Oh, the core parent-of-a-teenager story. A friend of mine recently got a nasty shock when, provoked by the discovery of a sneaky packet of condoms, she found quite the accumulation of explicit text messages in her teenaged daughter’s phone. Her single teenaged daughter’s phone. Her single, fourteen-year-old daughter’s phone.
This is a core story because it’s not the first time I’ve heard it; more than a couple of friends and their more gossip-worthy relatives have been made aware of their teenaged child’s sexual awakening through devious divings into his or her text message history. If rites of passage have evolved at all, it’s to make room for a mortifying encounter with a livid, bawling parent with an unfortunate proficiency in modern sleuthing methods. In this particular case, my friend was terribly shaken – not just because her daughter was apparently sexually active, but because the nature of the messages were less “journey of sexual discovery” and more “let’s all have an orgy”. The result was a horrified, grounded, phoneless young wan, and a horrified, tearful, traumatised mother, who spent the next few weeks doubting her parental fitness, and wondering what the hell she was supposed to do next.
Beyond carefully-selected woe betides, it turned out, not a whole lot. Teenagers will march on towards adulthood, after all, and there’s not much to be said for the concept of a postemptive strike.
When I was a teenager – the mid-nineties, which as far as I’m concerned are still the very recent past – I thought that my mam would absolutely curdle if she knew what we got up to of a Saturday evening, though that would be a problem entirely her own, for we were doing nothing Wrong. No one was in danger. No one was compromised. It was just the generational gap and it was up to the oldies to bridge it. So is it that I’m an oldie now that I can’t get my head around the carry-on of kids today? Has an unwelcome fuddyduddyness infected my tolerance and common sense and wherewithal? Am I just pumped up on the fear of that which I just don’t, like, totally get?
Have I no good reason to be alarmed by the young and scantily-clad and surefooted?
Miley Cyrus has been all over the gossip sites of late; all of Miley, all over. The seventeen-year-old popstrel is keen to ditch Hannah Montana’s blonde wig, tweenie fans and wholesome blether for a more sophisticated image befitting her advancing years. For which read: less pants. Bigger hair. More simulated mutual masturbation with hawt leather-bound dancers. Singer and actress Taylor Momsen, a similarly pantsless chica who wants to be Chrissie Hynde from the waist up only, celebrates her seventeenth birthday later this month, yet is happy to tell us all that she’ll dress in t-shirts, suspenders and ripped stockings now because it would be inappropriate in her thirties. The world’s most extraneous wild child, Peaches Geldof, had, at seventeen, been photographed in more compromising positions than you could shake a paper cone at.
However, just because Ms. Cyrus wants to be seen as a fully-fledged sexual being in control of her own whims and intimate piercings doesn’t mean you should treat her as one – blogging nitwit Perez Hilton recently got a scalding when he posted an upskirt image of an apparently commando Miley getting out of a car. Distribution of child pornography! yowled his critics. Even if she’s dressed in killer heels and negligee and waving her crotch about in concert doesn’t mean you should be looking at it! Miley, in short, is old enough to court controversy for sales figures and column inches, but certainly not old enough to be held responsible for such marketing decisions. Likewise, Taylor Momsen remains stubbornly unable to understand any objection to the persistent flashing of an underage girl’s inner thighs. Peaches Geldof, now old enough to vote and know better, has her boyfriend call out the mothers of those who capture her posing, glassy-eyed, in manky, strange bedrooms. Give me the perks of adulthood so that I may taste, but get them consequences Out Of My Face. Disturbing? Absolutely, but mostly because the Age Of Accountability seems a long way off for each of these little madams. Am I climbing ever faster to the peaks of irrelevance if my jaw drops and my skin crawls? You tell me.
Are we destined – the generation in power, of child-bearing and wine-appreciation age – to wring our hands at the hyperbolic sexual statements of younger ladies? Perhaps it’s as simple as that; perhaps daring text messages are to be taken as nothing but Ye Olde Boundary Pushing, and the disregard of trousers in fashion ensembles equates to a modern day bra-burning. Despite our initial squawks and retchings, when I think about it, it’s unlikely my friend’s daughter was having a train run on her in the back bedroom of her best friend’s house. Most likely, it was just our paranoid, terrified adult minds pinning advanced sexual foibles to clumsy teenage fumbling. There is no doubt that today’s little women are coming of age in a more aggressively sexualised society, but just because you’re surrounded by pole-dancing hotties in music videos, blowjob tips in magazines, and glamour models empowering the shit out of everyone, doesn’t mean you have a wisp of a notion what to do with any of it.
Incidentally, my friend had a fancy-dress party recently, and as a treat, the fourteen-year-old was allowed to join in. As a Playboy bunny. Which she thought was sweet. I shit you not.