Tag Archives: Junior High School

Where Am I?

The question isn’t is this embarrassing. No, the question is one of degree.

Just how embarrassing is it to get lost in your own “hometown?”

Even worse, this isn’t the first time it’s happened to me. I’m beginning to think I might have a problem.

The first time was when I was in junior high school. (For those of you unfamiliar, that was the school between elementary [k-6] and high school [10-12].)

We had some friends come in from out of town. They wanted to go to Six Flags over Texas, which was just outside of the small suburb of Dallas where I grew up.

We managed to make it there all right, with only a few minimal disruptions. The problem came when we headed home and there weren’t any more signs leading us to our destination. This was (way, way, way) before cell phones or the like, so we were on our own. The older kids from out of town didn’t know which way to go and they looked to me for answers.

I turned around to see who they were looking at behind me. I had a vague notion of the direction to go, but it wasn’t all that good of a vague notion. I was asked — repeatedly and forcefully — how I could live in a town and not know my way around it. Mostly it was because I wasn’t driving yet and spent most of my car time with my nose buried in an actual paper book.

We didn’t starve to death. We eventually found our way home (hours and hours after curfew, but the parents had been too busy partying to really worry) and all was good.

Until the last weekend when I got that horrible flashback feeling. My friend, Pitt (who I’ve known since high school and who recently moved here from Pittsburgh) and I were headed to a fundraiser put on by the P Strong Foundation to raise money to support research into rare cancers.

I was in the driving seat, a position with which I was intimately familiar considering I’d been driving for more than three decades. I thought I knew my way around Charlotte. Turns out, I was wrong.

Pitt, who’s been here less than two years, knew where the event was. It was Pitt who knew where to park and how to get from the parking garage to the Bal Masque Gala at the Marriott City Center.

The first one I can blame on youth. The second time? I’m still going to blame that one on youth. Not my own, of course, but my young dudes. See, I’ve been so busy rearing the young dudes since I came to Charlotte fifteen years ago that I never got a chance to really know my way around the city. Unless you counted the areas around the Chuck E Cheese and other young-dude attractions.

That counts, right? You dudes are buying that, yeah? Right?

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Teen Pregnancy Rate Continues Dropping*

Quick: are there more teen mothers now than in the past?

I’m guessing you dudes probably answered yes to that question. I’m somewhat disappointed in you, to tell the truth. I mean, just from reading the headline alone you should probably have known the answer was a resounding no. Sigh.

Moving on.

With the ever-present buzz of cultural panic about young people, especially young women, having sex, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re living in the midst of some kind of sexual health pandemic, with our high schools and even junior high schools overflowing with the swollen bellies of pregnant teenagers. The reality, according to a Centers for Disease Control report released Friday, is that the teen birth rate has plunged downward yet again, falling 6 percent between 2011 and 2012. It has never been lower, as least not in the 73 years the government has been tracking it.

Prior to the current plummet that started in 1991, the lowest teen birth rate since the government started collecting data in 1940 was in 1945, when it was 51.1 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19. It’s now at 29.4 births per 1,000 girls. In the 1950s, the favorite “good old days” era of conservatives who want to bring back America, the teen birth rate was three times what it is now, reaching a peak of 96.3 per 1,000 in 1957. While there’s been a gradual decline since then, the past few years have seen especially rapid change. Even as recently as 2007, the rate was still at 41.5.

Thanks to a nice blog post in the XX-Factor blog on Salon.com by Amanda Marcotte, I spent a nice little afternoon learning that the zeitgeist was completely wrong. I mean, just from hearing all the concern and invective hurled around the national conversation, I would have assumed there were teen pregnancies by the truckload. (Sorry about planting that visual in your brains, dudes.)

Just goes to show, we probably need to look at the actual figures when we begin to come to a conclusion on a fact-based idea. I know. Odd thought these days, right?

If we do look at those numbers, we find that the rates of teens having sex has stayed the same since about 2002. In addition, the number of teenagers having abortions has not increased either. So what’s going on?

If they’re not saying no and they’re not getting terminations, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that teenagers are getting pregnant in smaller numbers because they’re actually being able to find information, reliable information, on how to prevent said pregnancies. That is, sex education is doing what it was intended to do.

As Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress points out, teen birth rates vary wildly by state, with conservative states having a higher rate. The state of California is perhaps the most stunning example of how swiftly things can change, going from more than 70 births per 1,000 girls to 28 since 1991, in no small part because of aggressive sex education and family planning programs. Teens simply do better if they’re given the tools to stay safe when they do have sex and don’t do as well with the “just say no” message.

Unfortunately, a lot of school districts (thanks in no small part to parents who don’t want anyone, anywhere to ever talk about sex in a realistic fashion) are pushing things like abstinence, which has been proven time and again to move the needle on teen pregnancies in the up direction every time.

Maybe it’s time we started to suggest that we study things with an empirical eye, use the data to actually see what’s happening, rather than what we want to see happening. Just a suggestion, dudes. Just a suggestion.


*You have no idea how hard it was to fight off the notion that I would make a pun involving pants dropping as well. No idea.

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The Way We Live It

by Richard

Mom continues to live her life according to a roller coaster, with the highs just a little bit less high each time and the lows a little bit longer each time.

On Tuesday night, Mom really enjoyed visits from a number of friends and family. They stayed until 10:30 at night with Leslie, talking and telling stories and laughing and generally having a great time. And so was Mom. Her eyes were following people around the room, she was smiling and nodding in all the right places and even managed to say a couple of words. It was a great night.

On Wednesday morning, Leslie had a difficult time waking Mom up at all. She just wanted to sleep and lay still in her bed.

And that right there is what makes this so difficult. We can see flashes of the old Mom, the old Catherine, the old Kaki (and she’d absolutely hate to hear me refer to her as old. She never thought of herself that way.), and then it just. . . goes away. And we’re left with the new reality.

We know that the best we can hope for is that Mom remains comfortable, happy in the knowledge that she made the world a better place just by being herself and that she can die knowing she is loved. And, yet. . . And yet. . . There are those flashes.

We can see exactly what it is we will be missing. And we know we’re don’t want to say good bye.

And this is beoming far too maudlin, dudes. Mom would hate this. Let me tell you one of my favorite stories about Mom.

This happened back in the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I had to walk five miles to school every day, uphill both ways, through the snow and avoiding alligators. I was in late junior high school, surely old enough to know better, and I was pushing all of Mom’s buttons. Every single one.

I can’t for the life of me remember what the argument was about, but it was ferocious. Finally, Mom had had enough. She reared back and was about to slap my face off. She tried. I, being the not-quite-manly man that I was, reached out and caught her hand. The blow never landed, but my smirk sure did.

I was about to make some joke about her not being big enough or tough enough to do anything to me and I was going to rule the place from then on out and I was going to —

Then Mom grabbed my wrist, turned around and flipped me right over her back and onto the ground.

I just lay there, stunned. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Mom smiled down at me, shook her head sadly and then walked away.

Ever since, I’ve asked for a rematch. She’d just smile and shake her head. Heck, I even asked her for a rematch a few days after she went into Hospice. She just smiled and shook her head.

That’s my mom.

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