The proliferation of sex

Dear Daughter,

Sex is everywhere.

It’s on TV, magazine covers, in movies, music… you can’t be in touch with the outside world and NOT see or hear something about sex, really. In just the past few years, it’s become one of the most (if not THE most) prolific topics in our culture.

It’s difficult for parents to know how to handle this. We need to be more vigilant than ever to monitor what you’re seeing and hearing. But sometimes our vigilance falls short, or we’re not cautious enough. Other times we’re straight-up paranoid. If we don’t make it to the radio dial in time to keep you from hearing Jessie J belt out, “I’m feeling sexy and free,” we worry that you’ll be messed up for life. Like you’ll be lying around a crack house someday saying, “If only I didn’t hear the ‘S’ word in that song Domino when I was 9, my life could have been different…”

So yeah, sometimes we parents go overboard in trying to shelter you. But for the most part, I don’t think we do enough. I know for a fact that I don’t do enough. I sometimes take for granted that you’re a kid and you don’t even notice that half the stuff you see and hear is inappropriate. I cling to the fact that you haven’t had the life experience to know whether or not something is wrong. But my denial is foolish. Because there are plenty of other times when you DO hear the “S” word and look at me to see if I noticed it too. Or you cover your eyes when you see a young couple kissing passionately on a TV show commercial (many of which are shown on ABC Family. “Family,” really? That station is one of the worst for playing adult-themed shows/films.)

The thing is, I can’t shelter you from the proliferation of sex completely, unless I were to take away TV, movies, music… school. It’s everywhere and really can’t be avoided. And it shouldn’t be avoided altogether because you need to learn how to make good decisions despite all the junk being thrown in your face. It IS my responsibility as a parent, however, to teach you the good from the bad. To try to keep the bad away while you are young and innocent, but also to establish a foundation of purity, self-esteem and confidence in you so that, when the bad does leak through, you won’t be deterred by it.

Sex is everywhere. And our culture likes to make you think it’s everything. But it doesn’t have to be, and it’s my job to teach you that.

Love,
Mom

The Celebrity Obsession Problem

Dear Daughter,

Last week, a famous singer named Whitney Houston died unexpectedly. She was young, beautiful and insanely talented, so her death is considered a tragic one. Especially because it appears drugs might have been the cause.

It’s always kind of conflicting when famous people die. Even though we’ve never met the person, we’re still shocked and saddened when we hear of their death. We feel some sense of mourning, but might feel a little dramatic doing so because after all, this person is technically a stranger. We have no right to grieve in the way that their family and friends do, yet they were a part of our life in some way, so it’s somewhat legitimate to be sad. Maybe the death of a superstar makes us think of our own mortality, or that of our loved ones. Perhaps what we’re really mourning is the loss of such great talent.

What bothers me, though, is how the media has handled celebrity deaths in the past few years. I try not to be a “hate the media” type because I’ve worked in the media and never liked the label people put on us. But seriously, this past week, it seemed every TV station, at every hour of the day, was airing coverage of Whitney Houston. It started to feel a little overboard after awhile. My cynical self couldn’t help but wonder: a) if it was all for the goal of higher profits, and b) what other important news we were missing because of it.

One of my friends, Garry De Vries, had a similar sentiment and recently posted a profound statement about it on Facebook. I asked him if I could share part of it with you:

I respect the dead and I respect that Whitney Houston needed her moment but what about the others?… Why don’t we take the time to flash EVERY fallen soldier’s name and picture the day they pass at the end of newscasts as a sign of respect. They died so people like Whitney can be free and become famous yet we do not honor them like we should. How about we keep the flag at full staff for celebrities and keep the honor of half staff for people who dedicated their lives to our country or lost it in the line of duty. How about we talk more about the soldiers who lost limbs and are in wheelchairs and how we can help them instead of Lindsey Lohan’s next court date for being a drug-addicted idiot. How about instead of the Real Housewives and their egotistical lives we have a show about the widows of soldiers and single mothers and wives of soldiers overseas and help them.

Garry’s statement really hit me because it revealed just how much value our culture (myself included) places on The Celebrity. For some reason, we’ve become obsessed with the comings and goings of the rich and famous, and oftentimes those comings and goings are superfluous, having no real impact on our daily life. And the people who truly are making a difference—soldiers, teachers, scientists—usually go unnoticed and are sometimes even dismissed. This dichotomy sadly shows just how shallow our culture really is.

That’s not to say that Whitney Houston’s death did not deserve attention, because it did. Most people agree that she is one of the best singers—if not THE best—of our time. She has influenced many young musicians who have gone on to have their own successful careers. And I personally have several fond memories of lip synching via hairbrush to Whitney’s music during my childhood years. Her life does deserve a tribute, but so do the lives of many other influential people who will never receive the recognition they’re due, let alone 24/7 coverage on every TV station.

All this to say, Daughter… don’t get too caught up in the celebrity obsession that our society holds so dearly. It’s fun to know a little bit about what’s going on in celebrities’ lives, but not when they’re held on a pedestal that stamps out the efforts of those who truly deserve the credit. Let’s help shift the priorities of our culture and start paying attention to the real heroes.

Love,
Mom

Why you don’t need fame to be special

Dear Daughter,

You don’t watch a ton of TV, but when you do, it’s usually tuned in to the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. The shows on these channels are fun, wholesome entertainment for kids, but there is definitely a pattern in them that makes me uncomfortable.

In almost every single show, at least one of the main characters is famous or has some sort of extraordinary talent. For example…

iCarly: Two high school girls host a web show that has millions of followers. And the main character, Carly, can sing.

Victorious: Tory is a drop dead gorgeous singer who attends a performing arts high school called Hollywood Arts. All of her friends can sing as well.

Sonny with a Chance: Sonny is a sweet Midwestern girl who moves to L.A. to star in a variety-type TV show. She, also, can sing.

Wizards of Waverly Place: A family of wizards tries to blend in with the real world but has a lot of mishaps doing so. The main character, played by Selena Gomez, can sing.

Big Time Rush: Four guys are selected to form a boy band and try to adjust to a new life of fame and fortune. Obviously, they can sing too.

Are you noticing a pattern here? While I think it’s great that Disney and Nickelodeon are discovering and raising up young talent, I don’t like that they’re doing so at the stake of impressionable children who are led to believe they’ll only be important if they have a good voice and/or become famous.

Daughter, I’m telling you now that there is probably a one in a gazillion chance you will become famous. Even if you had an amazing voice and acting ability, it’s not as easy to rise to stardom as Disney likes to make you believe. But I do want you to know that, even though you don’t have a web show or a variety TV show or are not a wizard, you are still extraordinary. You have the imagination that most people can only dream of, you are wise beyond your years, and you have a laugh that makes my heart sing. (And I’m pretty sure it sings better than Selena Gomez does.)

You don’t need fame and fortune to make you special. You’ve already become special on your own.

Love,
Mom

Why Snooki should not win a Teen Choice Award

I posted this at my other blog today, but I thought it was appropriate for this blog too. Read on…

This morning I saw that Snooki, of the reality show Jersey Shore, is nominated for a Teen Choice Award. This bothered me for a few reasons:

1) Her name is Snooki. Must I go on, really?

2) I actually kind of like Jersey Shore, I’m ashamed to admit, but I wouldn’t want my teenager watching it!

3) All Snooki does in that show is get drunk, sleep with men, make funny noises and eat pickles. And we’re giving her an award because…

I decided to go onto the Teen Choice Award website to see what, exactly, Snooki was nominated for. (Female Variety Star.) Turns out, the only way you can see the nominees is if you register. *rolls eyes* I almost didn’t go through with it, but as is my motivation behind watching Jersey Shore in the first place, I just couldn’t turn back at that point. It asked for my email address and birth date. When I clicked “Submit,” I received the following message:

“Sorry, you don’t fit the age requirements for voting.”

Ouch. I am officially too old to vote for the Teen Choice Awards. If that’s not a wakeup call, I don’t know what is. I wouldn’t let that defeat me, though. To spite the system, I went back and used a fake birth date. (I hope the Teen Choice authorities don’t read this and arrest me.)

I finally got in, expecting to see the Twilight series dominating the list of choices. It didn’t. In fact, I was disheartened by many of the nominees. There are several categories—movies, music, TV, summer, other—and they were littered with choices that I wouldn’t consider appropriate for teens. Movies like No Strings Attached (story about friends who sleep together just for the fun of it) and Something Borrowed (girl has an affair with best friend’s fiancé). Shows like Gossip Girl (so filled with licentiousness I don’t even know where to start) and comedians like Daniel Tosh (who takes inappropriate to a whole new level). And Snooki isn’t the only Jersey Shore representative there. Her cohorts DJ Pauly D and The Situation are nominated for Best Male Variety Star, and the show itself is up for Best Reality Show.

For the first time in my life, I actually WISHED that Twilight were nominated for every award.

I know I sound like a total prude, but I’m just sad that these are the values our teens are encouraged to honor, and with awards, no less. I didn’t even know teens were watching this stuff; I thought it was only young adults who watched, to be reminded of how stupid they were when they were that age doing those things. Two things I learned today: I’m old AND I’m naive.

My daughter isn’t a teenager yet, but those years will be here before I know it. I can’t even imagine what kind of movies and TV shows she’ll be exposed to by then. And I don’t know how I’m going to handle her inevitable desire to watch them. It’s my hope that, whether she watches them or not, she’ll know the kinds of behavior that should and should not be glorified, that she’ll look at the Snookis of the world and laugh. After all, a parent’s job is not to keep kids away from garbage but to teach them that it is, in fact, garbage. This is my new mission as a mother. Wish me luck.