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the fascinating adventures of raising a teenager

Before we got married, The Husband and I talked about whether we should raise our children Catholic, his mother’s religion. I said “his mother’s religion” because like countless Catholics, he is twice-a-year Catholic. He gives up something for Lent (that usually make me exclaim, “Jesus died for you sin and you are giving up THAT for him?”), refrains from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, goes to the Easter Mass and the Christmas Eve Mass.

A convenient way to be a Christian if you ask me. To me, an outsider who is pretty mush ignorant of the whole Catholic “thing”, it seems that once you’ve been confirmed, you are IN. It’s like one of those lifelong 1 Million Mile frequent flyer status. You are set for premier status for life even if you stop flying altogether.

I was young and naive and more importantly, a newcomer to the West. I thought religion is all about doing good, fearing cosmic retributions, building moral characters, helping out each other in the community, believing in the Golden Rule and “what goes around comes around”, and more importantly, being self-reflective and building that relationship with the cosmic force up there whatever you personally call it. How can religion be bad?

Alone in the U.S., deprived of a close-knit society that really believes in “It takes a village”, I thought, “THIS [The Catholic upbringing] could replace the built-in value systems in a Chinese society so that my children will not grow up in a moral vacuum.”

Like I said, I was naive and ignorant. I was not aware of the political implications associated with being a Catholic, or in general a Christian, in the United States in the 20th and 21st century. In fact, I did not know that in the U.S., despite the claim of separation between church and state, many Christian denominations behave as if they were political parties, to say the very least.

Dante apparently did not have to deal with marriage equality. Milton was not asked to spout his opinions on women’s right to choose.

If you have followed this blog for a while, you probably have heard me talking about my inner struggle of negotiating between sending my kids to the religious school every week and disagreeing with almost everything the Catholic church decided to take a stand for/against in recent years. It becomes more and more difficult as my children become older and the Church shares more of its doctrines with them in a more straightforward way.

Today a bomb was dropped.

Like all Catholic 8th graders in this country, my son is going through the Confirmation process. It is something that he tolerates and may even look forward to since after this, there will be no more religious class! There was a mandatory half-day “retreat” this afternoon where they gathered all the 8th grade class into one big giant room to prepare them for the big decision, the big day.

On our way home, I asked casually, “So how was it? What did you learn today?”

“We had some interesting discussions. He told us, ‘No judgement. We will not tell your parents what you say. But, imagine if you are a parent, and your 15-year-old daughter comes home and tells you that she’s pregnant, what will you do? Tell her to get an abortion? To give birth to the baby? Raise the baby or give the baby up for adoption?”

I gritted my teeth.

“… We learned that there are four ways for abortion….”

It’s a miracle the car behind me did not crash into us when I braked abruptly. I had to restrain myself from saying anything and to wait for him to share more.

“It was absolutely horrible. We were eating and he was telling us about how abortion is done. Did you know that they used to use saline…”

“… Forceps… Forced babies to come out…. Pulled the baby out by the feet… Dead babies… … …”

I was beyond upset. So instead of reaffirming these young people of their faith, they penned them into a room, told them the most extreme, horrifying in any standard, cases from the past,  and force-fed them anti-abortion propaganda. If these were the first things, and only things I’ve heard on the subject of abortion, I’d probably be out there holding protest signs against Planned Parenthood too.

Why weren’t the parents consulted first? These kids were only 13 year old. How many of you want your children to be shown details of abortion procedures at the age of 13?

I tread lightly as I did not want to startle the deer, to scare him away when all I wanted was for him to come home, by his own will, with me.

“I just want to make sure that you understand the facts…” I rattled off some pointers.

Did they explain that only a very small % of abortions are late-term? No. Did they explain that in the current legislature, many states outlaw late-term abortions except for the safety of the mother? [Gross generalization but it would have to do at the moment]. No. Did they mention that it is still up for debate whether an embryo counts as a person? No.

I was losing him: these facts were not as powerful as the sensational, graphical, description he just heard.

He started defending the young, hip, traveling priest. “Why are you so judgmental? Now you are just judging these people. Just because they have a different view does not mean you are right and they are wrong.”

I had to bite my tongue again, knowing that “Not everything is relative. I bet Hitler’s family thought he was a great guy” was not a productive thing to say at that moment.

 

I was so angry. I imagined red hot flames coming out of my eyes and nostrils. I am still shaking as a matter of fact. On the verge of tears finally I said, “Ok, hear me out. If those people think that they can spoonfeed MY CHILDREN a bunch of propaganda, I should be able to present MY perspective… I will say this first: If you are a man, you have no right dictate what a woman is or is not allowed to do with her body.”

The whole way I was wishing that I had thought about this more before we took the pre-Canon class, before we even got married. I should have said No way, Jose. This is not what I signed up for. To have someone come in and teach my children values that are completely opposite of mine and not being allowed to say anything about it, or the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, just so he could get that piece of paper. Confirmed.

This is NOT the Golden Rule I expected a religion to help instill in my children.

 

“I am very upset as you can probably tell.” I told my son the truth. “This was not what I signed up for. They are supposed to teach you morals and telling right from wrong. Not this propaganda stuff.”

“Mom! I am not an idiot! I don’t just believe everything the guy said.” He said from the backseat, “I can think for myself, ok? You are treating me like some kind of brainless robot that simply follows orders.”

I guess I’ve never thought that one day I’d come to be grateful for his being a pain in the ass, to appreciate his natural tendency to disobey, to question authority.

 

 

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Sweatpants

January 23, 2012

in marketing at work

Is it just me or does he have boobs bigger than mine

 

(Disclaimer: This post was written at airport lounge while I sipped on my 2nd and 3rd Bloody Marys. Also, it is posted in lieu of the Chinese New Year of which I have nothing to blog about. I am NOT celebrating it as I am on a business trip for the next three days… #ChineseWeGetNoRespectAroundHere)

I want to go to there.

To inside the website pages of Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. A la The Purple Rose of Cairo. (Incidentally one of my favorite movies that made me cry uncontrollably when I was going through my emo years…)

Yeah yeah yeah. I know the shirtless models from the teen store are old news for you hipsters out there. But I have never really paid attention to the brouhaha back when concerned citizens complained about the half-nekkid men in Abercrombie’s marketing campaigns and sometimes, if you’re lucky, inside their stores. As you can see, the protest has since died down and forgotten, and Abercrombie continues to use sex to lure in the real credit card holders (aka moms). Business obviously is thriving otherwise how can they command the kind of prices they do? Really. Why would any teenager need a hoodie that costs $200 or a winter jacket made of cotton and nylon for $600? (For that price, you’d better be wearing some dead animal. Just sayin’)

Even in my obsessive search for pants, I did not set foot in A&F. In fact, I made a deliberate effort to turn my head away when I walked with my son past by it in the mall. It was on the back of my head: I wanted to steer absolutely away from the potential accusation of being a leering dirty old lady. How wrong is it to lust after the models advertising clothing to your own children? It feels at the very least questionable. Aren’t you all surprised that I am a closeted prude?

Because I have never even taken a good look at the store, I was in for a shock of a lifetime when late one night I decided to check out A&F: I was desperate because the sweatpants from Aeropostale are now reportedly too short for my teenager.

So I opened up their front page…

Oh my. Come to mama!

I am sure my pupils were dilated and my mouth turned into a wolf snout. I quickly looked around to make sure my kids were not around even though it’s already past midnight. I felt… dirty.

Now did y’all know that in the world of these headless, shirtless models, “sweatpants” is a category on its own? SWEATPANTS. A category on its own!

 

Not only that, like fancy jeans, there are different styles that you can choose from. For your kids, of course. Of Course. Behold the glory from both A&F and Hollister (another store I have never set my foot in esp. since it is so deliberately dark and dance-club-hip, I just want to run in and go, “Where is the fucking bar?!”) Anyway, you are welcome.

 

Now that I have had a chance to stop staring and regain some blood back to my brains, it kind of made sense: sweatpants are a big deal for teenage boys. My son has been wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt and sweatpants ever since he became a teen, no matter the temperature outside. (He wears jeans when we ask him to “dress up”…)  But no worries Internet, I did not capitulate to the lure of headless shirtless men with their nether region almost showing. I was not about to pay $60 for a pair of sweatpants.

I hesitated before I clicked on Underwear, expecting to have nose bleeds from getting too excited. But was relieved, ok, fine, mildly disappointed that there is no image of models demonstrating the goods. Thank goodness though David Beckham came through (for H&M). And seriously, him? Fair game, imo. I have no problem ogling that old man.

 

 

By the way, how many of you, like me, chuckled at “Classic Straight”?

Straight fit. All the way down. Thou doth protest too much.

What is Classic straight anyway? Rock Hudson?

 

And… I am not done yet. At the end of day, I do have to admit: A&F website is a much greater pleasure to browse with a cocktail in hand than its competitors. I checked out American Eagles. All I can say is, Really, really?!

 

First of all, they are all wearing shirts. The nerves of those men! On top of that, what is up with that posture? Something wrong with your back and knees? Is that supposed to be sexy? Someone needs to call American Eagles and set them (and those legs) straight.

 

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When last summer was over, finding pants that fit all of a sudden became my obsession. Oh not for myself (I mean, that’s another, sad sad story). For the strange teenager that took over my oldest boy. Overnight the pants from BOYS’ department no longer fit him and those from MEN’s department won’t for a while. My choice seemed to be either highwater pants or a barrel.

Of course my son was no help.

“Can’t you just ask your friends where they buy their pants? For sure you cannot be the only person built with crane legs!” He looked at me with horror.

For weeks I had to refrain myself from asking random model-grade teenage boys with legs rivaling Manga characters (ok, to be fair, so you won’t tzk tzk me, they look almost 20. I think.) where they got their jeans.

After repeated whining of “mom I need new pants!” for a few weeks, I managed to drag him along to the mall. To be honest, the only store I was familiar with was The Gap. But somehow their designers have decided that the waist on boys doubles as soon as they outgrow Size 18. I was gearing up to go home with Erkel when I walked past this store with a name that I could not (and still cannot) pronounce.

Aéropostale. (I am still calling them Apocalypse just to annoy my children)

Why didn’t anybody tell me about this store? They call their two departments “Guys” and “Girls” for goodness sake! And because this store is for teens, there is no BASIC items, no STAPLES, no CLASSICS. You know what this means right? SALES. DRASTIC DISCOUNT, every season. Before the season ends.

$18 for a pair of jeans. 50% off of sales price.

AND they carry size 28*32 for jeans.

As I was grabbing at sweatpants, jeans, hoodies, shirts with the cut for gazelles, I was at the same time telling myself:

I am a good mother. I am a good mother. I will NOT wear matching clothing with my son esp. the way the clothes are emblazoned with the logo.

I did get a Peace bracelet for $6. And this:

Love the bag. It's now my favoriate bag. Only $15.

Love the fuzzy hoodie too. But…

I will not wear the same clothes as my son. I will not buy another hoodie for myself.

But, it is fuzzy. Did I mention that it is fuzzy. It’s like if you scalpe a teddy bear and line the hoodie with the fur. You head is cushioned by the dead teddy bear’s fur.

On top of that, once we got home, he repaid my kindness by pulling on his new jeans without unzipping first.

Zooom. The jeans were on him. Zooom. They were off.

Like a potato sack. It irked me to no end.

I am an adult. I will not wear clothes from the same store as my teenage son and his friends. I do not have anything to prove. I do not need to dress in clothes from “teen stores” nor will I covet those clothes. I am not going through some mid-life crisis. I will not (threaten to) steal my son’s cool new hoodie lined with teddy bear furs… (repeat the mantra)

I told him. I hate you. Seriously.

He beamed and demonstrated the ease with which he pulled on the jeans a few more times.

I said, “I love you. And that is why I will not wear clothes from this store so we won’t seem to be wearing matching clothes.”

He did not seem to appreciate the sacrifice I made for him.

 

* SHOES are the exceptions. Of course.

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Cool Parents. Oxy. Moron.

January 8, 2012 no manual for parenting

Confession: I have been obsessed with this website I came across from my 13-year-old’s Facebook wall. It is aptly named “I Waste So Much Time“. Unfortunately for my reputation, it is not a philosophical statement born from my existential angst. They omitted “On the Internet” in the name. This website is “curated” for middle schoolers… […]

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