Boof went to a party this past weekend. At a bar.
I don’t know whether this is just a trend in our region or if it’s also happening in other locales where there’s a prevalence of pampered teens with disposable income (i.e., spending money from Mom and Dad) and a misguided belief that having a social life is a right, but some venues around here are apparently making a killing hosting “teen nights.” Open only to high school kids, these events from my understanding are essentially meat markets for the Under 21 set.
I realize that’s a bit of me being “Edgy Anne,” as Ted would say—me saying something outrageous for effect. I’m pretty sure our 14-year-old son’s attendance at this party wasn’t quite so much about picking up girls as it was about—please. Who am I kidding here? But I’m sure his motivations for going also included the idea of seeing and being seen, and, just as important, the momentary freedom from parental oversight.
But it reminded me of college kids hitting the bars on a weekend night. Boof dressed carefully, in a black zip-up sweater, black cargo pants, and one of his many pairs of kicks. He and his friends gathered beforehand at a friend’s house. They obviously weren’t serving alcohol at the event but kids could order beverages and snacks throughout the evening (I wonder if they did last call). A DJ apparently spun tunes. They even charged a cover at the door. And, lest we forget, the event was held at an actual bar.
Theoretically I was OK with Boof going. He had mentioned the party to us a week in advance, and we’d gotten from him which friends he was planning on going with—all nice boys, and a couple of whom we’ve known for years. I’d previously heard about these teen nights from another mom, who had also mentioned that this place employs several staff who keep a careful eye on the kids. Plus, kids couldn’t get in without a current high school ID, eliminating the likelihood of older individuals crashing the event.
And yet, the hesitation, the churning in the stomach at the idea of our child heading out to this place we’d never heard of, to an event we knew next to nothing about…
“I mean, it’s not likely to happen but there is the potential for someone to bring in guns or drugs,” I told Billup, who had asked me about the party after Boof had left. (At 11, she probably wasn’t the best person for me to be confiding in, but Ted and I had already fought about the party, so he wasn’t really auditioning for the role of confidante.) Billup gamely reassured me: “I don’t think Boof would try drugs, Mom.”
I hoped not. But to be honest, my bigger objections to this whole teen party business weren’t at all related to guns or drugs. They were issues that were rooted in far more complicated, illogical, inexplicable feelings and unanswerable questions:
Issue 1. The event ran from 8 until midnight. Boof is 14. What need was there for a high school freshman to be out until midnight, ever? If he got to stay out until midnight at this age—even if it was just to attend periodic teen parties—then what would he ask for at 16, a 2 a.m. curfew?
Issue 2. Sure, all the other boys were allowed to stay out until the event was over. But just because his friends were staying out until midnight, did that mean that we, too, should allow the same for Boof? If, despite my gut reaction against it, we then allowed him to stay out until past midnight, would we be doing so simply to go along with the crowd? Boof frequently accuses us of being too strict—would we be giving in just to negate that accusation, just so that Boof would like us?
Issue 3. Boof had wanted to go to his friend’s house before the party—at 3 o’clock. If you failed to read the first issue above, I’ll mention again that the party began at 8 p.m., a full five hours later. Why in the world did the boy need to go to his friend’s at 3??
Ted was fine with him going: “Why do you want him to stay home? He’s just going to be complaining about how bored he is the whole time he’s home. He’s going to be a huge pain.” I didn’t really have an answer for that. My partial explanation was that Boof was out so often with his basketball team commitments or just with his friends that I felt like we never saw him. Even if I wouldn’t be spending time with him—which I knew I wouldn’t; I actually had no desire to, to be honest—it would still be nice to have him around the house until it was time for the party.
But Ted hit upon the other thing: “It’s like you want your pound of flesh for letting him go out tonight,” he accused me. It wasn’t exactly that… but, in a way, it kind of was. The puritan in me had a knee-jerk objection to the boy being able to have a playdate for five hours, then an outing for an additional four. Didn’t it seem wrong somehow to let him play for the entire day and into the night?
Issue 4. And then of course, there was the prospect of girls. Those pushy, preying, scheming, suggestive, witless, giggly characters called teenaged girls. (I realize my perceptions may be a little skewed—one who is witless and giggly is most likely not going to also be scheming or pushy… but it’s possible. You never know with these mini-vixens who go after people’s sons.)
I’ve heard from so many moms of sons that girls these days are incredibly forward, even aggressive. They’ve shared tales of girls arranging “group” outings involving the boy they like because the boy wouldn’t go otherwise; of girls showing up unannounced at boys’ houses to serenade the object of their affection; of once-wholesome, fresh-faced girls greeting boys’ moms at basketball games through layers of makeup. Boof himself had a girl come up to him at DSW the other weekend—when he was out with Ted, Billup and me—to say her friend thought he was cute. (Though, when we talked about it at dinner afterward, that act hadn’t seemed aggressive but simply silly: “I can’t believe girls still do that!” Ted had exclaimed. “How many years have girls been trying that tactic, and it has never worked—and yet they still do it!”)
Given all the anecdotal evidence before me, it seemed inevitable that, at this event where high schoolers would be preening for one another and bumping and grinding on the dance floor, some trollop would set her sights on my son. What if us allowing him to go to the party was the first step toward him having sex?
The newness of this situation terrified me, and I suppose this may have been my underlying objection to the party. I had the distinct sense of being shoved out onto turbulent waters in a flimsy rowboat, no oars, maps or compasses to guide me. What was the right way to go? What were the implications of choosing this direction vs. that direction? All I had were my questions, my gut that told me one thing, my brain that asked my gut for logical arguments to support its position, and Ted and Boof siding unequivocally against my gut.
So Boof went to the party. For the entire time. (When I again brought up the “midnight is too late” argument midway through the evening, Ted called my bluff: “That’s fine. But you’re going to have to be the one to go pick him up.” Er… I guess he can stay out.) Boof did have to complete his homework before he got to go to his friend’s house—so I guess I got my pound of flesh.
Our son got home near 1 a.m. and immediately went downstairs to greet his dad. I was up in bed. After a couple of minutes, my curiosity got the better of me and I trailed down to the basement too. Boof and Ted stopped chatting when I appeared at the top of the stairs. “How was the party?” I asked.
“Good,” said Boof, getting up from his perch on the stairs. “I’m pretty tired so I’m gonna go to bed.”
And he left me sitting at the top of the basement stairs, more unanswered questions running through my brain.