... But I don’t recognize myself, or the parents I know, in Elliott’s portrait of naiveté. As the mother of a teenaged girl, and inspired by my colleague Hanna Rosin’s deeply researched work on why modern males are crapping out, I offer my own pet theory on the failure of high-school-aged boys to perform as well academically as girls. Next time you drop your high-schooler off, take a look around at the other kids. In warm weather, standard girls’ attire is Daisy Dukes and some minimalist chest covering. When it gets cold, they switch to leggings so sheer they make me think of that nightmare in which you show up in class having forgotten to put on your skirt. Sure, I’ve tried to make the case to my own child that more clothing would be better, but she responds that all the girls are dressed this way. And she’s right! But I am not under the misconception that these girls aren’t fully aware that their male classmates, suffering reduced blood flow to the brain, are walking into walls.
High school was decades ago so I don't know how distracted I really was at that age. I am going to have risk making an inaccurate guess, I was at least but ultimately not more than moderately distracted. I managed to read the unabridged Moby Dick, The Trial, T. S. Eliot, Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby, fun, Tender is the Night, tedious). I admit I don't remember algebra any more. I did learn to type. Taking a typing class was one of the better choices I made in high school. I remember that the number of guys who took typing seemed small and that seemed like a strange thing. I remember being in a cooking class where the girls wouldn't let me do anything except maybe carve a turkey, which I didn't really feel like doing when I was sixteen or seventeen. But perhaps all that means nothing if I can say I was just moderately distracted. Anyway
Elliott calls for a world in which parents chill out and teenagers are free to be sexually “agentic.” But sometimes she seems to forget that even the most “self-regulated” of teenagers make terrible decisions, and even the most understanding and communicative parents will never stop worrying about all the bad things that can happen when kids start getting agentic all over each other. In the end, —even though this surely was not the author’s intention—made me feel better about my own attempts to celebrate, monitor, and sometimes throw cold water on my daughter’s burgeoning sexuality. Despite Elliott’s frequent scorn for the parents in her study, I often identified with them—we’re just stumbling around, trying to do our best, keeping our kids out of trouble, and delaying, for now, the day we become grandparents.
It may be that some authors are reacting to other kinds of caricatures of parents, eh?