Thursday, April 12, 2007

It makes me glad we had all boys!

I hope I don't offend anyone with this post, because I'm really not trying to. I'm also not trying to be sexist. I'm just making an observation, and it's an observation that constantly leaves me befuddled. In any high school, boy-girl relationships are constantly forming and unforming, and we see it happen before our very eyes. Some of those relationships last a week, some months, and some years. I know that, as a teacher, I am supposed to love and see the wonderful potential of every student. I suppose that means that I should never view any student as being any better than any other but I just can't help myself. I'm always amazed at how often I look out into our hallways and find myself thinking, "Why in the world is that girl with that guy?"

Maybe it's just in our high school, but I doubt it. I will have a girl in class who seems to have everything going for her. She's smart, she has great work habits, she's personable, she's attractive, she seems to have solid values, and she really seems to have her head on straight. With her whole future in front of her, it appears that she will be able to go anywhere she wants to go and be anything she wants to be. Then, I will see her walking down the hall, hand in hand, with some boy who is almost the exact opposite of her in character. He might not be among the absolute worst element of our kids, (although sometimes they are!) but he's definitely in the bottom half. He has one or two Fs going in his classes, the effort he makes in the things that he's involved in is never better than mediocre, and he seems to have absolutely no drive.

Being a parent is not easy these days; I know that. It wasn't easy when my own children were young, and it certainly hasn't gotten any easier. We have a culture in our country that does a lot to encourage kids to move in directions that no parent wants them to go. Parents have to worry about the effects of the movies their kids watch, the video games they play, the music they listen to, and some of the lousy "role models" they might be tempted to look up to. They have to worry about who their friends are and what they're doing on Friday and Saturday nights. They have to worry about drugs, alcohol, sex, and the combination of the three.

I can't help but feel great sympathy for girls' parents who have seemingly done a fantastic job of parenting and end up with this situation. They have daughters who any parent would be proud of in every way, and then one day they bring Bozo the Idiot home. I have seen members of our staff go through this, and you could literally see the strain that it caused in their families. What makes it even more frustrating is that sometimes, after the girl finally gets around to dumping the guy who has been an albotross around her life, she will pick another one from the same batch that he came from.

My wife and I have three sons we are very proud of, but we would have also loved to have had a daughter. When I see the choices of boyfriends that some of the best girls in our high school make, it makes me wonder if maybe we weren't lucky that we didn't.

I am going to close with these two questions: Is this as common in other places as it is in my school? Why do I see this so often with our better girls and almost never with our better boys?

16 Comments:

Blogger Independent George said...

I know I should reference Sense & Sensibility something equally hoity-toity, but right now all I can think of is Revenge of the Nerds.

Anyway, here are Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok's takes on the subject, which will probably make you even more grateful for having sons.

4/12/2007 5:13 PM  
Blogger ms-teacher said...

As the mother of three, the oldest being an 18 year old female, there is nothing that brings out the mother bear in me more than when my daughter's boyfriend is not treating her right.

They've been dating almost a year. They are both seniors in high school and while I think he's nice enough kid, I think they are both too young to be in such a committed relationship. They graduate in a couple of months and neither one has a job. He doesn't appear to be very motivated in getting a job or for that matter, going to school everyday.

She is not even sure if he is going to be able to graduate because of his truancy issues. They've gotten into some pretty major arguments over this, but alas, she remains in the relationship. All I can do as the mom is to give her my point of view without it making it appear like I'm picking on him.

We shall see where all of this will end up. I am hoping that once she graduates and goes to our local JC, she'll see that there are other fish in the sea so to speak. It is very tough, though, being the mom in this situation.

4/13/2007 2:52 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Independent George, you're right! You have made me feel even more grateful for having all boys.

Ms. Teacher, you have my respect, and I really do feel for you. Best of luck to you and your daughter.

A friend of mine emailed me about this, and he said that he and his friends from high school called this the Tall-Skinny-Girl-Syndrome. By "skinny," I gather that they didn't mean it in a bad way, but simply as not fat. His theory was that these girls lacked the self-esteem that the better boys had, so they tended to have very low standards. (Yeah, I know. I hate using terms like "the better boys," but I don't know how else to put it.)

4/13/2007 3:21 PM  
Blogger Denever said...

Dennis, you may just be lucky, because bad taste in partners certainly isn't limited to girls. There are nice boys who are attracted to girls who cheat on them or treat them badly in other ways.

But I thought you were talking about smart girls who choose losers (bad grades, no drive) rather than "bad boys" or "cads." I don't think the attractions of those two categories are exactly the same.

4/13/2007 3:29 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Don't you know, women always like bad boys. Because they're less self conscious, and often less pretentious than the "good" guys. During adolescence, the bad guys seem exciting too.

Women are generally treated like shit by society and sometimes in their own families. So, with a bad boy a girl might find 1. someone who reflects her own low self-esteem or 2. someone who can relate to her oppression. Some of the "good" boys you see in your school might not be so good. They might be full of themselves, they might be sexist. There's probably a lot going on that you don't know about.

4/13/2007 6:45 PM  
Blogger Parentalcation said...

Forgive the language Dennis.

Fuck... women love assholes. Sorry, but it is true. I am sure someone with a lot more intelligence than me can explain it in evolutionary psychology terms, but its true.

Of course what I said only pertains to the age of 30 something... after than most women have learned their lesson.

p.s. to all those who will respond with stories about nice girls who really like nice guys... They are the exception.

4/13/2007 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Denever said...

"They are the exception."

You want to cite something authoritative for that proposition? :)

We can do the dueling-anecdotes thing here, but what would it prove? You can believe the vast majority of women prefer assholes to decent, honorable men, and I'll continue to believe, based on my experience and that of my family and friends, that you've got it backwards.

IME, "women love assholes" is one of those things people repeat over and over because the most egregious cases are more memorable, in a train-wreck kind of way, than the huge number of cases of women who want guys who will be good husbands and fathers.

And evolutionarily speaking, you've definitely got it backward. Because women invest a huge amount of time and energy in their children, we're hardwired to prefer men who are good providers - which doesn't mean just making a lot of money; it also means sticking around, year after year, to help raise the young'uns and maintain the home.

4/13/2007 11:58 PM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

I've got an 11-year-old daughter sitting downstairs, I've certainly observed what you've written about, and all I can say is you're freaking me out prematurely.

4/14/2007 7:06 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Denever, you actually had it right. That is what I was writing about. And I also do agree with you that a lot of girls do make what I would be consider to be good choices in boyfriends. In fact, I think most of them make good choices, or the even better choice of not having a particular boyfriend. But as I said in the post, girls, who seem to have a lot going for them, choosing boys who seem to have nothing going for them does happen with some frequency, and I almost never see it the other way around.

Elizabeth, I was hoping you would chime in because I thought this would probably fall into one of your areas of expertise. I know I sound naive when I ask this, but do you really feel high school girls are still being oppressed? I asked my Sociology class this week if they believed that there was any gender discrimination in high school any more, and they were nearly unanimous in saying that there wasn't. I'd love to read your thoughts on this.

Rory, I know I can always count on you to tell us what you really think! You sure didn't let me down!

And to NYC Educator: Good luck!

4/14/2007 7:50 AM  
Blogger Roger Sweeny said...

Maybe there is a way to harmonize Denver and Dennis.

A lot of teen girls like the attention from the "cool", "sexy", kind of "dangerous" guys--even though their parents might think they're jerks. After all, it's not like they're getting married or anything.

Unfortunately, too many of the nice guys who finished last at 16 learn that that's not the way to get the girl.

So when it's time to settle down, and what seemed cool at 16 now seems irresponsible and immature, the guys have changed too. Comes the lament, "Why are so many guys jerks?"

Well ...

4/14/2007 12:22 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

"but do you really feel high school girls are still being oppressed?"

Maybe not by the school system--that's probably what your students thought you meant. They're oppressed by society. They get sexually harassed by boys and men, they're subjected to demeaning images of young women in the media, and they're more likely than boys to be neglected and/or sexually abused at home.

4/14/2007 4:30 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

Mmmm. . . I'm in the same boat as you, Dennis, though my three sons are probably younger than yours (my oldest is in first grade). I still wish I'd had a girl, and had even written a poem in perl about it. Perl, for the computer illiterate, is a programming language that's unusual in that it uses a lot of keywords that look "normal" and is very free-form in layout. Some poems are brilliant, this is merely average. The bit at the end, if run, prints the line stated, but then changes it in the program (though doesn't print it out, just to represent a hidden hope).

Anyway, my wife fears my sons will pick the "wrong" women. I'll let her know your observances (even nonscientific, it will relax her a bit).

# Waiting

wait for (baby);

if (exists($a_boy{"or two"})) {hope for a_girl}

tell yourself;over and over;
{no boys; no boys; no boys}
tell yourself;
our $technique_was_perfect;

read checklists, $books, articles, anything;

each %myth_followed;
{
package of_pink_gel;
not too_deep and not too_long;
($elected, $the_right) = time;}


study crypt _ic_ultrasounds, grainy-video for clues;
seek signs, glimpses, half-images;

accept it, the_truth;

print $_ = "well, as long as the baby is healthy";

s/(y)\s(i)/\1 girl \2/;

4/14/2007 7:52 PM  
Blogger Parentalcation said...

"You want to cite something authoritative for that proposition? :)"

4 seasons of Beverly Hills 90210 (Dillon always got laid)

Every teen romantic comedy ever made (The Breakfast Club...)

Happy Days (Fonzie was a bad boy)

:)

4/15/2007 8:44 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Zdunowski said...

No, I see it in my high school everday. I am not sure why this happens, only that, I can reflect back and see that happened with me, too. So I guess it's just a phase and eventually, hopefully without a scratch, she will just grow out of it and families should just recognize it as such.

4/18/2007 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was one of those girls you talked about. I dated a loser (not a bad boy, but a loser) for 5 years in 10th grade -> end of junior year of college.

My mother (and father) were at their wits end... always trying to pursuade me to dump the loser. I refused and clung on tight. Sometimes, it's hard to face the fact you made a REALLY bad decision, so you dig in your heels to prove them all wrong. (but they are not wrong)

Finally, I dumped him for another guy... the man I eventually married. I just woke up one day, decided that this is not what I want for my life... and dumped the loser.

My reason for dating a loser? I had a father that was never really there for me. Loser-boy showed interest... treated me like a queen... but really kept me bound to him through manipulation and guilt tactics. He never beat me... but he did have signs of an emotional abuser - he was very good at guilting me into staying.

I don't know if my reasons for dating and staying with a loser are the other girls' reasons too... but those are my reasons. I'm glad I got out, but even now (I'm 31), I still beat myself up for hooking up with a loser.

4/20/2007 11:36 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Anonymous, thank you for sharing that. Once again, what I see in this is girls who have a lot going for them selling themselves short. I'm still wondering why I almost never see that happen with boys. I assume it's something in our culture. I suppose that having a boyfriend might be more important to the self-esteem of girls in general than having a girlfriend is to boys.

4/20/2007 2:21 PM  

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