An interesting thing happened to Meelyn today in Driver's Ed, something that had nothing to do with driving over curbs or sending elderly ladies shrieking up trees or methodically hitting mailboxes with the right-hand mirror, all along the side of a country road.
Before I tell the story of what happened today, let me explain what happened on Monday. Monday was the first day of class, and as part of a getting-to-know-you exercise, the teacher asked people to raise their hands as he named off high schools from our city and ones in the surrounding counties.
Out of thirty kids in the class, Mee was the only homeschooler, which wasn't really a surprise. She said that when the teacher finished naming high schools, he looked at her and said, "Do you go to high school, Meelyn?"
"Yes," she answered in her easygoing way. "But I'm a homeschooler."
As one group, the entire class turned their heads to look at her. She couldn't really gauge their expressions, she said. But obviously, people have their opinions about homeschooling and homeschoolers, which range from thinking that homeschoolers are smart nerdy kids who can play Rachmaninoff with one hand while eating mashed potatoes with the other. Or maybe they think that homeschoolers are like members of some strange religious cult. Meelyn, with her fabulous hair and gorgeous smile (we paid $5,400 for that smile and if I feel completely entitled, if not compelled, to say how beautiful it is) and cute outfit, doesn't seem to fit either of those descriptions.
Later, Meelyn reported that she was waiting outside for me to come pick her up and she found herself standing near the girl who sits next to her, whose name is Hannah. "Who's picking you up?" asked Meelyn conversationally.
Hannah flicked her hair over her shoulder and with studied nonchalance replied, "My boyfriend."
Keep in mind that Hannah, like Meelyn, is fifteen years old.
Meelyn said to me later, "That seems weird, a fifteen year old girl like me having her boyfriend come pick her up."
"Weird....I don't know about weird," I said tartly, wishing I could give Hannah's oblivious mother a piece of my mind. "What it seems like to me is giving your very young teenage daughter an invitation to have sex because you know what they say: 'Teenagers are going to do it anyway,' especially if their parents are making it so easy for them."
"Do you really think she's having sex with her boyfriend?" asked Meelyn, wide-eyed.
"Yup," I said flatly. "And guess what else she may be having? Besides sex?"
"Could be. Or possibly a venereal disease. Maybe both. Thanks, Mom!" I said. It was before Meelyn was even born, but it isn't hard for me to remember the girls who used to show up in my classroom before or after school with puffy red eyes, telling me in strangled voices about the positive pregnancy tests, the heartache as they saw the boy they had sex with last weekend walking hand-in-hand with another girl. Or the crabs. There's nothing like a rampaging case of pubic lice to knock the romance right out of you.
Actually, the problem with those memories is that I can't seem to forget.
So that brings us to today, when Hannah asked Meelyn if she had a certain booklet in her Driver's Ed folder. "I lost mine," said Hannah. "I think I left it under my boyfriend's bed."
"Can you believe she said that to me?" asked Meelyn incredulously. "I wanted to say, 'Excuse me. But that is, like, too much information.'"
"She's just trying to subtly tell you that she's a grown woman and you're just a little homeschooled ninny. Only it's not really that subtle, is it?" I said.
"No, especially since she went on to say, 'We were eating tuna casserole on his bed last night and it must have fallen out.'"
"Just ignore it," I advised. "Just give her one of those steady, penetrating looks in the eye, which is something Miss Manners says she does to people who insist on telling her things she doesn't want to hear."
I'm glad, actually, that Meelyn is having this experience so that she can see how sad and even pathetic the teen dating scene is. That's what she'd likely be around all day long if she went to public school. It's certainly what I was around all day long. And I can't tell you how depressing it was, the exact opposite of all that is empowering and self-affirming. For so many, it was all about attracting a boyfriend, getting a boyfriend and then doing whatever they could to keep the boyfriend. Which, of course, meant sex. Which they often didn't really want to do. But they felt they had to, they ought to, because if they wouldn't do it, some other girl would.
I look at Meelyn and her smartness and her innocence and her intact sense of self -- her certain knowledge that she is worth something, capable of many things, with a wide array of interests; a person who has already accomplished some awesome goals -- and I wonder. I wonder what she'll choose. Obviously, I can't say what will happen in the future. But I hope she'll choose wisely and stick to what we've taught her so that she won't make mistakes along the way that will break her heart and harm her body. She is my beautiful girl and I have such hopes for her, for Aisling too.
Dear Father, keep them and protect them. St. Maria Goretti and St. John Vianney, watch over them.
And watch over Hannah and all the girls out there like her, too.
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