As the parent of an adult child (who still lives with me), I feel that I’m more in tune with youth today than perhaps a lot of other parents are. Of course, some of this is also my parenting style, where no topic is off-limits between me and my kids. That includes discussions of sex and sexuality.
I remember the first awkward conversation I had with my daughter about sex. She was eight and I was pregnant with my second child (at that point, we had told her I was pregnant but we didn’t yet know he was a boy). I had already explained to my daughter fundamental differences between boys and girls (i.e. girls have a vagina, they bleed once a month, they can carry babies, etc., whereas boys have a penis and that was about as much as she knew about boys at that point). I hadn’t quite gotten down to “where do babies come from” other than it involved both parents.
Her father took it upon himself to lie to her about the topic when she asked. Of course, my daughter—who potty trained herself at 16 months and was starting to read by 18 months—was having none of his nonsense. I had always let my daughter take the lead on these conversations, keeping strictly to the question and not adding anymore info. On periods, for example, it was enough for her to know that each month a woman “lays an egg” and there is blood there in case the egg becomes a baby; no baby, and you don’t need the blood so it leaves. That was probably more information than a lot of parents feel comfortable with, but I didn’t want my kid (either of them; my son knows all about periods, too) freaking out if they saw something bloody in the bathroom trash. Not to mention, I’m always shouting for one of them to bring me a tampon… my daughter now shouts at her brother to bring her a clean pair of panties. It’s very laissez faire in our house.
But I digress…
Fast forward 10 years, and my daughter is among a group of friends that neither date (much) nor engage in sexual activity. This is not because their parents forbade it or due to some strange “God” edict. It is because these kids are too busy studying or being kids; in my house an all-night party generally involves Disney marathons. The world stops for Tangled or Mulan. My daughter is much more interested in becoming a series regular on television (while double majoring in psychology and astro-physics at college) than in who is taking her to the prom (which she missed; it was the same weekend as her Presidential Scholars Award ceremonies in Washington, D.C.).
Interestingly, it was another actress that prompted this post. Dakota Fanning, arguably the most famous actress of her generation, is studying at NYU and talking about her (lack) of dating. What was most remarkable about her recent interview for Glamour magazine (previewed here) was not her brilliant summary of why she doesn’t date:
“I have a weird vision of relationships because my parents have known each other since second grade, and they got married right out of college. I’ve always thought that’s what it’s supposed to be like, and if it’s not, then I don’t want to waste my time on it. Even when I was 14, I was like, ‘I’m not gonna marry this person. What’s the point of doing it?’ It’s not me being naive. I just know what it’s supposed to be like. And I think until I feel that, I cannot be bothered.”
…but the comments beneath the article, most of which are from young adults who are staying virgins for non-religious reasons.
As much as I am a proponent of healthy sexual activity, I really respect these young people who are taking the time to figure out who they are and become independent fully formed (or at least partially formed) adults before jumping into relationships. My daughter, for one, says the only time she ever doubts herself is when she’s emotionally involved with another person (in the romantic sense of emotional involvement). She’s far too busy mapping out the rest of her life and working towards her goals to be distracted by false (or even true but ephemeral) love.
The truth is that life is a lot longer than you think it will be. Figuring out who you are at a young age will make it much more likely for you to have positive people in your life as you grow older. Hopefully one of those people will be worthy of sharing your body and your life (whether for the short-term or “till death do you part”). In the meantime, I salute you, new virgins. Don’t let the dating scene bring you down.