So, today was my little sister-in-law's 14th birthday. As Thomas and I were driving to Southport, laden with Harry Potter posters and prop reproductions, we were talking about the kinds of things we did when we were 14 and how frightening it is to us that this is Jessica's age now. Jessica is homeschooled, and at heart, she is much younger than 14. She has lived in Southport (and Boiling Spring Lakes) her whole life, and many of her world views are (quite understandably) drawn from living in a small town with no influence on her outside the family.
Now, I definitely do NOT want to think about Jessica even considering some of the things that Thomas and I did at 14, but we're growing more aware that in 4 years, Jessica will graduate from high school and that it's time to start preparing her a little more for the real world. Also, we'd like to see her exposed to more different kinds of people and ideas, so that when she's in a position to make choices about who she is and what she believes, she'll have more than one idea to choose from.
So, we've been thinking about inviting her down for the weekend a couple of times a year. We thought about music we think she should hear, CDs of our we'd like to burn for her, movies we'd like to watch with her. And naturally, I thought of the movies I watched and loved at 14 (and still love): The Breakfast Club, Dirty Dancing and Stand by Me. Still 3 of my all time favorite and, I think, the only movies that I actually own independantly of Thomas's sprawling DVD collection.
And then I started thinking about how likely it is that my ideas about who is attractive and what is desirable came from these movies. I saw all of these when I was very young and nursed huge and lasting crushes on John Bender, Johnny Castle and Chris Chambers. I started thinking about the stereotype that "girls don't like nice guys," which has actually always been true in my case and has led to disastrous situations right and left until I met and married the only guy I've ever dated who wasn't moody, unmotivated or crazy.
I don't know where that came from in me, as my dad was and is a very straight-laced nice guy who I have always idolized, yet there it is. And today I thought, isn't it just possible that these movies are where this came from? I mean, in each one we have the sort of "boy from the wrong side of the tracks," but he's not really so bad, is he? He's sort of...wounded. And sort of...sweet. And definitely hot.
I know that I can't protect Jessica from the stereotypes of the world and that she'll encounter all this stuff anyway whether I want her too or not. And probably she should see these things with people who've thought about them and can talk to her about them... but still, who wants that? When I was 13 and saw The Breakfast Club for the first time, I didn't want anyone sitting around and analyzing with me why bad boys are hot and why we shouldn't pursue them. I just wanted to marry John Bender and save him and make him love me.
When I think about all the atrocities I've committed toward myself and others in the name of saving someone and making him love me, I want to ban these movies forever. Still, isn't it time she thought someone other than Harry Potter was cute?