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DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - August 8, 2008

The Y Files: The thing we don't talk about

by Maria Shen

I'm currently at a summer camp, living in a wooden cabin with 12 girls. We're as diverse as they come - we're from all over the states (Texas, Ohio, California, etc.) and even foreign countries in the Middle East. Though we may major in different art concentrations (dance, musical theater, writing, etc.), there's one topic that always piques our interest. It's not often talked about in the open, but you can hardly be surprised by our interest in it.

In case you haven't guessed already, the topic is relationships.

We don't have to have a lot of experience to talk about it - some of us have never been kissed, others have gone farther, and a small handful has had sexual relations. Our ages range from 15 to 17, and most of us are going on to our senior year of high school.

Unsurprisingly, none of the girls likes to share her relationships with her parents. And they don't share - at all. In fact, most parents are kept in the dark. Those who aren't kept in the dark only find out through accidental discoveries.

One of my cabin mates has only once let a boyfriend meet her parents. "When I go to college, I'll let my mom know that a lot has gone on, since sophomore year," she says.

Another says, "My parents know nothing - thankfully." She plans on saving herself for someone she loves, but in the meantime, she still doesn't want her parents to know anything about her current boyfriend.

As they discussed the matter with me, it became very apparent that the reason they don't like to discuss their relationships with their parents is because it's - well - awkward. And why talk about it when all they'll receive is disapproval?

One of the girls shared a horror story of how, when her mother found out that she was having sex with her current boyfriend, her mother cried for three days.

"It was the most stressful thing in my life," the girl told me gravely.

It's not a matter of how far they've all gone. They just don't like their parents to know anything - period. One girl, who has never been kissed nor had a boyfriend, still doesn't like her parents to know about her crushes because, "they'll bother me about it all the time. It's just annoying."

I can understand why they don't want their parents to know, but I can't exactly relate to their experiences. I don't know anything about parenting, but I feel that because my mother has a lot of confidence in me and respect for my decisions, I consciously try to maintain her trust in me. Perhaps as a result, I've always been able to keep her informed about my life.

One of the girls said that if she had a daughter, she would want to know everything that's going on. But when I asked if she would tell her parents everything in her life, I received a staunch, "No."

"But I'm open minded, so my future daughter should feel like she can tell me anything," she added.

In freshman year of high school, almost all teens are put into a health class where a segment of the course is devoted to sex education, more commonly known as "sex ed." There, students learn about protection, sexually transmitted diseases, and, among other things, that Planned Parenthood is always there to help.

Because of our "sex ed" both in and out of school - including movies, books, television, and word of mouth - we all like to think that we know exactly what we're getting ourselves into and that our independently thinking minds would lead us to the right choices.

I suppose whether or not we choose correctly is something we can only find out in the future. In the meantime, some of us are waiting until marriage, some are waiting for a special time, and others just really want to get it over with.

Sometimes, parents are there for us to talk to. Most times, we turn to our friends for advice.

And as a teenager, I'd just like to ask parents to be gentle and understanding. Maybe I'll be singing a different tune 20 years from now, but for now, I think I speak for a lot of girls - at least the girls living in my cabin - when I say this.

Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School who loves ice cream on sunny days, books on rainy ones, and music for all those in between. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at youngbohemians@gmail.com.

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