Sunday, July 29, 2012

DANGEROUS LAISIONS

One of my friends shared with me today a very disturbing piece of news . It concerned her niece’s classmate. Apparently this fifteen year old girl from the tenth standard had  accepted a “friend request” from an unknown boy  on Face book.. The person she had become friends with was  someone who claimed to be eighteen and in the twelfth standard. After about six months of virtual interaction, this person asked the girl to come to Bombay to meet him. When she mentioned this to her friends they became a bit suspicious and after some snooping around on Face book found out that the “boy” in question was a thirty year old man!! I would say that it was really lucky for her that she had sensible friends who guided her properly.. Generally what happens in such cases is a group of girls conspiring with each other to keep this a secret and help their friend run away to Bombay to meet her virtual boyfriend!

While facebook may be a new way for such relationships to develop, that fact that they do is the truth about teenage. It used to happen when we were younger often in  similarly innovative ways. I remember once during my teenage when I was talking to a friend on the phone we had a “cross connection” ( the phone lines of Calcutta were notorious for that !) with a man/ boy  who started participating in our conversation uninvited. After the initial irritation we  started talking to him  While I got off the call after that novelty of flirting with an unknown stranger had worn off, my friend on the other hand continued talking to him, giving him a lot of details about herself. Soon, we had this young man at our school gate waiting to meet my friend. It was very scary on one hand while also rather thrilling.. I am not sure what it was that he did with his life ( I mean we don’t know if he was a student or a drop out or looking for employment) but it was obvious that he was pursuing my friend. As bystanders in this “romance” we felt very entertained. Now  when I think back, I feel that we may have actually encouraged my friend into it. They were together for quite sometime, I think until she was in her 11th and 12th when her parents got wind of it and put an end to it!

While attraction for the opposite sex is normal during teenage, I think what is dangerous is probably the fascination that teenagers – particularly girls may have for complete strangers. There have been occasions when girls have been stalked by strangers but have convinced themselves that they are attractive enough to engage the attention of an unknown male.

 And where female teens are concerned, I think there is something else that is equally dangerous.  I would like to call this  “experiencing by proxy”.  Most girls like to share their  experiences with the male sex  with friends and the friends get as excited as the one who is actually going through it thereby providing encouragement for this ! I also  find it really strange, the way girls can talk their friends into a situation of being attracted to someone. While this influence is strong in the teenage years, it persists until ones twenties. I don’t know why they  do it but I guess it provides many with the thrill that they themselves may be unable to experience due to various reasons like restrictions at home, or themselves not being attractive enough and so on…! And I can never understand the girl who believes her friends when they tell her “Oh, I think he must be interested in you!”

So, the girls provided with such encouragement get into dangerous liaisons feeling like heroines. The friends listen goggle eyed as they share the moments spent with the boy friend ( of which about 80% must be made up stories) . Sometimes they do more “daring” things with the friends conspiring with them in this simply for the attention that it gets them in their peer group.

I don’t know how we can address this or whether it can be addressed in the first place! When hormones drive you then it is very important to be part of a peer group that understands and keeps in mind your welfare rather than their own entertainment. These days such relationships are happening while girls are very young, so the maturity levels of their peer group is likely to be equally lower and so the risks are higher. The opportunities ofcourse are much more in the sense that one does not have to leave the house to come into contact with a stranger. You can do it right in your living room or study with your mother or father sitting in the same room.

As a parent, I can only say that keeping channels of communication open may probably be the best way to deal with this. I try not to be shocked  when my daughter tells me something about what some in her peer group are up to. I hear about girls who leave their house dressed in a certain way, reach a friend’s house and change into something completely different! I also hear about girls who take naked pictures of themselves on their mobiles and show it to their friends. I cannot imagine what will happen if this phone falls into the wrong hands!

“Don’t freak out !” says junior when she tells me all this.  It requires a lot of will power not to .. because if I do I know I will not be the recipient of any more of such bits of information. But at the back of my mind is also the concern as a parent about whether I should share such information with other parents – particularly if their daughters are involved in such activities. The husband tells me to stay out of it but I feel a sense  of guilt..!

There is also the issue of trying to get her out of interacting with such peers. But that is something that I don’t think that I should do because then she may just become friends with them to prove a point to me ( never underestimate a teenager’s potential for rebellion). But what gives me comfort is that she herself finds such behaviour stupid and silly – she feels that such risks are unnecessary. I heave a sigh of relief and wonder why I did not think like that when I was a teen. I guess, it was because I had more restrictions and less open ness from my mother to discuss such things – for example if I had told her about the telephone issue she would have gone straight to the school principal along with a dozen other parents!

It is a fine balance I guess – this thing about parenting a teen. I am thankful only about the fact that I have a daughter. So, in some ways I have previous experience to bank upon. Not having had  a brother, I would have been clueless in dealing with a boy and his hormones!!!


12 comments:

Jack said...

Meera,

A very factual post. I have seen so many changes in what goes on and that to at such a young age. You are right that channels of communications need to be kept open between parents and children all the times. I had written about relationship between parents and children some time ago. Also we need to introduce youngsters to relationship education, I am not saying sex education, with gradual openness with age of the child and telling about sex too when it is appropriate.

Take care

anilkurup said...

A very pertinent and relevant subject.
The fact is the male sex is as curious about the female sex when it comes to stories of liaisons.
The urge is in both.
As you said parenting is an art and calls for much patience and luck to supplement.I think with the information explosion there is nothing much that can be kept at bay.
Leaving communication channels open is perhaps the only way.

Deepa said...

You have detailed your experiences, the analysis and the confusion of being stuck in the middle so well. I too shudder at the way female teens can be taken advantage of. With every advancement of technology, there's always the risk it could be used for the wrong reasons. But as a daughter of a Mom like you, (no longer a teen, way past), I think you're on the right path. If your daughter feels comfortable enough with you to confide in you about all such things, believe me, it couldn't get better. You have won half the battle. I have seen teens get into weird situations because of extreme restrictions and resulting rebellion. My parents knew all my friends even guy friends, they would be always be welcome at my home - to eat, hang out, watch cricket matches and stuff. That way they always knew what I was up to. I can't say I haven't had restrictions - and that I haven't broken them, but overall turned out pretty well, I must say! Listen to your daughter and let her lead the way. She does sound sensible :) You make a fine parent! As far as telling the other mothers or not, I really cannot comment on that. It also depends on what kind of a relationship they share with their daughters. Shouldn't end up causing a friction there which flows down to the friendship between the teens and then to you and your daughter. Maybe you could just keep a closer look on the teens and give them the feeling that you are around.

simply mee said...

Me thinks it is the thrill of an adventure that makes the adrenaline to pump through the teenagers veins, hence, making their hormones to rage.
FB is like a 2-sided coin, {got the phrase from sugarsprig}....that the evil is more than the good.
The teenage years are the most fearful period of a parents life, hence, early awareness is the best solution.

anindita said...

A very relevant post and more and more parents and teen agers should read this post. I have seen children of many of my friends and colleagues going ga-ga over unknown liasons and driving their thrill out of it.

I think the lesson which Ma taught me at my teenage is still relevant now and always will be, "Maa ke shob kotha khule bolbe...."

Cloud Nine said...

Oh...thank God, she is a daughter. You can't even imagine how guys grow up. Having had two younger brothers with their hormones on overdrive in their teens....i was almost tearing my hair out, especially with my poor mom dead and gone. The best thing to deal is what you say- remain friendly and be privy to what they are up to, rather than fret later. And thinking back, it is the THRILL that urges such mad drive in us. And oh..the fun of narrating interesting escapades to wide eyed peer group:P Great post, Meera!

Meera Sundararajan said...

At the outset folks thanks for your comments. @ Anil I always suspected that boys also behaved similarly but as cloud nine says I would once again echo my feeling of relief that I do not have any sons!

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Jack you are so right - Relationship Education I think that is what is the need of the hour!

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Deepa for a moment I had thought it was a Deepa I knew until I visited your blog. Good to hear those comments come from someone who is closer in age to the group that I have written about than me!

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Ani, your mother certainly taught you a valuable lesson which I am sure you are taking forward with Pakhi!

ashok said...

a very relevant topic in todays world

dr.antony said...

Hi,Meera
Girls with any sense shouldn't trust anything on this kind of friendship sites.
But unfortunately,even the supposedly intelligent fall victims.I know families ruined by this business.My best friend's daughter ran away with someone who befriended through the net recently.She was the only child!
Sometime back,a 12 year old girl was caught with a 40 year old man in her flat while her parents had gone for work.The father came back because he had forgotten something.The game was on for some time.
Parents have to be more careful, the youngsters will complain,for sure.I always tell them to keep the home computer in a common area at home.

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