Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Unbearable Lightness of Charlie Charlie

Having been inundated with news stories the last couple of days, I turned to my teenage daughter and asked, "Do you know what Charlie Charlie is?"

"Of course."  I detected the slightest eye roll.

"Have you tried it?"

At this point, she gave me one of those loaded looks that speaks so eloquently without any words at all. "As if!" it seemed to say, "Why would I waste my time on something like that? Why do you ask such stupid questions?" 

Aloud, she simply said, "It's just gravity."

Charlie Charlie is described by The Washington Post as "a game/Internet urban legend of sudden and inexplicable popularity." The story continues that Charlie Charlie traces its routes back to Spain and Latin America; that it's the merger of two older games: “Juego de la Lapicera” and "Charly Charly;" and that its current surge may be traced back to a teenager in Georgia who created the first hashtag #CharlieCharlieChallenge (what an impressive accomplishment for said young woman's college résumé, n'est-ce pas?). 

The story also pointed out the activity's overall lameness.

To participate in Charlie Charlie, you draw a cross on a piece of paper. Write "Yes" in two of the boxes created by the cross, "No" in the other two. Then you stack pencils on the two lines of the cross. In your most mysterious, seance voice, you chant "Charlie Charlie, are you there?" or the more Shining-inspired "Charlie Charlie, come out to play." You ask an important question (like "Does so-and-so really like me?") and if the pencil moves ... well ... 


Screaming appears to be an important part of the Charlie Charlie experience.

Yep, lame would be a wholly viable assessment. 

The Catholic Church is not quite so dismissive though. A priest and exorcist (approved by the Vatican, no less) gravely warns that "Some spirits who are at the root of that practice will harass some of those who play the game." The spirit "will stay around for a while," although players "won't be possessed," technically. Nevertheless, the game "will result in other spirits beginning to enter into even more frequent communication. And so then the person really can suffer much worse consequences from the demons." 


Regardless of religious beliefs, Charlie Charlie has officially "trended" — with nearly 2 million tweets and recent coverage by most major news media. 

To me, however, it's simply a digital age throwback to every sleepover party I went to in junior high and high school. We didn't know from Charlie Charlie, per se. But, we levitated each other ("stiff as a board, light as a feather"), evoked "Bloody Mary" in the mirror and played with Ouija boards. In case you're wondering, all of the above worked. 


What is the mystical connection between living teenagers and the dead (or, should I say, undead)? The common thinking amongst paranormal professionals is that most poltergeist activity centers around a teen or preteen girl. Are things that go bump in the night attracted to all the histrionics and hormonal upheaval? Do changing bodies somehow channel vaporous beings?

Or are teenagers just the least disruptive way for ghosts and ghouls to come back to Earth ...

After all, what could possibly be scarier than a teenager?

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The All-Nighter

Memorial Day weekend. Three days off from high school, hardly any homework. Given how tired my teenage daughter is most mornings, you might assume she would take the opportunity to catch up on her sleep.

You would assume wrong.

With the long weekend ahead of them, my daughter and three of her closest friends decided that the best use of their time would be to play all-night laser tag. She approached me with the concept Thursday.

"All-night laser tag? Is that even a thing?" I asked.

"Yes," she assured me, "You can look on the website."

Sure enough, a laser tag facility three towns over was offering a special overnight marathon of laser tagging from 11:30 pm Saturday until 6:00 am Sunday. The cost was $35 in advance or $40 at the door.

It seemed like a ridiculous plan to me. However ...

This was one of the (seemingly countless) times I had to remind myself that my baby was not a baby and was, in fact, seventeen. When I was her age, I pretty much owned New York City. I went where I wanted when I wanted, via bus or subway or simply walking the streets of Manhattan. The year I was seventeen, I went to midnight shows of Rocky Horror at the New Yorker on Broadway and 88th Street every weekend for several straight months. I always felt completely safe.

What worries me these days are the byproducts of raising a child in suburbia. Back in the 70s in NYC, we didn't wonder who would drive. None of us knew how to. But, it was the first thing on my mind when my daughter told me about her plans. Who would drive them all to the laser tag place at 11:30? Who would drive them all home at 6:00? And, what were the contingency plans if one or two of the laser taggers got tired at, say, 3:00 am.

As per usual, she assured me that they had it all planned.

As per usual, the plans changed at the eleventh hour.

So, there I was, at 10:30 pm (which, I'm not ashamed to confess, is past my usual bedtime), picking up one tagger then driving two of the taggers to meet up with the other two at one of the second group's father's house from where they would all drive together. (And if that sounds unnecessarily complicated, welcome to my world. My husband — wisely— had already gone to bed.)

I insisted on a handful of spur-of-the-moment rules. She had to be careful. She had to text me updates throughout the night (not that I would deliberately stay awake for them, but just knowing she was checking in would relieve my anxiety a bit). She had to be CAREFUL. She had to stay with her friends (having never played laser tag myself, I had no idea whether this was a reasonable request or not). SHE HAD TO BE CAREFUL. And, she had to be home by 7:00 am at the latest.

She happily agreed to all of the above.

Surprisingly, I slept well. Either I'm learning to let go a little, or I was simply super tired myself. At 6:00 am, I went downstairs to feed our new puppy (whose shenanigans warrant a blog all their own). Sure enough, my phone had received a string of texts and some selfies. It sounded like the overnight had been a great success.

One final message explained that she would be a few minutes late getting home because they were stopping at McDonald's.

Just tell me you're not having a McFlurry for breakfast, I texted back.

Um, was her response.

She may be seventeen, but she's still my baby. And, she has the appetite and palate to prove it.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Saturday, May 23, 2015

More Than One Way To Serve

Besides horse shows and houseguests and a single, quick family vacation, this coming summer will be all about college admissions.

Believe me, no one is looking forward to it less than my daughter. (Except maybe me.)

We need to visit more schools, work on essays and create my daughter's first résumé

Say what?

I put together my first résumé about six months after I graduated from college. I had won a fellowship which included a paid internship at a New York publishing company, so I did my real job hunting a little later than my classmates. Anyway, I was twenty-two and had actually worked for half a year. My daughter is seventeen. What is she supposed to put on her résumé? (Actually, when I was seventeen, I did have a résumé, but it was just because I was pursuing acting work.)

According to the website, my daughter's
résumé should include:

• A heading: that's the easy part: name and address
• Her objective: college acceptance and merit scholarships
• Key stats: class ranking, GPA, SAT and/or ACT scores
• Education: high school, AP and Honors courses
• School activities: basically ... well ... none, but I assume we can address the past 12 years of horse lessons, training and competitions
• Honors and awards: by year
• Enrichment activities: travel, hobbies
• Work experience: include special duties or recognition
• Other: they encourage us to find a "hook" or "wow factor"
• References

None of the above is particularly daunting. But, there is one other item, nestled in between "Honors and awards" and "Enrichment activities."

Community service.

So now we're looking for a volunteer opportunity, a formal "service" project that she can list on her college and National Honor Society applications. She needs to find something to which she can donate "at least twenty hours" of her time. And she'll need a letter of recommendation and signature from someone in charge.

I find this extremely irritating and superficial. Most of the teens I've talked to are contributing time to a cause for the very two reasons I've outlined above. For those reasons — and pretty much only those reasons.

Service is important, don't get me wrong. But, there are lots of ways to give back.

When we first gave my daughter an allowance, we were pretty generous: $10 a week. (I think I earned about 35¢, but milk was probably a nickel and we probably walked to school barefoot, in snow, uphill, both ways.) With that $10, however, came stipulations. She had to save some of it and donate some of it. She made donations to everything from animal rescues to cancer rides. Often, if there was something that really moved her, we would match her donation.

As a family, we traveled to New Orleans a few months after Hurricane Katrina. We worked in a relief station in a town called Aribe, which was utterly destroyed. Not only did my daughter — then quite little — serve, but she got to know some of the storm's victims. And she worked her tail off.

Every year since before she can remember, my daughter has helped us make school backpacks and Christmas stockings for needy children in our area. In fact, she took the exercise so to heart that she contacted the president of the organization and suggested that he add each child's "favorite color" to the age and gender information we already received. As a kid herself, she thought it would be terrible (tragic even) if a girl who liked blue got a backpack in pink.

She sponsors a child in Indonesia and writes to her often, including paper dolls and stickers that can be sent flat through the mail. (We were warned early on that if we sent actual 3-D packages, our sponsored child's family would have to pay exorbitant import duties.) Thanks to the sponsorship (which, believe me, is less than my daughter's Frappuccino habit), the girl gets to go to school and is hoping to become a teacher.

She also adopted a young officer in Afghanistan through an organization called Soldier's Angels. For two years, my daughter sent him a letter every week and a package once a month (for some reason, beef jerky was always one of the requested items). When he finally returned home, he sent her a dog tag with her name on it as a "Thank you."

Through the same organization, we adopted a soldier's family one Christmas. Together, we looked up grocery stores near their address and bought a gift card so they could enjoy a holiday feast. We stuffed stockings and picked out gifts for the two children (a little girl and a toddler), and included lots of decorations, treats and trinkets in the box we sent as well.

My daughter is also generous with her time when any classmates need help. (Between you and me, she should be paid for all the un-official Physics tutoring she's done this year.)
And, I haven't even listed (quite honestly, because I can't) how many walk-a-thons, cancer rides, horse rescues and school fundraisers we've contributed to. Most recently, my daughter donated to a group that lets inner city kids experience horseback riding. When she was younger, she helped the same group create its "Read to Ride" program.

Bottom line. My daughter has served since she was very small and continues to do so when and how she can. Either with her money or her time. The thing is, when it comes to time, she is more than fully committed these days  — between schoolwork; SAT, ACT and AP tests; two part-time jobs; and training at the stable 5-6 days a week, it's very hard to find free time for a regular volunteer gig. But, if I added up all the hours she has spent putting together stockings, backpacks, reading lists, letters to Indonesia and packages to Afghanistan, the number of hours would be significantly more than twenty. The only problem is that none of the above exactly fit the very prescribed idea of "service" when it comes to college applications. There's no one to write the official recommendation letter. 

So now, we're shopping around for a service gig for the summer. Something with horses, of course. Or children. Or horses and children.

Expecting teens to serve isn't what's bothering me. We should all serve when and how and as we can. It's the limited definition that's my issue. Mahatma Gandhi said that "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." So I'll look on the bright side. My daughter will find herself this summer, assuming she finds the opportunity and — here's the real challenge — finds the time.

Any chance her teachers would forego summer reading assignments so she can serve?

I didn't think so.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at

Monday, May 18, 2015

Gone Girl Interrupted

Yesterday, my teenage daughter participated in a big biannual equestrian competition. She and a teammate rode a 6-mile marked course through woods and fields, through water, over fences, logs, and embankments. The goal was to get as close as possible to an optimum ride time — which is paced by an expert rider earlier that day and not revealed until the awards banquet that evening. In theory, if you are riding efficiently, but safely, you should be close to the target time. (Another horse mother once called it a "crap shoot," and there's an element of truth there too.) At any rate, it's called a "Hunter Pace" and takes place in a truly bucolic setting about an hour north of Boston.

The first time she rode in this event, my husband and I had no idea what we were in for. At a three-phase show, you can watch your rider do dressage and jump in a stadium. Then they go off on a cross-country course, but only for five or seven minutes. In a Hunter Pace, you're lucky if you see the first and last two jumps. The rest of the course — an hour or more — you're stuck waiting around. After we figured it all out that first year, we had just one question ...

"Where are the Bloody Marys?"

Over the (many) years since, we've focused on the art of tailgating. It all began with a Mexican serape, the Boston Globe and some muffins. Then we graduated to those folding chairs that soccer moms use. Then a folding table. Eventually, my husband found an oriental rug at an odd lots warehouse store. Add some champagne and orange juice, ripe strawberries, bagels, spreads and smoked salmon, and ... voila! We were transported to an earlier, horsier, classier time. 

"Carson, please pass the cream cheese and lox."

This year, we invited two couples to join us, as well as the other parents from our daughter's stable. The day was foggy at first but it soon burned off and we were left with bright sun and clear skies. From our vantage point, near a flowering tree in front of the first set of jumps, we watched my daughter and her partner, and then dozens of other teams head off. Meanwhile, our new puppy played with another family's Jack Russel and sneaked bites of ... well... pretty much anything he could get his paws on. It was an idyllic day. 

Until I lost my iPhone.

First of all, for the record, I rarely lose anything, much less an expensive smartphone. I will confess that there had been much bubbly enjoyed and that once it was time to pack up, everyone had already had a bit too much fun and sun. It was a little chaotic. Also, the terrain was not exactly on my side in terms of being able to find said missing phone. There were acres of tall grass and dandelions. Horses, trailers and cars coming and going. Plus the restroom facilities consisted of a single port-a-potty. I don't think my phone was in my pocket when I used it, but ...

I don't want to think about it.

At any rate, I was well-fed, a little sunburned and without a phone. We went back to our picnic area — twice — but no luck. I tried the "Find my iPhone" app on my iPod when I got home. No luck. At the awards banquet (btw, my daughter came in third, mentions the proud mama), we left our number with the event coordinator, just in case. But, it was becoming pretty damn clear.

The iPhone was gone, girl.

This morning, I took a two-hour break from work and drove to the nearest Apple Store at a mall three towns over. Fortunately, I qualified for an upgrade. Unfortunately, I didn't have my old phone to trade in. The difference was $189 out of pocket. (Wait, isn't "out of pocket" how I got into this mess in the first place?)

I told myself what I always tell my daughter. "It's a thing, not a person. It's just money, not life or death." Still, $189 is $189.

I'm trying not to think about it.

The remarkable thing, the truly amazing thing, is that it really was just about money. Thanks to the "cloud" (and my fairly anal retentive backup routine — I never lost a phone before, but I've lived through some fairly horrific computer crashes), virtually all my data, apps, contacts, photos and music are back. I lost some money (did I mention it was $189?) and some time, but otherwise, my life and my phone will go on exactly as before. Exactly.

We warn our teenagers to be careful. That everything online is permanent.

For the first time, I can say that I'm glad it is.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at 

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Upside of Downtime

My teenage daughter has managed to keep her grades high through the past three years — between concerts and cookie dough, riding, competing, Gossip Girl and texting, texting, texting, I don't know how she does it.

Ask any high school parent these days and I'm sure you'll hear the same thing. Kids today have more homework than we did. Way more. Way way more.

They're also expected to excel at a sport (or in many cases multiple sports). Whether you're in the volleyball club or a varsity team, this equates to a huge time sink. Some of my daughter's classmates who participate in school athletics have practice every day after school and meets or games every Saturday and Sunday.

My daughter didn't join any school teams because she already spends an average of 30-35 hours a week at the stable. (It killed us when a well-meaning gym teacher once told her that riding isn't a sport. Excuse me, Mr. Man, but why don't you try posting up and down in a saddle for an hour or carrying 50-pound water buckets. Sheesh!)

Kids are also expected to "serve," to give back to the community. I'm not a mathematician (thank goodness my daughter hasn't needed my help with pre-calculus this year), but if you add up the hours they're in class, plus the hours they're doing homework, plus the hours they're running around with a hockey stick ... well, I don't think there are any hours left.

Experts advise that teens need 9-10 hours of sleep (as adults, we need only 7-8). My response to this?


Even if homework is done by 10 or even 11 o'clock, my daughter needs at least a little while to connect with her friends or unwind with a half-hour of New Girl. Her father and I try to explain that she should go right to bed, but I can't blame her for wanting a bit of time for herself.

Most afternoons, I'm able to pick my daughter up after school. "How was your day?" I'll ask. More often than not, she doesn't want to talk about it. She thinks it's all "so annoying."

I think it's just that she's "so" exhausted.

Supposedly, all this extra work and activity and stress is supposed to be preparing our kids for college. Supposedly, they'll know how to study; supposedly, they'll know how to manage their time.  

Here's what I suppose ...

We're pretty much burning our teens out before they even start college. When they're alone in their dorms and suddenly have the option to goof off, when there aren't any moms or dads nagging them about their work, I worry that they're going to simply check out for some much needed downtime.

Doing nothing, relaxing, reading for enjoyment rather than for an AP test. My daughter and her friends don't get enough discretionary time. "It's just one more year," everyone mutters under their breath. But it's not. It's — hopefully — five more years. At least.

We've got to give these kids a break — or they're going to break.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at  

Monday, May 11, 2015


Amelia Earhart (before she disappeared, of course) said "Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others."

Kurt Cobain, on the other hand, suggested that "The duty of youth is to challenge corruption."

As the mother of a teenager, I can't help but think that the duty of youth is to challenge their parents.

This has been a challenging year for us. In terms of schoolwork, starting the college search, managing time (not to mention managing friendships). Some weeks, we're fine. Some weekends (like this past one), I stand and shake my head, marveling that we somehow got it all done. An AP test, the horse's birthday, prom, a concert, an anniversary, two sets of visitors, and Mother's Day. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Life with a seventeen-year-old can be a challenge no matter how you look at it.

Then again, there are challenges that we create and/or choose to participate in. Some are good. Some are ... well ... not so much.

The "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge," for example. This was started to raise awareness and donations for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig's Disease. There's some debate about its origins, but starting in the summer of 2014, it really took off. Using viral social media, people posted videos of themselves dumping ice water on their heads, challenging specific friends and family to do the same within 24 hours. Since last July 29th, The ALS Association has received $115 million in donations.

I think we can agree that this was a good challenge.

The "Cinnamon Challenge," on the other hand, is not good. There are plenty of other adjectives I would use: stupid, foolish, dangerous, downright idiotic immediately come to mind.

And now, we have the "Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge." In order to emulate the pouty lips of Kardashian half-sister and model-of-the-moment Kylie, participants artificially plump up their lips using shot glasses and suction. Then, because we're living in a digital world as well as a material one, they post selfies and videos.

All in good fun, right? Wrong.

Kylie herself tweeted, "I'm not here to try & encourage people/young girls to look like me or to think this is the way they should look." Of course, she followed up with
"I want to encourage people like me to be YOURSELF and not be afraid to experiment with your look." 

Well, the experiments have landed some girls in the emergency room. Cuts, bruising, broken blood vessels and even nerve damage all to look like a reality star who has very little reality about her. Kylie, who originally denied any cosmetic intervention, admitted that she had "temporary lip fillers."

I would tell Kylie — and any teen girl who'll listen — that there's a big difference between experimenting and self-mutilation. 

Then again, it would be quite a challenge to get anyone in that demographic to listen.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Popping the Question: Junior Prom, Part 5

All right already ... I said I'd write about my teenage daughter's promposal and so I will. But let's start by explaining what a promposal is in the first place.

According to (one of my faves), promposal is defined as:

(n)- a proposal from one person asking another person to the prom; the combination of the words "prom" and "proposal." 

Then, as is their way, the folks at give us a humorous example:

Jake: I'm thinking about how I'll do my promposal...
Sean: Who're you going to ask?
Jake: Well, I haven't decided yet.
Sean: You have to decide before you ask someone to prom! 

Sean has a point. But, Jake is wise to plan ahead. A date is ... well ... just a date. But, thanks to the ubiquity of social media, a promposal can live forever. And over the past few years, the promposal bar has been raised quite high. Sky-high in fact.

Back in the ancient times of 1980, I was a senior in a virtually all-girls class of an urban school. We had no prom. So, we, if reason follows, had no promposals either. Before you go feeling sorry for me, let me reassure you that I didn't know what I was missing. My contemporaries in more traditional high schools weren't getting promposalled either.

The Washington Post cites 2001 as the first known official promposal, reported (and christened a "promposal") by the Dallas Morning News. Some students hijacked the school loudspeaker and sang a song from Adam Sandler's The Wedding Singer, but with new prom-tastic lyrics. Their dates said yes. The school said "You're suspended."

Fear not, gentle readers, the consequences suffered by the hopeful singers didn't deter future promposers. In fact, being suspended for a particularly creative and over-the-top promposal makes the whole thing that much more exciting.

Public displays of affection — painting a billboard, dressing up like a gorilla, riding a horse into school — became de rigeur. And as teens embraced social media ("Embraced social media?" Is that an understatement or what?), promposals were suddenly everywhere. Besides, hopefully, getting your date to say "Yes," your success could be measured by Facebook likes and shares, and YouTube views. 

Here's a quick list of some popular promposals:

1. Filling someone's locker with flowers
2. Decorating cupcakes with "Will you go to prom with me?"
3. Cover (and I mean COVER) her/his car with post-it notes
4. Deliver a pizza with a "cheesy" message
5. Hang a banner across a highway overpass
5. Send your message via puppy or kitten
6. Spell out the question on his/her front lawn with silly string
7. Paint it on the side of a cow (not for urban schools)
8. Hijack a movie marquee
9. Buy a charm bracelet with the letters P-R-O-M and ?
10. Make a music video

So ... how did my daughter's date ask her to prom? I'll tell you. You see, I'm not just her mother, I'm an accomplice. My daughter's date and their mutual bestie texted me several times. They needed to know when she would be at the stable where she keeps her horse, so they could go there and surreptitiously plant le promposal. Between schedules shifting (hers, theirs, mine), it was about two weeks before the actual event went down.

My daughter arrived at the stable for her riding lesson and was suprised to see her friends there. She was even more surprised when they insisted that she introduce them to the resident goat. "LuLu" was wearing a special cape (brilliantly made out of an old tee shirt, with the collar intact but only one wide rectangle below). It read:

Will you goat to prom with me?

Of course, her answer was "Yes." 

He had her at "goat."

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Burning the Teenage Oil

I'm not perfect. I know I must have written last minute papers. But those rose colored glasses through which we look at our pasts get in the way when I try to remember any. My rehearsal schedule (four days a week after school with performances Saturdays and Sundays) was so rigorous I really had to manage my time. 

My teenage daughter spends as much time at the stable as I did at the theatre. And in fairness to her, she is usually quite adept at getting whatever she needs to get done done.

Usually, as in almost but not always. Usually, as in definitely not last night.

Our afternoon was fairly unexceptional. I picked her up from school and asked my daily question: "What's the homework sitch?" Whatever non-answer I obtained, there certainly wasn't any indication that it would prove to be a heavier than normal workload.

We arrived home and she had a little time to kill before she had to leave for the stable. "Want to watch a How I Met Your Mother?" she asked. I was happy to put my work on hold for twenty minutes, which is all a thirty-minute episode boils down to without commercials. When it was over, I went back to my office and she headed off to her riding lesson.

Three hours or so later, she was back. By then, her father was home too and I made a quick dinner. Then, the homework began in earnest. She went upstairs while we settled in and watched a DVR'd episode of Mad Men.

As far as I knew, homework was under control.

Shows how far I knew (hint: not far at all).

Perhaps this is a problem with semantics. When I say "homework," I think of it as an all-encompassing category of any and everything that has been assigned. My daughter seems to have a narrower definition: like math problem sets or a French worksheet. 'Turns out there wasn't any homework like that. But, there was a paper due, which involved watching a two-hour documentary online and then reviewing it in a 1,000-word essay. And, I later learned, the assignment had been given the Friday before April vacation week. Also known as ten days ago.

Too bad it wasn't a science assignment because by the time I learned all the details, let's just say, sparks were flying.

Of course, the WiFi in her room was being temperamental (this is somehow always my fault or my husband's — basically whichever of us is nearby at the time). The documentary would play for about 90 seconds, then buffer for 60, then play for another 90. At this rate, forget about the review she had to write; she would still be trying to watch the thing at 5:00 am.

Super Mom sprung into action, I pulled up the documentary on all possible browsers, but had the same problem. Then I looked it up and found it available via Amazon Prime. Teenager and notebook were relocated to our family room and she was able to watch it there.

Meanwhile, my daughter was in good — or at least abundant — company. It seemed as though half her class was texting, complaining about the online video glitches. Apparently she wasn't alone in waiting until the last minute.

Somehow, I didn't find that comforting.

I went to bed at about 10:00 pm. Three-plus hours later, my daughter was in bed with her essay emailed to me for proofing. I got up a few minutes early to look at it.

Despite the drama and the late-night fire-drill, her essay was actually pretty good. She was relatively happy with my suggested edits (at 6:00 am after only four and a half hours of sleep, relatively happy was the best I was gonna get). I'm proud that she can do such capable work despite a — let's face it — half-assed process. But it makes me wonder ...

If she actually spent ten days on something that was supposed to take ten days, how much better would it have been?

There are some mysteries that will never be solved.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book  Lovin' the Alien at  

Friday, May 1, 2015

Sex Ed And Ostriches

I've been writing a lot about my teenage daughter's upcoming prom — about dresses and dates, permission slips and soon, promposals (it's coming, I promise). What I haven't talked about yet is ... 


According to a fairly recent survey by Seventeen magazine, 14% of girls will have sex on prom night. 5% of girls (and 3% of boys) will lose their virginity. That may not sound like a lot, until you do the math. There are more than 6 million juniors and seniors in more than 19,000 public high schools in the USA. So, not including private schools, we're talking about 240,000 first-timers.

Maybe the schools should spend a little less on breathalyzers and a little more on condoms.

Maybe the schools should also take a look at their current sex ed curriculum.

I was a PTO officer for four years, two in lower middle school and two in upper middle school (by the time we graduated to high school, I was completely burned out). I once had a major maternal hissy fit at a program called "Don't Panic, It's Just Puberty." What got my knickers in a knot was learning that they taught some semblance of reproduction in junior high, but that they didn't teach sexuality in high school. At all.

"So, waitaminute," I remember saying. "So, we explain the birds and the bees to kids who still think the opposite sex is gross, but we don't address any of it once the kids are actually in relationships?"

The rather exasperated Health Ed Curriculum Director confirmed that my assumption was correct. She then invited me to take on the district administration. I respectfully declined.

In my high school, growing up in the still fairly groovy and free loving 1970s, we learned about sex, about birth control, about STDs. Thanks to the efforts of an exceptionally liberal classmate, we actually had the owner of notorious sex club Plato's Retreat as a speaker. (It was indicative of the nerdliness of my fellow students that we were more interested in his business plan than anything going down in the "mattress room.")

Today's high school administrators prefer to take an ostrich approach: hide their head in the sand and it will all go away.

SparkLife is a colorful blog that's run by SparkNotes (the digital world's answer to those yellow and black CliffNotes we all remember — but never used, surely). They did a survey about high school sex ed, the results of which they summarized as "Extremely Brief and Incredibly Awkward."

31% of students described it as "Abstinence based chit chat that also gives you some information on protection."

25% "An explanation of the role of consent, choice, protection, consequences, and resources so thorough I could pass my O.W.L.S. in Sex Ed for sure." (That's a Harry Potter allusion; Ordinary Wizarding Level.)

18% "Abstinence-only education." (And we all know how well that works.)

17% "A very awkward encounter with a prop box and some info on how to use protection."

5% "A game of rock, paper, scissors that made no sense and contained no reference to the human body."

5% "I'm home-schooled."

The answer options, of course, are meant to be funny. But, the point is this: only one quarter of students are getting what they recognize as comprehensive sex education. School systems (like ours) insist that its the parents' job to provide all that uncomfortable information. But, only 16% of students participating in the survey thought their moms and dads taught them everything they needed to know.

So where do the rest of today's high school students get their information? 

"The Internet, duh."

I feel better now, don't you?   

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