Monday, August 17, 2015

Lark or Nightingale? (Who Cares?)

As I get older, I become more aware of a feeling of alienation. The paradigms that were once familiar seem to disintegrate. The things that would have been "outrageous" become "no big deal." I suppose this is natural, to some extent, but I can't help feeling that people of my generation have seen quicker and more extreme shifts in mores, morals and societal concept than many others in human history.

So it goes, I suppose.

Still, sometimes it's hard to adopt an "it is what it is" attitude -- especially when I think a change I see is insane. Or potentially harmful.

My son, who is thirteen, just related a story to me about what he had heard about a friend's behavior at a "sleepover." It was nothing outrageous. Just a slightly gross practical joke; the boy had put his socked foot into the mouth of a sleeping friend. The sleeping friend, I learned, however, was a girl.

Parents are allowing their daughters, at the age of thirteen, to "sleep over" at the homes of boys of the same age. Absolutely absurd, in my opinion. If you disagree with me, you really might as well not say anything, because my belief is unwavering on this one: it is foolish and irresponsible to allow teenaged kids of the opposite sex to spend unsupervised time together overnight.

An exasperated Facebook friend, when I posted about this, suggested that this is all a byproduct of the "new genderless society." What a sad idea. But she has a point. The lines between the sexes are becoming more and more...dotted.

I do find it interesting that young people, in recent times, seem to play in groups of both sexes. I never played with girls when I was a kid. My sons have two very nice girls that they play with. In the high school in which I teach, there are groups of good friends composed of girls and boys and their friendships often seem very sweet. I have to wonder, though, if the lack of conceptual separation is such a good thing.

I like the way I saw girls as I was growing up. They seemed mysterious to me; a better class of people, in some ways. They walked in a glow of bright colors and enchanting scents and they shared secret jokes that just were not for boys to hear. They were poetry and we were prose. They were melody and we were rhythm. My mother taught me the usual things: respect, honor and all that. My dad exemplified how to be a gentleman (talk about your anachronistic ideas...).

What I like, sadly, isn't that important, in the grand scheme. But, in a recent conversation with a friend of a younger generation, she mentioned that she was always the "friend" of a boy who would say: "I wish I could find a girlfriend like you." And she would think (if she was interested in the boy): "So...what about me?" Alas...

...the friendly familiarity they shared had erased (or somehow disqualified) the romantic dynamic.

When young ladies spend the night with young men, the dynamics become, at least, the dimming of the sparkle of mystery, or, at worst -- and most potentially costly -- the passions of proximity. True, Romeo and Juliet do not exactly serve as models of self-control and rationality, but what poetry would the Bard have conceived about two teenagers who hook up at a sleepover?  With their parents snoring away upstairs?

ROMEO: "Lark or nightingale? What difference doth it make? Thy parents will cook us breakfast or a midnight snack."

Quite a bit more prosaic. I don't want my son's lives to be prosaic.


  1. Having a mixed sex sleepover at 13 is a mad idea, particularly now that adolescents are more sexually aware than ever, sadly.

    1. Since referencing this on Facebook and then over here, I have been bolstered by comments like yours, Steerforth. It's not as if I would have budged, anyway, but it is good to hear one is not alone in sticking to certain traditional -- and seemingly indusputable -- bits of wisdom.