way).

We got to spend about two full days with this branch of Boyfriend's family. There were about 14 people in the house, so we figured that we probably wouldn't get a chance to talk to CC1 (although I was just dying to say something). On the last night of her visit, I went to call my mom privately in the basement, and CC1 sort of wandered in after me and was hanging around. I figured this was about the only chance I would ever get, so I said good-bye to my mom and went to talk to CC1.

Basically, we only got a little bit of time. I started by asking her about her Passport2Purity trip, and if it was embarrassing ("Yes!") Then I asked her if her mom told her about birth control or condoms on the trip. Of course not. This pisses me off. You take a whole fucking weekend to talk about sex with your kid and you can't include something about birth control or STD prevention? Are you fucking kidding me?

So I went for it and gave her my spiel about THESE ARE WHAT BIRTH CONTROL PILLS LOOK LIKE AND SWEAR TO GOD YOU WILL USE THESE AND CONDOMS WHEN YOU HAVE SEX (I hope it came off less desperate than that). I also got in some bit about how they aren't bad and she shouldn't be ashamed or scared to buy them, and the pills don't kill babies and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Then she got called upstairs for something. When whoever called her was done, she ran right back down to talk to me more. She seriously had a ton of questions, and she was super curious. Boyfriend figured out what I was doing and joined me to talk to her. We got a few more things in before we got interrupted and had to postpone the convo for later. Unfortunately, we didn't get another chance to talk to her alone (There were three other kids in the house and I swear we were like some sort of crack to them). So when she left the next morning I told her she could email us anytime she wanted to talk.

But wait, there's more.

We left on Sunday, by train (we're so old-fashioned, by which I mean "too cheap for plane tickets"). Two hours into the train ride, Boyfriend's phone rings. Sure enough, it's Aunt. CC1 spilled. Aunt asked for me (as an "outsider," I am naturally the main culprit). She wasn't very happy, to say the least. Well, no shit, I did undermine her parenting strategy. So I sat through a thorough telling-off. Looking back on it, I remember sitting in the train seat talking on the phone, quite upright. But then I could feel my spine slowly melting and swaying as it slowly turned into some sort of gelatinous goo. And just like that, I lost any nerve to actually debate Aunt on her choice of sex ed. Instead I spent the phone call telling her that I was "sorry for offending" and "respected her decisions."

I think that my yellow-bellied response was the right thing to do, for the sake of family harmony. First of all, I knew what I was doing in terms of undermining Aunt's parenting. I know what a big problem that is, and yes, I had considered how I would feel as a parent if someone did something like that to me. So I feel conflicted about our decision to talk to CC1. But what I've ultimately concluded is that in this case, CC1's health and well-being is at stake. CC1 is unlikely to hear this information from her school (VERY southern state, if I haven't made that clear enough already) or her parents. And anyone with their head NOT up their ass knows that abstinence-only sex ed has significantly higher rates of teen pregnancy and STDs than comprehensive sex-ed. So if Boyfriend and I can do ANYTHING to get the information that she needs and deserves to protect herself as she gets older, then we will. I knew going into it that CC1 was likely to tell Aunt. And I knew that I was risking some serious family Drama.
So bowing to Aunt's almighty sense of indignation was the least price we could pay, I think, for the potential to help CC1 avoid a lot of nasty troubles.

It really could have gone worse, I think. Aunt could have completely cut us off from speaking to her daughters, which would have been too painful. Instead, she did a very "Christian" (or just plain nice) thing, which was to tell us that she loved and forgave us (whether she really feels that way is questionable. But it was nice to hear it, rather than ex-communicating us from her family).

Aunt also said a few things on the phone that bugged the shit out of me, which I failed to argue (harmony, harmony). She made the comment that "I wasn't ready to talk about this with her." Oh really? YOU weren't ready? Because I think what actually matters is whether your DAUGHTER is ready. And she seemed pretty fucking ready to hear about it to me. Plus, if you are going to have a whole weekend to talk about fucking, then you had BETTER be ready to discuss any and all aspects of it. Aunt also noted that CC1 is "12, not 14" to illustrate that she is "too young" to hear all this. Sorry, I fucking disagree. 12 is the PERFECT age to know this. Know why? Because it's old enough to comprehend, but (hopefully) before the need to practice. So when she IS 14 she's already armed. Also, she may not be having sex now, but that shit happens fast. I mean really. I think I decided I wanted to finally have sex in about two weeks' time. And if I hadn't known anything about birth control or condoms BEFORE then, I imagine that I would have figured I would be just fine without them (you can't get pregnant or STDs from just one time/if you pull out/ if you do it in the ass, right?). Not to mention that CC1 isn't some delicate fucking snowflake. Her head won't explode if she hears those words at 12. My middle school started sex ed in grade 6. Frankly, waiting until 12 is a bit generous, in my opinion.

Aunt got pretty condescending when she told me that I am young, don't know anything, and will change my mind when I'm 45 with kids. Actually, no. I'm pretty fucking sure about this. Mostly because my reasoning is grounded in reality, while yours is grounded in your pastor's asshole. That's why future 6-year-old will fucking school you in the latest stats on birth control effectiveness.

Aunt also said that CC1 was "upset." Really? If anything, CC1 is probably confused, because two people she trusts suddenly told her the OPPOSITE of whatever crap her family and church feed her. But I highly doubt that she is "upset." She was curious. She had questions. She said that she wanted to talk more. She never indicated that the conversation made her uncomfortable or that she didn't want to talk about it. If that was the case, I wouldn't have talked to her.

The one thing I regret is that I did tell CC1 to not tell her mom that I told her these things. When I said that, I was particularly thinking that I didn't want CC1 to tell her mom personal details about MY sex life that I was sharing as an example (age I started on birth control, etc). Admittedly, I would have preferred if CC1 didn't say anything to Aunt at all, for the obvious reason that Aunt would be angry with me. Of course, this is how it came across to CC1, who has been taught that an adult should never tell her not to share something with her parents (which is a good lesson). So I was sorry that I said that, because it probably came off as shady to CC1. But I'm not a creeper, I swear.

Anyway, we think it's mostly over (until next holiday. This could be one of those things that drags on for years). I am sorry that Aunt (and probably Uncle) are upset and may not trust us with their daughters in the future. I am sorry that I intentionally undermined somebody's parenting. But I am NOT sorry, nor will I ever be, that I did what I could to give CC1 honest information for the sake of her reproductive health. I am NOT sorry that I gave her the idea that she CAN have sex if she is safe. I am NOT sorry that I told her that she should not be too ashamed or embarrassed to protect herself. In this case, CC1's right to health and safety trumps Aunt's right to insulate her daughter in an archaic purity bubble.

Boyfriend and I now joke that this is that historical holiday we tell our kids about when they ask why Daddy's family doesn't talk to us. Ah, memories.


Lucy said...

Sounds like you learned some life lessons this weekend too! Question, would you do exactly the same way all over again or would you change your approach at all?

Phoebe Caulfield said...

Good question. Like I said, I think that we ultimately did the best thing that we could, so yeah, I would do it again. If I could change anything, I wouldn't have said "don't tell your mom this" and I would have gotten the chance to say more. I wouldn't really say I learned a lesson. What this would have revealed to me I already knew. I just chose to ignore it.

White Trash Academic said...

I don't blame you on backing down on debating these issues with the Aunt. I am sure that I would also have apologized for offending and left it at that. Good for you though for making an effort! And, if she doesn't end up pregnant before her own choosing she might have you to thank!

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