By Debby Shulman
Help me with the term “Hooking Up.” It’s thrown around my kitchen with not so much as a pause … my kids use this phrase in such broad terms, I have no idea what in God’s name they are talking about. Is it my version of ‘making out’ or my mother’s version of ‘necking’ or my grandma’s version of ‘heavy petting?’ I ask and get no answers; the secret lies in the teenage vault of vernacular that none of us can even pretend to comprehend anymore.
The worst part about ‘hooking up’ is that it seems to happen so casually; it bears the same significance as having a cup of coffee.
“Yea, she hooked up with that guy from the mall.” WHAT?
For a while I was under the wrong impression: I truly thought hooking up meant pants off, shirt cast aside, naked on a bed doing the nasty – but I was referred to son #2 when I disputed the disgusting and incredible regularity of so many kids ‘hooking up’ and it was explained more clearly. (Please note that my children speak to me as if I have a profound processing delay that requires speaking slowly and using words that WILL NOT appear on the ACT: penis, vagina, douchebag, asshole). Gently described, and with more detail than the bile in my stomach could handle, ‘hooking up’ as it was excruciatingly explained, means anything from making out to actually engaging in some salacious, genital carnival that can bear little or no significance between said partners.
So when the kiddos start chatting about ‘hooking up’ and how little their peers seem care about it, I get a little nervous.
Why would you ‘hook up’ with someone you have no feelings for? And whatever happened to the fear that a reputation would follow such careless and unchaste activity?
Come on. I can’t take on Molly, Mylie and Morality all in one year. It’s too overwhelming.
But the ‘hooking up’ thing is serious, and it disturbs me on many levels.
I grew up watching Laurie Partridge, Marcia Brady and Carol Burnett. They were NOT hooking up. Even in Judy Blume’s “Forever” (the scandalous and captivating book of my generation), they were in a relationship! Yes, they gave his penis a name and no, my mother would not buy it for me, but there was intimacy! There was love! There was commitment! All of these wonderful attributes of teenage relationships are for the most part, gone. And it’s actually quite sad. I can’t compete with ‘Pretty Little Liars” because I’m under the covers with my daughter hanging onto every episode. Thank God she never watched “Gossip Girl” — DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DO ON THAT SHOW? They have sex, talk about sex, ditch school to have sex, and wear lingerie ALL BEFORE SCHOOL LETS OUT. I dodged a bullet – at least I don’t think she’s ever seen it … now on second thought, I’m sure she’s seen it … and that’s the Holy Shit of this hooking-up stuff.
It is SO out there.
So how do we counter that? How do we let our teenagers know that hooking up is not only emotionally careless and lacking in ANY intimacy, it’s also doing a little daily damage to that otherwise temperamental and fragile ego. Trust me, I have tried. Gently using my ‘Understanding Mom’ voice, I speak while making that furrowed brow, and scrunch up my face, explicitly inferring my genuine distaste. I sigh loudly and make that half ‘huch’ sound by rolling the back of my tongue against the roof my mouth. I know they hear me, but I am not so sure they care. This is not just a fraternity-party-gone-wrong one-night stand – something we are all guilty of at one point or another, rather, it has become a socially accepted, completely customary part of their generation.
Nameless fooling around, casual sexual encounters in someone’s basement or in the back of a car that never goes anywhere is happening over and over again.
Think about how few teens actually have boyfriends and girlfriends, how teens today seem to have little interest in having a steady companion. Why should you when you can chug whatever gasoline your friend stole from his parents liquor cabinet and get it on with that girl from your chemistry class? Blame the media, blame social networking, it doesn’t matter. But I think we need to understand that even though it’s here — it doesn’t mean we go down without a fight.
I understand that some of you will simply pass this on as just another phase, one more teenage rebellion to deal with – but I can assure you that once our kids become desensitized to this otherwise meaningful act, they will do it with greater frequency. Why should they emotionally invest themselves in a relationship if they can fool around without desiring any trust or devotion? Never having been one to keep my opinions to myself, however, I wrestle with the hasty and reckless behavior that is discussed in overheard conversations and find it demeaning and disrespectful to both parties involved.
Treating physical intimacy of any kind with irreverence creates affectionate vacancy. Our kids need to know what it feels like to really LIKE one another, not just get off because there wasn’t anything good on HBO.
‘Hooking Up” is the lazy teen’s guide to friends with benefits … but tell me, what are the real benefits?
Remember the thrill of really liking someone in high school? The crushes that made you think about when you could see each other, talking on the phone (not texting) until your parents screamed at you to get off and making out in parked cars until the windows steamed? Truthfully, that’s what I want for my kids. A Throwback Thursday of generational proportion, we should talk to our teens about how good it feels to express yourself in that way but with someone you really, truly like and feel respected by. Let’s admit that our kids are all going to fool around – but under what circumstances will it help them grow and develop as sensitive, respectful and compassionate adults?
Not by ‘hooking up.’ That’s for sure.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Debby Shulman is a college essay consultant and academic tutor with a private practice in Northbrook, Illinois. She also professionally collaborates with Amy Simon College Consulting in Bannockburn, Illinois. Debby also blogs about Motherhood/Teen issues for Your Teen magazine (www.yourteenmag.com). Check out her valuable advice.