Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wisdom arrives late to the party, if at all.

Once again, Bristol Palin is giving interviews. America's best known unwed mother beams from the cover of People magazine, wearing her mortarboard and cradling her very cute baby, symbolizing her two main accomplishments of 2009.

I certainly don't blame People for trying to sell magazines. The Palins are still news that a lot of people want to know about. People who agree with them politically see them as a family dealing with crisis responsibly. The other 75% of the population watch them the way you watch a bad car accident or Paris Hilton. You feel a little dirty and you know you should look away, but in the end... okay, one more little peek and then I'll stop.

The money quote from the interview is on the cover: "If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex. Trust me. Nobody."


Here's the thing, Bristol. Young people are blissfully unconcerned with consequences. Having unprotected sex is just one of the stupid things people your age do with disappointing regularity. Drivers under 20 are statistically the worst hazards on the road. And of course, teen pregnancy and teen auto accidents are made more common by teen alcohol use and abuse. While making alcohol illegal is a very bad option we tried and discarded last century, it should never be forgotten that alcohol is a major contributor to human stupidity, in this country rivalled only by genetics, television and talk radio.

Here's something else you should understand, Bristol. Things that have random consequences make people think they might get lucky. If you put your hand on a hot stove, you will get burned. Direct cause and effect. But having unprotected sex or driving after drinking too much... sometimes nothing of consequence happens. Your elders can warn you of the risks, but you will also see instances of your peers doing stupid stuff and coming away from it unscathed, and the prospect of getting away with something is an enticement that never gets old.

I can imagine you are getting an earful from your mom about this, Bristol. When she was your age, she was winning beauty contests, not getting knocked up. She was 24 years old before she got married, so she had time to go to college after college after college and get a degree before settling down and eloping with your dad. You might have done the math by now and realized your brother Track was born seven months and three weeks after the wedding, but that doesn't matter, does it? Your mom found a guy who would stick it out after she got pregnant, not some self-proclaimed hockey redneck who couldn't handle the responsibility.

If you are still reading this far, Bristol, you might notice that I included genetics as one of the major contributors to human stupidity. Sadly, dear, you are going to have to live with that for the rest of your life, and some lessons will have to be learned again and again.

Since repetition is part of good pedagogy, let me end with something I wrote earlier.

Wisdom arrives late to the party, if at all.


dguzman said...


I'm blown away by the money quote as well. She's saying that girls DON'T know that sex can equal pregnancy? She's even more ignorant than I thought.

namastenancy said...

Well, I never underestimate people's ignorance or stupidity. However, not knowing that sex can equal pregnancy is a bit difficult to understand but maybe her mother never sat her down and told her about the birds, the bees and the stork ---- in terms of human anatomy.

Matty Boy said...

I often underestimate it. It's like Lily Tomlin's famous line, "I try to be cynical, but it's so hard to keep up."

Anonymous said...

About a week ago a well known sociologist said that parents should teach their kids to put on a condom before they teach them to drive. A neighbor of mine caught an honors teen in her 11th grade class texting invites to a bottomless pool party, told my neighbor, "well we only have sex if we get all lovey dovey". This kid has a 4.0 heading into her Senior year.

You got me! Good post Matty Boy.