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Apr 05 2013A Bachelorette v. Teen Mom
Recently, in my daily perusal of Teen Mom-related news I came across this.
Apparently former Bachelor/Bachelorette star Ali Fedotowsky hates Teen Mom. Not that she's ever watched it, but she says "I can't believe Teen Mom is still on the air and is as popular as it is. I don't like that show, I don't get it, I don't understand why it's popular ... I've never seen it, but based on what it's about, it might be the worst show on television."
Allow me to disagree. In addition to chronicling the drama and angst of a few young women's lives, what Teen Mom is about are the hardships and challenges of real life when you become a parent before you're ready. Not only the ways too-early parenthood affects these young mothers themselves, but also how it influences their children, their families, their education, their dreams and their futures. The show doesn't gloss over any of it. It doesn't try to make it look glamorous or fun or easier than it is. The tears are real (and plentiful), the struggles are real, and the impact it's had on viewers is real.
Chances are, if you're a teenager or young adult and you've watched Teen Mom, you know a bit more than you used to about the demands of parenthood and the toll it can take on a young person. You also know a little bit more about birth control, the effort required to sustain a relationship in the midst of a hectic life, and how critically important it is to have supportive friends and family.
If you watch Ali's claims to fame--The Bachelor or The Bachelorette--your takeaways are probably very different. For example:
- Even when the Bachelor/ettes are having sleepover dates, there is never a mention of safe sex or pregnancy prevention. Compare that to Teen Mom--whose viewers are privy to OBGYN appointments where various contraceptive methods are explained and IUDs have actually been inserted. The Teen Moms also discuss birth control with their friends and partners. Not so much for the Bachelorettes. For all their talk about "protecting your heart," there is precious little about protecting your body.
- Teen Mom's young parents are navigating relentlessly chaotic lives--babies, school, parents, friends, jobs--all while trying to create or preserve romantic relationships. Contestants on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are living a dream world of luxury vacations. No bosses or deadlines, no household chores, no car trouble, no homework. A bad date for them is one that ends without a rose. Bad dates on Teen Mom involve leaving a restaurant before ordering because of a toddler meltdown. Relationships on Teen Mom also compete with co-parenting drama, addiction, death, divorce, and other very real struggles. Not so much for the Bachelor/ettes. Their relationships, such as they are, happen in "fantasy suites" with mood music and flattering light.
- The girls on Teen Mom come from different sorts of circumstances, but one thing is clear across all their stories: No one can do it alone. Support from family and friends is paramount--whether it's with regard to money or a place to live or babysitting or a shoulder to cry on or someone to rejoice alongside you when your baby reaches a new milestone. On Ali's shows, it seems the opposite is true. Everyone is in competition with each other, friendships are fake, sabotage is rampant, and the only way to "win" is if the other women lose.
Not every TV show is an important learning experience. Not every "reality" show reflects real life. But when you watch and care about a program or a character or a storyline--especially if you're young and developing your own ideas about what's real and important--entertainment informs your worldview.
Ironically, everyone on Teen Mom and The Bachelor/ette seems to want the same thing in the end--to get married and live happily ever after. And you know what might help with that? It's an idea Ali Fedotowsky mentions in her musings about television, as she laments the end of Tyra Banks' late, great daytime show: "A talk show for girls who are 18-30, one that focuses on issues that actually affect them."
Mar 15 2013Knot Yet
By age 25, fully 44% of women have children; 38% are married. Does this datum make you choke on your cornflakes or yawn? This particular nugget is part of a new report--Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America--from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the RELATE Institute, and The National Campaign.
The report has lots to chew on and this space will explore it all in more depth in the days ahead. It has me pondering the following: Recall that the vast majority of unmarried 20-somethings say it's very important to avoid pregnancy right now. Even so, many young adults say they would be at least a little happy if they did get pregnant. As my smart colleague and champion mathlete Kelleen Kaye says: "This leaves young adults occupying a foggy middle ground, somewhere between actively seeking parenthood and actively preventing pregnancy. "
Feb 07 2013Ex Sex and Unplanned Pregnancy
'Sex with an Ex' is common among young people, says a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Research. Shocker, right?
44% of 17-24-year-olds said they got back together with an ex at least once in the past two years, and 53% of those also reported having sex with their ex.
Overall, more than one-quarter of the 792 participants reported having ex-sex--whether they got back together or just had a short fling.
These casual encounters could be the most important time to be protected from an unplanned pregnancy. Research has shown condom use is high at the beginning of relationships, but tends to drop over time. Couples (or ex-couples) who already feel comfortable with each other might be less likely to use a condom than they would with a new partner.
Visit Bedsider to explore birth control methods that can help protect against exes.
Jan 14 2013Parenthood: Weep; Laugh; Discuss
Chances are, if you are a fan of NBC's Parenthood, you already have hankies at the ready when you watch. If you are not a fan, you have some explaining to do. Last week, just over 5 million people tuned in to one of the show's most powerful episodes. The mistake-making, fiercely-loving Braverman clan dealt with teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption, puberty, parent-teen truth-telling--not to mention budding romance, a hunky ex, teenage body odor, and a mother-in-law invasion. Oh and that grandfather/grandson talk about wet dreams while the family cooks dinner (sorry).
Even though there was a lot to love--and a lot to talk about--packed into this single episode, what I love the most is the impassioned conversation the show is generating in the Twitterverse, in the press, and most definitely among fans. Who are (rightfully) rabid. In fact, asking "do you watch Parenthood?" is a great way to find a new friend at a party. Try it.
Much of the discussion last week was about abortion: some heaped praise on NBC and the writers for going through with it at all, and for portraying it with compassion and seriousness and yet as a viable option even for a "good girl." Others accused the show of "serving up pro-abortion propaganda." And there was everything in between. For me, what came across loud and clear was that once there's a pregnancy, all roads ahead are hard. And not just for the girl who gets pregnant. I loved the way Drew's experience was explored--finally, a teenage boy on TV with deep and complicated feelings.
No matter what you believe about abortion or how Parenthood dealt with it, consider the huge value in the outpouring of feelings the show generated: when Parenthood asked its Facebook fans to share stories about their own efforts to talk with their teens about sex, more than 900 people commented in the first hour, and nearly 1,400 fans weighed in overnight. (Full disclosure: our Campaign has a long-standing partnership with the show and the network, and we had the opportunity to provide help and information on this episode and online). They expressed a range of opinions:
- [My daughter and I] have a very close and honest relationship... And even though I'd prefer for her to not have sex at all that's not what I push her for. She knows that if she ever decides to have sex that I'll get her the protection she needs with no questions asked and no negative opinions from me.
- Teach abstinence first, and give birth control options to both parties.
- I am 18 and my sister is 20 and my father very often and in random conversations still manages to slip in "always glove up!" Or "no glove no love!" It's became a joke in the family but it sure got the message through to me!
When TV shows tackle these topics, it really matters: 74% of parents of teens say they have talked about sex, love, and relationships because of something they saw in popular media, like TV shows. These parent-teen conversations are essential: teens say parents are the #1 influence on their decisions about sex. So, whether parents agree or disagree with the way TV shows depict these issues, what really matters is that shows like Parenthood make it difficult not to talk about them.
I'd love to know what you think and hear your own true tales about the parent-teen sex talk.
Jan 09 2013Kardashian Kontraception
If your New Year was anything like mine, your world revolved around preparing for and subsequently treating an inevitable champagne hangover, finally reading about that fiscal cliff everyone was talking about, and the announcement that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have procreated. For those whose hangover prevented them from making it further than the fiscal cliff (and I admire your priorities), Kim and Kanye, old friends and new lovers, let the world know that they are expecting when Kanye gave a shout out to his "baby-mama" during a concert. The world freaked out via every social media outlet and Kim's momager Kris Jenner immediately began drawing up the baby's contract to join the family on their reality shows. Classic pregnancy-announcement story.
The Kardashians were never ones to shy from candid discussions of pregnancy or birth control. Kim admitted to Oprah that she started using birth control at age 14, and rumors circled about her stopping her birth control in August 2012--perhaps in preparation for the Kimye baby. Khloe's fertility challenges were a big part of their reality television show as she and husband Lamar continue to struggle to start a family. Kourtney has gone on the record admitting she wasn't great at remembering to take her pill, but had never entertained the idea that she could get pregnant. That was before she had her first child in 2009 with long-time boyfriend Scott Disick. She recently gave birth to her second with Disick and announced that she wasn't going back on the pill because she was done with birth control. At only 33, Kourtney has quite a few child-bearing days still ahead of her, so unless she's ready to add to her brood exponentially, perhaps she should look into choosing another type of contraception. Not great at pills? Don't give up! Might I point you to Bedsider's method finder, Ms. Kardashian?
The one Kardashian who probably won't be propagating anytime soon? The girls' brother Robert. He has announced that he's waiting until he's married before he has any children. I feel like this is a perfect time to pitch a very special episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians: "Kardashian Kontraception."