Most of us have plenty of stories of our first love, teen love, and many love stories later on in life. Being the father of two teen boys, I’ve witnessed their social lives, lived a bit vicariously through them, and been reminded about how we all must find our own way. We all must learn our lessons. And, we as parents really can’t and shouldn’t overly protect our children from these valuable lessons. Hopefully, if we’ve raised them right, they will make the right choices and decisions. To me, that’s part of the ongoing serial drama of being a parent!
This is one of those times when I will not be telling experiences involving my own boys. I ain’t treading those dangerous waters, nor should I. I will extrapolate some generalities and see if I can remember my early experiences with love and how they may or may not relate to today’s teenagers. But, we know the answer; this is one of those human realities that don’t change much with “progress.”
Being the parent of a teen in the throes of teen love and angst can be quite an ordeal. Yes, the world is going to end if so-and-so doesn’t call back RIGHT AWAY. Yes, how can they go on living after someone texted THAT about them? And, of course, that photo in that dress is simply appalling. Perhaps the only change from my generation to theirs is that information is shared that much faster rather than the way it was, as portrayed in Bye Bye Birdie in that wonderful number, Telephone Hour – “Did you hear about Hugo and Kim?”
I’m sitting next to my 16-year-old son, on our drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco (he is driving) and thought I’d ask him some questions and here it is straight from the source:
~~ Any first thoughts about how teen love manifests itself today? Do you think it’s any different from when I was a teenager?
Answer: Probably, times are different.
~~ Do your friends date?
Answer: Some of them do. We always hangout with each other, less as boyfriend and girlfriend.
~~ Are many of your friends having sex?
Answer: I don’t think so.
~~ Do you know any couple – your age – that have been together a while and seem to have a good relationship?
Answer: Not currently.
~~ What is the biggest difference re: technology that you see among your friends (different from my generation)?
~~ Is that the primary form you and your friends use to communicate?
~~ Do you ever have long phone conversations late into the night – or are those also in the form of texting?
Answer: Only texting.
Well, now you know why I don’t interview my sons very often. But, he gave me “approval” to include these pearls of wisdom in this column. I’ve had my other son on my radio show a couple of times. The second time was the last. He basically sat there, bored and disinterested. The answers, much like the ones above, were monosyllabic!
So, I will assert the differences that I observe in teen love. First, as my son said, phone calls are less a part of their social lives than social media (aka texting), though my older son talks on his cell-phone much more than his younger brother. Second, dating per se seems to have been replaced by group dates or get togethers. And, making out (or “hooking up” as the current incarnation – my son says that phrase includes all forms of sexual contact) takes place – more often than not – at a party or in a group setting (not in front of the group necessarily, but around the environs of where they may be).
The drama is completely unchanged. Perhaps the girls are bigger drama queens given the variety of outlets they have to be dramatic, but the basic emotions are simply over-the-top, just as they were for my generation.
My boys resemble very much – my best friend and me, from high school. I was totally into girls, trying my darndest to get to as many as I could – ANY that I could. And, because I was 16 when I graduated high school, my success rate was abysmal. I didn’t “come into my own” until after college when it came to “the ladies.” My best friend, on the other hand, had one girlfriend in high school that he met in the drama club. He liked her a bunch, but it was a totally bland experience, as far as I could tell, and his interest in finding another girlfriend after that ended was pretty much non-existent.
One of my boys was into girls very young and had a couple of girlfriends during his high school years. He was as emotional about it as I remember I was in that stage of my life. My other son is very much like my high school best friend in that he doesn’t seem to care one way or another. He has a large variety of boy and girl friends, but most (ironically) come from his involvement in drama. They have such a wonderful shared passion that it resembles the friends I had on my high school tennis team. But, in his case, it’s quite co-ed.
Then, there’s the technology which has made all social interactions way too public and, at times, hurtful or dangerous. That is worthy of its own column, but we all have examples we can immediately think of. What stories do you have about your kid’s teen love experiences or of your own that you’d care to share?
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