Call me the passion killer
The reason I hate animals is because I went out with so many as a teenager. Which is why, when my daughter reached puberty, I wanted to ground her until she hit menopause.
When I was young, the generation gap was Grand Canyonesque. Our parents had no idea what we were getting up to. We were sexually active long before we were emotionally or physically ready. With no school sex education, (in the ’70s, we only discussed the word “period” if it was next to “Hellenic” or “Jurassic”) sexual encounters proved about as relaxing as amateur ovarian cyst removal.
I was determined to protect my daughter from similarly bad experiences. But how? One of the biggest dilemmas of modern parenting must be when to allow boyfriends to sleep over.
I had always considered myself rather liberal. But the current trend for “mixed sleep overs” turned me into the Sex Nazi. After a night listening to music, kids often just want to “crash out”. If they’ve missed the last train home and a parent won’t pick them up, you can’t exactly cast the pale youths out into the wilderness. I would put the girls and boys at separate ends of the house, then patrol the corridors with a cattle prod, just to make sure nobody was where they shouldn’t be.
But the real test comes when girls reach the age of consent. If your daughter is in a stable, long-term relationship, surely it’s preferable for her to be making love under your roof than in a cold car or dark park? Then you can also make sure that it’s safe and consensual. Post 16, if kids are contracepted and protected, and emotionally mature, who are you to stand in the way of them lying down? The downside is having to deal with daughters’ beaus over breakfast.
Comparing notes with other mums, it seems that whenever our teenage daughters are down in the dumps, they get themselves a new boyfriend. Your euphoria when she breaks up with Spider, a guitarist who looks under-dressed without a ski mask, is short lived as she then immediately takes up with Fang – a poet who keeps fit by doing step aerobics off his own ego. Chook, Spider, Fang – your daughter obviously chooses all her boyfriends from some maximum-security petting zoo. But if you make the mistake of whining that her new bloke looks so much like a hardened criminal you’re sending off his photo to the FBI for identification, the rebellious minx will no doubt marry him.
No. A wily mother must resort to more innovative steps to deter male suitors from staying over too often. I find playing Bartok at full volume is very effective. Alternatively, you can keep the TV welded to gardening programs and hide the remote. But the way to really curb his X-rated enthusiasm is to try to join in the fun. If you come home to find teens entwined half naked in your living room, the best contraceptive imaginable is to start belly dancing and groin thrusting along to the music. If your movements are sufficiently violent, your daughter’s boyfriend will start to wonder if there’s epilepsy in the family tree. Some quintessential Mum Dancing Manoeuvres refined during the 1980s can clear a room full of libidinous male teenagers faster than a fire alarm.
But before you get too po-faced and puritanical, it helps to remember that teenagers are God’s punishment for having sex in the first place – probably in your parents’ living room.
Kathy Lette’s latest novel is The Boy Who Fell To Earth.