It shocked me. It disgusted me. I wanted to hurt someone.
The headline screamed out from the cover of Toronto Life magazine: Lock
Up Your Daughters. Surely the magazine used a metaphor to make its
point. But no, the headline on the article itself read "Bring Me Your
Daughters." The feudal Dark Ages had returned.
As Toronto Life is not inclined toward promoting the businesses of
pimps--at least of the kind that markets prostitutes--it had to refer to
the next worst fate for young girls: the quest for top models.
"Top" meaning what? Those who will fetch top dollars at fashion shows
that use raised runways, exotic lightning and sometimes even dry ice
"smoke." Fetch top dollars for themselves? Hardly. Fetch the big bucks
for their managers. The runway pimps.
Before the article even began, enlarged font letters in bold print told
of "the champagne-soaked world of giddy teens [and] back-stabbing
agents." The titles began to mean something. It wasn't good.
This world was what the magazine warned parents of teenage girls to
avoid. In short, the life of Paris Hilton, only without the enormous
fame, publicity and public relations managers.
How, pray tell, did the magazine intend for parents to avoid their
daughters wanting to adopt this life? The article didn't say. It went on
to describe the professional activities of "über-agent" Elmer Olsen
whose clients have become A-list models around the world. The man
creates Paris Hiltons of the runway.
Why would any young woman want to become a "top model"?
When they were young children (under the age of 11), their parents
wanted to protect them from the ugly world of modelling, of drugs and
alcohol, of having no home life or roots, of associating with people who
wanted to pimp them as modelling whores. The parents kept information
about this career choice from the kids. That and a whole lot more.
While that practice became a habit ("They're still too young!"), the
children grew into adolescence. Throughout the history of our species,
our young were trained to cope with the rigours of the adult world when
they were little. By the time they reached adolescence, they were
considered to be adults, with almost all adult responsibilities, but
still retaining the tie to parents who could guide them when they needed
support or answers to tough questions. The parent-child psychological
umbilical stretched, but it wasn't cut completely.
Today's parents want their children to be independent, so they aren't
always momma's boys or girls, but they don't want to enlighten the kids
about what the real world they will soon face is like. Consequently they
don't have occasions to discuss either reasons for avoiding risky
lifestyles and habits or the coping skills needed to get out of trouble
if they should find themselves in over their heads.
All the kids see of Paris Hilton is glamour, popularity, expensive
clothing, "slightly" bad behaviour that seems like fun, and lots of
"friends." To an adolescent, especially one who is socially inept
because his or her parents have kept them in the dark about the
realities of life around them, having friends is just about the most
important thing in their lives.
They don't know that the easiest kind of friends to find are those who
will put their lives most at risk. They don't know the dark side of fame
and glamour, the enormous self destruction of drugs, the alienating
effects of alcohol abuse, the devastation of gambling addiction. All
they know is what they see. And it looks like fun from their point of
Lock up your teenage daughters? No, not necessary. Just stop treating
your young children like dolls that will never grow up and teach them
the skills and the knowledge they need to know about life. Childhood is
when kids learn about adulthood without having to act it out.
It's the job of parents to teach, not to protect their children against
the real world. Those who want to protect their kids, who want to
maintain their innocence as long as possible, ultimately neglect their
primary role in life.
Innocent children grow into ignorant adults. Look around you. Don't do
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social
Problems, an easy-to-read book for parents and grandparents, along with
guides for parents and teachers, about what young children need to know
and when to teach it.
Learn more at http://billallin.com