“How many train wrecks do we need to see?” -Jack Johnson
In the midst of the recent highly publicized false accusations of 17 year-old Justin Bieber being a dad, I can’t help but keep thinking of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. I’ve made several random jabs at the show, vaguely proclaiming my passionate hate for it; but I figure today I should explain why exactly I hate 16 and Pregnant more than I loathe Two and Half Men.
1. It glorifies teen pregnancy. Granted, I want no part in casting stones against a teen mom who is willing to keep her child as opposed to aborting him or her. But it’s pretty hard to deny that the producers of the show find ways to make the event girly, using a cutesy diary theme with cartoon drawings and voiceovers from the teen moms.
2. It makes stars and role models out of the teen moms. I personally know a 20 year-old girl who is pregnant with her 2nd child. She had her first child when she was 19; different fathers for both babies and I’m pretty sure she never really loved either of the baby’s fathers. About a year ago I remember her bragging to me: “Maci from 16 and Pregnant was here in Nashville a few weekends ago. Some people said she was at the mall…”.
3. It doesn’t prevent teens from having unsafe sex. Sure, I can’t prove this; but I assume that there is some underlying message that the show somehow scares teenagers into being more careful about their actions. I’d say if anything, the show is more likely to promote abortion as 16 and Pregnant goes through great lengths to show how a baby is an inconvenience.
4. It capitalizes on the unfortunate. I personally believe that a lot of these teen moms subconsciously get pregnant on purpose because they are so deprived of love and attention in their lives. They are living a sad story which they are desperate to improve somehow. Like much of reality TV, the show draws in millions of viewers who secretly want to watch a train wreck to make themselves feel better about their own lives.
5. The teen dads are usually awful fathers. Of course they are; they’re still in high school, playing football and hanging out with their loser friends. On the show, the teen dads often admit to their (ex)girlfriend, the mother of their child, that A) they are not in love, B) are only still together because of the baby, and/or C) wish they didn’t have a baby. As if dads didn’t already have a bad rap in the TV world, these guys aren’t helping.
I’m not saying the show should be taken off of the air; the banning of anything is typically the best way to promote it. In fact, with the link below, I’m technically promoting 16 and Pregnant myself. But ultimately, I believe I have shared 5 solid reasons why even the mention of the show makes me cringe.
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, I am a proud Country music fan- though I’m ultimately a Dave Matthews Band/Guster/John Mayer/Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty kind of guy.
In the past few weeks, in the midst of leaving our lives behind in Nashville and entering uncertainty and a current status of “in between jobs” in Alabama, not having much to do but constantly search for jobs and take care of our baby, the lyrics to a Country song by Andy Griggs from 1999 keep coming to my mind: “I promise you now, you won’t ever be lonely.”
Though the song is obviously written from the perspective of a man in love with a woman, looking forward to spending the rest of his life with her, the lyrics now speak to me in a different way:
“You’re safe from the world wrapped in my arms and I’ll never let go. Baby, here’s where it starts and I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely. Here’s a shoulder you can cry on and a love you can rely on. For as long as I live
there will always be a place you belong.”
But while the words to this song obviously make perfect sense in the perspective of me speaking to my child, they actually are more relevant to me in this mindset: I won’t ever be lonely. Not just him. But I won’t ever be lonely.
I am better able to understand now why there are so many pregnant teenagers and why MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is such a popular show- because so many kids today are lonely.
(I am under the crazy notion that a good number of pregnant teens and extremely young parents are not getting pregnant simply because of the careless lack of birth control, but instead because they subconsciously want to be have a baby in a attempt to be loved by someone.)
So many daughters have never been told by their fathers that they are beautiful. So many sons have never heard their father tell them “I’m proud of you”. Having a baby definitely changes the lonely factor in many ways. Even if the 19 year-old father who works for minimum wage at the oil change place bales on her soon after the baby is born- at least that young mother will always have someone depending on her.
Granted, I haven’t been lonely in a long time. But I can easily remember it. It can be painful; literally. Last week I watched a National Geographic documentary on solitary confinement where I learned that loneliness is processed in the same part of the brain as pain. I can easily remember being 20 years old, feeling lost, out of place, an unmatched. I wondered for the next five years if I would be like the actor who played Mr. Belvedere, who never married or had children his whole life. But at age 25, my wife and I met each other and those heavy and desperate thoughts of loneliness haven’t entered my mind in over four years.
Now at age 29, I am the opposite of lonely. I have a wonderful wife and a beautiful and hilarious baby son that I will always matter to. And I have a feeling that the older our son Jack gets, the more attention and energy of mine that he will require. At least until he reaches 7th grade and gets too cool for me.