May 03, 2006
A Guide For Parents Of 14-Year-Old Girls
I sometimes wonder if I am ever going to see the Hamptons again.
My wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, and I are on permanent guard duty. My son J.T., who is 17, refuses to come out to the Hamptons on weekends.
I know I can force him but forcing him would almost ensure that when he grows up, he will become a Scientologist like Tom Cruise.
J.T. is a good, responsible kid and would be perfectly able to spend a weekend alone in our house in New York City.
It's not that I don't trust him. It's that I DON'T trust him. What if he turns out to be just like me when I was 17?
I must admit, it is a lot easier with a teenage boy than a teenage girl.
I was in a conversation with one of my advertising clients the other day about teenage kids refusing to come out to the Hamptons on weekends until the summer and he said, "I don't have to worry yet, my daughter is only 14."
Stifling the temptation to ask the client, "Are you nuts?" I decided to revive a column I wrote years ago as a guide to parents. This column is an open letter to my client.
Trust me, there is nothing you can do to prepare for what you are about to go through. All I can do, in the words of Yogi Berra, is, "Teach you my experience."
A Guide For Parents Of 14-Year-Old Girls
THE BOY PROBLEM
Let me tell you, it starts so slowly you will never catch on. Here's how it works. For the first 13 years of her life you will ask your daughter, "Where are you going?" What you will hear is, "Jenny, Jessie, Liz, Holly, Sara, and I are going to the movies." Then one day you ask the same question and what you will get back is, "Some of us are going to the movies." "Some of us" sounds innocent, doesn't it? Don't be fooled. "Some of us" are boys. Little, pimply, scheming, scamming boys. So what do you do? Play it cool. Don't acknowledge that you are even aware that boys have entered the picture. One day you'll look at the group of 14 and 15-year-olds who trail in and, sure enough, some of them will be little boys. Here's some good advice as to how to handle them. Be cool. Do not reach up and try to throttle the first little bastard who walks in smirking, planning, and plotting. Instead, watch closely as to how he behaves. Out of the crowd of boys and girls one boy, who is clean-cut, washed, and handsome, will come up to you, extend his hand and politely say, "Hello. I'm Alex. (They all seem to be named Alex.) I'm so happy to meet you. Your daughter has told me all about you."
Watch out! This little son-of-a-bitch can't be trusted. The friendlier they are, the more they can't be trusted. I prefer little boys with darting eyes who look like they're afraid you are going to bite their useless little heads off. Just remember, a frightened little boy can't make his move until he gets his nerve up. And a scared little boy is a good little boy. It's your job as the parent of a teenage girl to terrorize any little boy who comes within a mile of your daughter until she is at least 30 years old.
One thing that parents of teenage girls have to worry about which wasn't present just a few short years ago is the Internet. The "buddy" list is a hotbed of potential problems that didn't exist 10 years ago. Before the Internet, the average 15-year-old girl met 3.6 boys outside of her school classmates. I guarantee you your daughter has a buddy list that is longer and more complete than the entire phone book of a country like Albania. Today's teenagers spend every waking minute on the Internet. The little binging sound of those instant messages makes you feel like you're living inside of a pinball machine, doesn't it? Well, let me tell you, every BING is a message from another little boy named Alex. These boys, instead of hanging around a pool hall like the decent boys of my youth did and screaming, "YO! HEY! YO! GOILS!" every time a girl walked by, are sitting in darkened rooms crouched over hot computers and sending your little girl message after message. Let me point out why this is dangerous.
When I was 13, the first time a little girl sidled up to me and started to ask me a question I got so excited that I couldn't talk. A horrible little squeaking sound that I couldn't control came out from somewhere deep in my chest. The girl walked away thinking I was Harpo Marx's illegitimate son. Now the Internet makes it possible for boys to write from a distance and that emboldens a boy to write sensual, explicit things that I'm still too shy to say to my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, in person. A way to keep these messages on the up and up is to announce to your children that periodically you are going to pick up all the computer hard drives in the house and ship them off to the local FBI crime lab to resuscitate old messages that were trashed but still live in cyberspace.
THE CURFEW FAKE-OUT
No guide to 14-year-old girls would be complete without examining the curfew question. Don't be faked out by curfews. They are meaningless. Many years ago I wrote a short story about a man who was viewed as the perfect husband. For 35 years he left his home and went to work before 6 a.m. every morning and was home promptly every night at 6 p.m. Of course, the man was having an affair with his mistress between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. The moral of this story is . . . "There is nothing that can happen at midnight that can't happen at 4 in the afternoon."
Finally, make sure your daughter knows that you love and trust her because, by and large, these are good kids who are still growing up and can't help it if they are smarter, more sophisticated, and more in control of their lives than you were when you were their age.
As for boys, it's a different story and a different column and, frankly, I'm ashamed that when my son J.T. is on the computer and I hear the bing of another instant message going out to someone's daughter, the ugly disgusting sexist part of me takes over and I mutter to myself, "YOU GO, BOY! YOU GO!"
Then of course sanity and responsibility forces their way into my perverted brain and I mutter under my breath, "Not in my house you don't," and so I get ready to spend another dismal weekend in New York City instead of my beautiful East Hampton.
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