It is with great pride I tell you that I can still be shocked. It's not easy in today's world, where guns are shot and no one flinches, and children are fought over and no one cries.
I was shocked the other day by a survey that said by the age of 13, boys who had never had a sexual experience were in the minority, and sexually inexperienced girls were in the minority by age 15. By the time children entered high school, 55 percent of them had engaged in sex.I'm not going to pull the old chestnut, "In my day, at that age, I still had a doll on my bed and was picking broccoli out of my braces." This is not "my day,' and times have changed. But peer pressure hasn't changed in 200 years.
Peer pressure is a force to be dealt with. It's bigger than we are - stronger than we are. It supersedes the love of our mothers, the threats of our fathers, the wisdom of our grandparents, and even the strength of our own convictions.
It makes a knee hanging out of a rip in your jeans all right. It makes skipping school cool. It makes drinking, taking drugs and sleeping around acceptable. It's not important what you do . . . just so long as everyone else is doing it with you.
What's unique about "peer pressure" is that every generation believes they invented it. It's brand-new, and they are the first ones to deal with it.
Kids have been dealing with it since "The Scarlet Letter," when I suspect Hester's mother told her daughter, "You fool around and you'll end up wearing a piece of costume jewelry that does not stand for Academic Achievement."
My parents fought peer pressure with dire predictions. If you had sex before you were married you went blind, your skin broke out and you glowed in the dark. If you broke the curfew or wrecked the car, you were a dead person. If you smoked a cigarette, you couldn't come out of your room until your wedding day.
My generation of parents spawned yet another approach: the Compromise Two-Step. All the other parents were dancing to it, so we too gave in to some peer pressure. We were relieved to know our kids were smoking ONLY cigarettes, not pot. Our son was living with someone . . . thank God it was a girl. Our children were engaging in sex, but at least they were prepared. They weren't studying, but at least they were still living at home.
We are in the throes of a new approach to peer pressure - "Just Say No!" Putting those three little words up against peer pressure is like Pee-wee Herman facing off with Ted Koppel. How can kids say no when parents can barely say it?
How about, "Be Prepared to Live With Yes!"? Drugs will personally screw up your present and your future genetically. Sex in high school is what fills out a graduation gown, if you're lucky enough to graduate or escape disease. If you begin to "prove" your masculinity/femininity, love, loyalty and independence, when does it stop?
Peer pressure carries one of the highest price tags around. Parents and kids alike must ask themselves, "Can we afford it?"