It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm

I passed a group of teenage girls on my way to the corner supermarket today. I don’t normally eavesdrop on conversations, but they weren’t exactly whispering and it was difficult to ignore. And I figured that if they wanted privacy, they would have chosen another venue. The curb is not exactly the place for secrets. The topic that caught my attention? A possible pregnancy and their ideas about how to deal with it.

There were four girls. Two brunettes and two blondes. They couldn’t have been more than 16 years old. Brunette #1, tearful and anxious, was obviously the one facing the dilemma. Brunette #2 was sitting next to her, holding her hand, and offering expletive-laden insults about the “bastard” responsible for her current predicament. “Once you know for sure, will you tell him?” she asked. “I dunno, it wasn’t anything special… It was just fucking, you know,” Brunette #1 replied.

This was the snippet of their conversation that I caught in the 20m leading to the corner, and in the 20m from there to the entrance of the store. I was trying to appear nonchalant as I walked by, but my mouth fell open at Brunette #1’s refrain.

I will not pretend to understand today’s young people. I was a teenager 12 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. But this girl’s comments about the potential result of an evidently meaningless sexual encounter made me wonder about so many things… What the hell is going on in the minds of our adolescents? Where is their respect for themselves? Where is their respect for their bodies? And why, with South Africa’s pervasive educational campaigns about HIV and Aids, are they still engaging in risky sex?

As I walked around the store, grabbing groceries and mulling over Brunette #1’s situation, I found myself wanting to scream… For her ignorance or naivete or whatever had led her to believe that sex without protection has no consequences. According to the 2009/2010 statistics from UNAIDS, about 33 million people are living with HIV around the world. I don’t think that, more than two decades down the line, we can afford to have the “it won’t happen to me” mentality about this disease – or any STD, for that matter.

Pushing my trolley up and down the aisles, I became angrier and angrier at the world. Angry at the parents who do not educate their children about sex. Angry at the teachers who shy away from informative debate in the classroom. Angry at the men and women who do not take responsibility for themselves and their actions. And finally, angry at myself.

I’d heard a secret that had probably been eating away at this young woman for days, perhaps even weeks. And what did I do? I walked away. I pretended I didn’t hear her confession to her friends. I had an internal debate about something that wasn’t even happening to me. The shame came in waves. Who was I to judge? Maybe she’d chosen a public spot because she was hoping someone would hear her… Maybe she was counting on it – and counting on a helping hand or a voice of reason.

By the time I reached the till, I’d made up my mind. The milk could go sour and the warm bread could sweat, because I was going to stop and talk to Brunette #1. With an open mind and an open heart, I hoped. Maybe that’s what she needed. I marched out of the store with purpose. I marched around the corner with determination. And then I retreated to my house – because she and her friends were nowhere to be found.

The title of this post is borrowed from the lyrics of Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit. Find the song on amazon.com

3 thoughts on “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm

  1. The story you’ve shared proves without a doubt why teenagers are ‘children’ and not emotionally equipped to be having sex. You are of course correct to blame the parents. There are so many reasons kids find themselves in this situation in addition to the other scourges such as dating violence and rape. No one is teaching them about boundaries anymore and this story made my heart hurt because it is so damn unnecessary. I admire your attempt to find them but ultimately, unless women/girls are taught to love themselves, this will only increase. In some freaking weird way, it is as if we are socially regressing to the dark ages, revisiting a time of ignorance and oppression we thought we’d left behind. I suppose Janine, progress isn’t the elixer of enlightenment we human beings thought. As an end note, not two hours before I read this, my thirteen year old daughter and I were discussing this very issue regarding some kids at school who are neglected, with a serious lack of knowledge relating to something as basic as their own biology. Sigh. The world is indeed in social a crisis.

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    1. I’m so glad that you and your daughter have the kind of relationship where nothing is taboo and communication is open and honest. It’s the same kind of relationship I’m fostering with my little one, though she’s only three! You can never start too early… My mom taught me that way and always told me the truth, about everything. Sometimes I wonder if sugar-coating reality is actually doing more harm than good… As parents, we want to preserve our children’s innocence for as long as we possibly can in the face of all that is negative in this world – but is that giving our young people a false sense of security? A false sense of reality? My hubby and I are trying to find balance for our precious one – a daily struggle that is made more difficult by the fact that society is indeed in crisis.

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  2. I first heard the song Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit on Chuck. The music producers on the show only used the parts of the song without expletives, but the melody and the snippets of lyrics that I heard really resonated with me. I found the full version and I was awed by the intensity and the subject matter. It’s worth a listen for the social commentary alone.

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