It was Tim S., the son of my English teacher, Mrs. E, on the other side of the wall. I’d watched him go into his mom’s class at lunchtime. I had a thing for Tim S. A BIG thing. So I stood just outside in the courtyard and talk-shouted to my BFF’s in as loud a voice as possible, making sure they and Tim S. and Tim’s mom and quite possibly the entire school all heard how I was desperately hoping Tim S. would ask me to prom.
It was not my finest teenage moment.
I imagine that were I a teenager nowadays, I would completely bypass any potential human interaction (with or without a wall) to get the attention of the elusive Tim S. Instead, in a more modern incarnation of a less than fine moment, I might post a few selfies on my Facebook or Instagram for Tim S. to peruse.
Neither the mid-1980’s nor the 2013 versions are all that mature (or effective).
At least, though, when I did what I did, Tim S’s mother (I assume) didn’t spend their dinner time conversation mulling over the slut who was shouting for his attention at lunch time that day. In fact, Tim S. was rather nice about the whole thing. He never mentioned it, remained friendly and polite, and as far as I know, didn’t blab about it to the whole school.
Perhaps the conversation Tim S. had with his mom was more along the lines of her explaining to him that I just wanted his attention and did not know how to go about it in a more mature way because — and here’s the kicker — I was 16. Maybe she suggested he respond as kindly as possible, trying not to hurt my feelings, and that he continue to treat me like a human being. Perhaps she even used the opportunity to throw in a few parental nuggets about respect for women. I can totally see Mrs. E doing that.
Lucky for me, Tim’s mother was not Kimberly Hall, a blogger who penned this post about how she handles it when her sons are faced with teenage girls seeking attention via the more modern (and more visible) social media. Were Mrs. E. Kimberly Hall, she might have stood up at the next pep rally to deliver a lecture to the whole school about the slut sitting in the second row.
Like the blogger, I am not a big fan of the selfies either, mostly because they represent all that our little girls have learned from a culture that wraps up everything possible in a big old sex bow. But I am also not a fan of blaming, shaming, or naming the girls who post them. Frankly, they are doing what they have been taught to do — seek attention the way they have watched every girl on TV or stage or on a movie screen or magazine seek attention. It’s what they know now just as much as talk-shouting was what I knew back in the 80’s.
If we want to eliminate the selfie, we have a lot of work to do on a societal level. As a parent, I try and do what I can in my home to help my girls see themselves and represent themselves more holistically. I share with them the difference between a self-portrait (something we have likely all posted) and a selfie. One of their rules for using social media will include the prohibition of seductive selfies. With that, we will of course likely spend a good deal of time discussing the elements that constitute a seductive selfie (I am not even sure I always know the answer myself. Some selfies are clearly meant to scream “SEXY.” Others might just be pictures of beautiful people that are seen as sexy by the viewer.).
Equally as important, I will talk with my son about seeing the girls and women in his life holistically. They are so much more than what the pictures represent, I hope I will remind him. Like Mrs. Hall, I will likely peruse social media alongside my son. Instead of unfriending the girls who post the selfies, though (assuming they are not pornographic), I will ask my son to tell me more about his friend we are viewing. I will regale him with the story of Tim S. and how much I wanted his attention. I will share how Tim S. treated me and how he never made me feel like I was less than anyone else. I will remind him that we have no idea what his friend’s intentions were and that we should not read into the selfie (maybe, just maybe, she was having a particularly pretty day, albeit “pretty” as dictated by an over-sexed culture, and wanted to share it).
I will take the opportunity to throw in some parental nuggets about how it is his responsibility to treat people with respect, to withhold judgement, and to manage how he expresses himself sexually in a healthy way.
Hopefully, the girls in his life, having been treated respectfully by my son — even post-embarrassing selfie — will grow up and look back on it all, laugh at their immaturity, curse the era in which they were teens, and silently thank me and my son for never ever slut-shaming them.