To My Son, in the Wake of the Steubenville Trial
My Not-So Little Hobbit, My Precious,
We need to talk before you start going out with girls and hanging out with the guys. We’ve already spoken about how you shouldn’t let your friends talk you into things you know are stupid, and that rule still applies. There are some people who would like nothing more than to get you in trouble. Don’t give them that opportunity.
Now, as you get ready to date—(this is the point where my husband would interject that, since he’s a Kilpatrick, he really can’t reasonably expect to date before he’s 35. This is the point where I slug my husband on the shoulder and give him a dirty look)—Now, as you get ready to date, I want you to remember to treat any young lady as you would want your mother or your sister to be treated. I know you’ve got hormones, and I know you don’t want to talk about that with your mother, but just remember that whoever you’re going out with is someone’s sister or daughter. Be a gentleman.
For heaven’s sake if you see your friends, and I use that term loosely, mistreating another person in any way, do something. Tell someone. Call me. Call 911 if you have to. And then re-evaluate that “friendship.” Are those the people you want to hang out with? Remember that underage drinking is illegal. It doesn’t matter if “everyone is doing it.” It’s still against the law. Drugs are illegal. Having sex with a girl who’s 17 when you’re 18? Still illegal. Taking photos of naked people? Illegal. I know, I know. You know all this, and I’ve just made you blush. I still have to have this conversation with you.
This one’s really, really important: remember you can call me anytime day or night and I will come get you, no questions asked. No matter what. If you want out of a dicey situation, your father and I will get you. You can throw me under the bus. You can tell people that I will ground you for life, that I will take away your car. You can tell them that I’m evil and you can’t wait to get to college just as long as you let me come get you out of that situation.
Okay, I hate to say it, but I know it’s true. You need to be careful about the girl, too. As your Big DaDa would say, “Some people are just sorry.” That goes for the girls, too. They, like anyone else, can lie. Don’t trust her if she says she’s 18. Don’t trust her if she’s had too much to drink or she’s been smoking something. This is why so many people go to restaurants and the movies for their dates—far better to get to know people in public. And, yes, I’ve known one or two girls who’ve cried rape even when it was consensual at the time, so you be extra careful. Know what? I know a lot more girls who’ve been pressured into things they didn’t want to do or were raped and didn’t tell anyone, so you remember that no means no. You don’t want to be in that he said/she said situation. You sure as heck don’t want to become a father before you can even finish college. It’s not going to hurt you to be cautious. And if she doesn’t respect that, she’s not the girl for you. Hell, you may have a girl come on to you and not want to take no for an answer. You be strong and tell her to step back. Convictions and a good many STDs last forever. It’s always better safe than sorry.
The most important thing I could tell you about sex is that it’s not for random strangers. It should be something shared between two people who really, really love each other. I know that’s not the popular thing to say, but it’s true. Your father and I didn’t party together. We didn’t shack up before we got married. Here we are, still together and still in love. Our friends who got married because they partied well together and/or had lots of great sex early on in their relationship? Most of them didn’t last as a couple. Just because you’re old enough to do something doesn’t mean that you should.
All right, now that I’ve scared you to death about being a teenager, I’m going to lay one of the biggest rules on you: I need to know where you are, who you are with, and when you are coming home at all times. I don’t ask you this because I want to be in your business. I ask you because it’s a common courtesy to your family to know where you are and when you’re coming home. I need to be able to get in touch with you at all times. It’s what caring families do. Think about it. Do I ever run off and not tell you where I am?
High school isn’t going to last forever, but your family will. If the people you hang out with in high school are assholes, then write them off and wait until you get to college. You’re sure to find more assholes there, but you’ll also find some good people who share your interests. Once you find true friends, stick to them and be good to them. In the meantime, you don’t need friends or a girlfriend badly enough to stick with bad ones. You’ll know when you find the right friends, and you’ll know when you’ve met the right girl if you listen really carefully to that quiet, inner voice that always tells you the truth and always, always tells you what’s right.
I wish I could shield you from bad people. I wish I could take away all of the bad that life will throw at you, but I can’t. I’m just your mother, just one woman who tries to do right and often still does wrong. Know that I love you. I will always love you, and I will always come for you. Be strong in the face of all of the idiots in the world and do what is right even when it’s hard—especially when it’s hard.