Sunday, May 02, 2004

Lets Talk About Sex

The other day as I was strolling around the tables full of students working, and offering advice on composition and layout, I overheard two of my girls discussing birth control. I was shocked.

"My doctor suggested that I start using the patch. But if you have a patch, boys think your gonna have sex with them. I don't want to go around having sex, but my doctor said I should be ready in case I change my mind. I'm supposed to decide on something else."

Wow...that had to be the most responsible thing I've ever heard coming from the mouth of a teenaged girl. Ususally the conversations are something like this:

" Did you hear Maria (or Jennifer, or Shanay) is pregnant (again)?"

Two years ago, in the spring, fully two thirds of our eleventh grade female population was pregnant. Most of these girls drop out of school. A few will, eventually, get a GED.
Often, they come by to visit with their babies. Occasionally, they bring along the 'baby daddy'. I muster up a grin. I issue the compulsory "Ooooh, she's soooo cute." and "Ahhhh, how sweet." What I'm really thinking is, "Damn, you're so young! This is going to be really, really hard for you."

I was also a 'too-young mother". But my 'too-young' motherhood happened when I was in college as opposed to high school. Even now, as I look back, I can still recall the fear and the loneliness and the struggle of those days.

I was not allowed to return home to my parents house with the baby. I had no place to live, no job, no car, and very little money in my bank account. I had to put my little son in a foster home. I cried until the tears would literally, no longer come; my tearducts had dried. I somehow mustered up the last bit of strength I had left, to climb out of the blackness of a post-postpartum depression pit that nearly swallowed me.
Everything I ever learned about research as a college student I began to use to find help for my child and myself. ADC, WIC, Birthright, Womankind. friends. I found a house, and brought my son back to Cleveland. I found a babysitter on the Cleveland State campus, and rode the RTA with the baby until I finished my degree.

This was a part of my life that formed the person who I am today. Did it make me stronger? Probably not...I was always hard-headed.
Did it make me more compassionate? Absolutely.

But would I have done things differently if I could go back in time and make some changes?
This is a tricky question to answer, because I love my son. Ben is like an extension of my soul. We are so much alike...he understands me as no one else can. Yet, I missed the other things that would have been a part of my twenties. I didn't go to graduate school. I never went to Europe. I never had time to paint or write. I was thrust into mommyhood before I had a chance to discover the bigger world.

I hate the phrase "it's just sex"
"Just sex" can have huge consequences.

In today's Plain Dealer, Regina Brett has a third essay in a series of columns she's written this week about child support. Her remarks are honest and relevant. I will be printing out this series and passing out copies to my students.

I realize that the topic is not a part of my curriculum, but in teaching a studio art class I have the luxury of multitasking. One can talk and paint or draw or sculpt all at the same time. I can have a discussion with my students about any topic we choose, while we work. I try to take advantage of my bully pulpit to get them to think about important issues.

Monday's topic: Sex

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