September 12, 2013

An Open Letter to Today’s Teenaged Girls.

Photo: Teresa Delcambre on Pixoto.

Girls are not the worldly little seductresses that some might think they are, being corrupted by whoever the “villain of the month” happens to be.

Dear Teenaged Girls,

For the past few years, I have been honored to be around many of you, both professionally and personally.

Overall, I like you all a lot. Lest anyone think I’m romanticizing you, I am not. Some of you can be mean from time to time. Sometimes I roll my eyes in exasperation when you’d rather be staring at a smartphone than listening to me (or any other adult for that matter).

Sometimes your celebrity crushes and obsessions make me think, “That’s so childish!” but then I remember: you are still children.

Okay, you’re not babies, but you still have a lot of growing up to do.

Some of you may look and sound like grown women, but you aren’t.

You may be asking why I am addressing this letter only to the girls and not the boys. After all, aren’t there mean boys? Many of them certainly need to grow up and when is the last time you have seen a teenaged boy who acts like a grown man? In fact do they even exist or are they only myths, like unicorns?

These are all valid points, but I am addressing this specifically to you girls because it seems that whenever the media decides to jump on the “this-generation-is-going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket” bandwagon, they overwhelmingly point to you as the supposed drum majors leading this merry march to hell.

Do you think I am joking?

I am sure you’ve all watched Miley Cyrus at the VMAs a few weeks ago or looked at the clip online the following day.  Granted, Ms. Cyrus is 20 and not technically a teenager anymore (I know how literal many of you tend to be) but it is amazing how one might think she killed someone rather than give an awkward, poorly-choreographed performance on a cable TV network.

Maybe some of you remember reading The Scarlet Letter in freshman English and agree with me that if scarlet letters were being handed out, it’s pretty safe to say that some adults would have loved to see one branded on Ms. Cyrus and even would have offered to hold the brand.

Even if you’re rolling your eyes and you think Miley Cyrus is so over, then consider the recent case in the Wales where a judge let a 41 year old man walk free despite the man admitting that he had sex with a 13 year old girl on the grounds that the girl—not the man—was a “sexual predator.”

If you’re not familiar with that one, then you’ve probably heard about the one in Montana where a teacher was found guilty of raping his former student and the judge in that case sentenced that man to a mere 30 days in jail saying that the now-deceased girl (who was 14 at the time it happened) was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist and was “older than her chronological age.”

Sadly, these are far from the only cases out there. They just happened to be the ones you heard about because they were picked up by the media.

The truth is, you girls are not the worldly little seductresses that some might think you are, being corrupted by Miley Cyrus, the internet or whoever else the “villain of the month” happens to be. You still have one foot firmly planted in childhood and when an adult takes advantage of you, they, not you are the ones at fault.

In fact, in light of some recent statistics, it seems the majority of you are pretty far-removed from the stereotypes I mentioned. Recent reports show that the teenaged birth rate is at an all-time low. Around 47 percent of you are reporting that you are sexually activity which means that the majority of you are still virgins.

While some of you may be having sex while you’re still teenagers, let me let you in you a secret: you aren’t the first nor will you be the last to do so.

Teenagers have been doing it outside of marriage since the dawn of time. My own mother, who was born in 1944 and came of age in the “just swell” 50s, has tales of girls “getting in trouble” and being whisked away to special homes where they were forced to give their babies up for adoption. Some even had back alley abortions and ended up in the hospital or dead.

Indeed, I probably wouldn’t be here if not for the fact that her mother—who was born in 1916—had sex outside of marriage and was forced to marry.

Likewise, I also went to schools with girls who became pregnant. They weren’t “bad” girls. Rather, they were  overwhelmingly normal, everyday girls.

The fact is, you will make mistakes.

You will probably experiment with sex, alcohol, etc., while you are still in your teens. Don’t think that you won’t have regrets or that regrets are necessarily a bad thing.

As someone once said,

“A life without regrets is a sign of a boring life.”

I’ve been around enough of you (from all walks of life) to say that the vast majority of you aren’t doing anything that my or other generations did not do. The only difference is, we didn’t have camera phones and social media with the potential to document every single one of our stupid moves. If we had, though, then I bet very few of us would say we ever Facebooked/Tweeted/Intstagramed something we didn’t later regret.

Heck, I even know some adults that are older than me, and who should know better, who have done that.

While I don’t mean to downplay the potential risks and consequences of this and other risky behaviors, cut yourself some slack. Short of killing someone, most things can be dealt with.

The truth is, I chose to work with you and be around you as a group because over all, I really like you.

I admire your overall goodness, your optimism, and the dichotomy that many of you show between angsty, jaded teen and hopefully optimistic young adult.

So many of you still have that child-like sense of wonder and a belief in the power of one individual or a small group of individuals to save the world. As an adult, I am both in awe and in envy of that optimism. While I know that many of you will lose that when you get to be my age, I hope some of you will keep that for the rest of your (hopefully) long lives.

In closing, please focus on all the things you have going for you.

Contrary to what some may say about you all, as a group you are not “bad” kids, you don’t need rescuing, and most of you are going to be just fine as long as you continue to keep your feet on the ground.

However, do allow yourself to occasionally let your head reach for the stars.

All the best,

Kimberly, a.k.a. a former teenaged girl.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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