3 Teens Sort of in Love
● By Sandy Kauten
“Ugh! GET A ROOM!” When my 13-year-old daughter catches her parents kissing in the kitchen, she is doubly offended. First, because even mildly carnal stuff disconcerts her, and second, smooching, like getting a tongue pierced, seems ridiculous and creepy when old people do it.
Yes, consult any calendar and you’ll find it’s time for the Valentine’s Day Love Report.
Everyone in our family is in love, or something like it.
Our oldest daughter, Marie, 19, is part of a love triangle. She has two boy pals at college. One of them is in love with her, but she yearns for the other one. And that one is playing hard-to-get. This standoff has been giving me peace of mind for almost a year. Of course, I want my daughter to enjoy a mutually sustaining, loving relationship with a man other than her father. I really do. Honest. Someday. When she’s older maybe.
Our 16-year-old, Sally, has a boyfriend, but they only get together once a week and seem merely chummy. He’s a nice kid. He and Sally read Nicholas Sparks books to each other (with expression). Although his taste in literature may be girlish, he demonstrates a manly appetite for food when he comes to dinner. After dealing with finicky, girly appetites all these years, it’s pleasant to watch him uncritically shovel it in. Not only that, he figured out how to get our new DVD player to work. (I’d ask him to improve our Internet access, too, but it might cost us another daughter.)
Meanwhile, 13-year-old Wendy goes enthusiastically from boyfriend to boyfriend like a hungry lioness among baboons. Happily enough, these brief relationships are conducted almost entirely by phone and computer.
Remember the Giga-pet fad of ancient times? A little hand-held computer showed a small beast on its screen and by pushing various buttons you could feed it, play with it or put it to sleep. Similarly Wendy’s relationships depend entirely upon electronics and button-pushing. Only rarely do these man-boys materialize – at a dance or for a group movie date.
Mercifully, they don’t make house calls. It would make switching boyfriends needlessly awkward. I mean, if Wendy terminated a boyfriend who was sitting in our living room, she’d have to dispose of the body before taking up with his replacement. The logistics are much simpler by phone.
Like the Giga-pet, Wendy is a creature of the computer age. Once when she was 4, her mother pointed out a spectacular sunset. The sky was a dazzling red-orange and the clouds were purple fading into blue. Little Wendy gasped, “It looks like a screen saver!”
With keyboard and mouse almost like parts of her body, dare I hope that Wendy is so fully adapted to hi-tech communications that she will continue to transact her love life at a safe, sanitary distance? In an age when faxing seems clunky and low-tech, how gross are slobbery smooching and sweaty pawing?! I’m old-fashioned in a lot of ways, but I’m feeling very progressive on this theory.
That brings us to Betsy and me. After 22 years of marriage, we have everything pretty well worked out. Except for my dreams.
There are two varieties. In the first kind, I am making love to my wife. It’s lovely, but no matter how married you are, to some degree you’d have to see that as a wasted opportunity. In the other kind of dream, a beautiful woman is drawn to me – either someone I know in real life or someone freshly dreamed-up. But I never know it’s a dream, so I beg off. “Stop it! I’m a happily married man,” I say unhappily. Sometimes I actually flee to protect my virtue. Always I wake up smacking my forehead.
One morning, hoping at least to get credit for my fidelity, I told my wife about it, and she scoffed, “I don’t care what you do in your dreams. Go for it.”
I drew myself up to my full height (a figurative 3-foot-2) and said haughtily, “I don’t NEED your permission!”
The mental-health community may frown, but I’m trying to handle this without professional help. I can cope, just so long as Betsy doesn’t tell me HER dreams.
In summary, despite the occasional rude insinuation that arrives by email, things are OK in the master bedroom, and all three teenage daughters are striking some sparks but generating little heat. It’s an optimum situation that can’t last, but if parenthood has taught me anything, it is: Savor the moment.Rick can be reached at [email protected]