(WOMENSENEWS)– I recently attended a high school reunion. Amid the muted lighting and the lilting light rock soundtrack from the 1980s, we drank wine from plastic glasses and reminisced about days long past.
We spoke congenially of our careers, and our future hopes.
When those topics ran their natural courses, we did what we all longed to do; we dipped our toes into the deep, narrative well of our children. I was not prepared for what happened next. Two seemingly innocuous words, “teenage daughter,” unleashed a torrent of sighs, gnashing of teeth and the foreboding pronouncement, “I am sorry for you. I would never go through that again. Boys are so much easier!”
I should not have been surprised. I have been hearing variations of this since I was a teenager, but as a mother, I questioned why I should be pitied for having a teenage daughter.
Why are teenage boys easier? Social statistics certainly defy this logic. There are now more young women than men in college and more young men than women in juvenile detention. Compared to their female counterparts, teenage boys are more likely to abuse drugs, to be victims of a violent crime and to be infected by HIV. Male teen drivers are two times more likely to die in car accidents than female teens. And so on.
If cold rationality could not convince detractors that they should not fear teenage daughters, I reasoned it must be an emotional issue.
When pressed to explain the male preference, my reunion friends most often mentioned that daughters are a concern because they have “so much more to lose than boys” (code for getting pregnant). Further, they argued that teenage girls fill a house with drama and that much vaunted teenage girl “attitude.”
Admittedly, if one considers how teen girls are presented in this culture, it is indeed, a terrifying world full of “mean girls,” predators in white vans and a fashion industry apparently influenced by those men in white vans.
In just two years my 16-year-old could star in a Hollywood film as the love interest to a man three times her age, and inexplicably it would be considered normal. If I let my emotions run wild, I do get scared about what could lurk out there in the wide world, and yet, when I look at my teenage daughter and her friends, I don’t feel afraid.
I see girls who are smart and funny and charming. These are our future presidents, doctors, teachers and soldiers. Why is there a disconnect between this reality and what we hear so much about?
Let’s examine the logic of the two main charges I heard against them: pregnancy and the attitude.
The rate of teen pregnancy is falling, but to be sure, it is still the girls, not the males, who get counted in these statistics. So it’s safe to say that yes, pregnancy is more of a concern if your teen is female and not male. Granted.
But what about attitude? Teenage girls do seem to express themselves more than teenage boys (who actually appear to say very little at all in my experience). The attitude may be rooted in the notion that when you need to be heard the most, you speak the loudest. If their speech is accompanied by dramatic emphasis, so be it. Teenage girls must have a voice lest they lose who they are and begin to believe what our culture tells them they are.
I say keep making yourselves heard, girls. In the meantime, I will shout from the rooftops that I am happy to have a teenage daughter.
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