Just say “no”…

Take a moment to read this*.  Go ahead.  i’ll wait.  It’s important…

It instantly transported me to my mid-30’s.  The years i was an active volunteer, and member of the Board of Directors, for the local Planned Parenthood affiliate.  In a medium-sized town (about one million people in the metropolitan area), we provided free, or low-cost, reproductive health care to about a thousand individual women per year.  Very few of the patients could pay much.  Subsidies came through Medicaid, or state funding for low-income women.

We noticed a disturbing trend.  Each month, an alarming number of young girls between the ages of 10 and 13 were coming in for free pregnancy testing – the same troupe of girls would be there virtually every month.  Of course they got a medical check-up, education, and an opportunity for free birth control (condoms, as a minimum). 

But they weren’t looking for birth control.  They were disappointed to get negative results.

We had an intern** on staff, and she studied the troupe.  More than gathering demographics, she interviewed many of them.  What we found was heart-breaking.

The short version:  The girls wanted to be pregnant.  They were being fucked by 15-18 year old man-boys.  Pregnant girls got attention.  Presents.  A seat on the bus.  All their sisters, aunts, cousins, friends had babies and they wanted one too.  It opened the possibility of housing subsidies – a ticket out of a bad situation.  Their boyfriends might stick around.  The grandmothers?  They were effectively encouraging the girls — Grandma liked having grandbabies: “Oh, honey, you are WAY too young to be a Grandma”.  Grandma wanted attention, too.

This was in the era of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say ‘No’ To Sex” campaign for abstinence.  Right.  Let’s replace ALL of the medical and educational work we do with some pamphlets on “Saving Yourself for Marriage”, and “Respect Yourself”.  Oh, and throw in some mindless folksy wisdom – “The man isn’t going to buy the cow if he can get the milk for free” – just for good measure…

Never mind the 21-year old married mother of three who KNOWS she can’t afford to get pregnant again.  “Just Say ‘No’ To Sex With Your Husband”.  The party line:  Well, poor people really shouldn’t have children, should they?  What’s wrong with them?  They breed like rats… We would much rather spend our tax dollars teaching them morality and catchy slogans than actually providing factual information and medical testing.

So i have to ask myself:  When did i stop trying to do something useful?  Why did i give up?  Sure, my own family and career started to consume more of my time and energy.  Life happens…

i have dedicated this particular phase of my life to ‘farting around’.  It’s where i need to be at the moment.  When asked what i will be doing in the future:  “i can retire in 7 years and 14x days.  Plans?  Tend bar, play in a band, and fuck off as much as possible”. 

Maybe…

photo found here

* Thanks to rob for the link…  i always try to go where he sends us.  Usually either makes me laugh my ass off or think harder than i’m used to…

** Through AmeriCorps… a domestic version of the Peace Corps…

15 thoughts on “Just say “no”…

  1. Yeah, I’ve read Lora here and there since she started stopping by Ann’s blog fairly regularly. That post I linked, though? That one really stopped me cold. Made me think.

    Even I’d say we’re solidly middle class, with middle class problems, they pale in comparison to what Lora’s experiences. Even the worst of my dysfunctional extended family can’t really hold a candle.

    And to top it off, I was listening to C-SPAN as I went to lunch today. Live coverage of the anti-choice rally at the Mall in Washington. Not one of those god-spouting stuffed shirts has a clue. Not one iota.

  2. what is this compulsion coming from? not to say you can’t still contribute, but you did your turn…and then some. you surely made a difference. even if it was helping but one (and i’m sure there were more), you made a huge difference. and just think what you taught your kids (no, not that stuff…or that…or, hell, even ‘that’!…).

    and, yeah, it is heartbreaking to see the lack of adult guidance those children wanting children had…have? [sigh] i’m guessing it’s not much better today than it was 10 years ago.

    no answers…just more heavy sighs…

  3. I was teaching on the east side (it’s always the east, isn’t it?) side of town in the late 80’s. 11 and 12 years dating high school drop-outs. The older he was, the greater the status. I remember one girl -just 14 – whose mother let her 23 year old boyfriend move in with them. When we pointed out that it was wrong and that we had to report her to DHS, she was confused and defeated,

    “But he pays the rent for me!”

    She is the same woman who several months later abandoned her daughter for a month (after she kicked the boyfriend out she hooked up quickly and married again). Mom and new husband went on a month long honeymoon journey. They left the girl $50 for food, but didn’t pay the electric bill. The child was living alone in a dicey neighborhood with no food and no electricity. She was too scared to sleep at night.

    Mom and Step-Dad got slaps on the risk. The girl went on the hs, got pg and dropped out. The boy didn’t stick – of course. She was hardly the only little girl looking for someone she could depend on and willing to trade to get it. I have no doubt that if I’d stayed on the east side, I’d have eventually ran across her little girl in my class.

  4. Wow, it’s not often that I would take the time to read such a long post (way too short attention span) but I read Lora’s post and I sat in silence for a moment. Thanks for sharing and thanks for triggering a few unpleasant but necessary thoughts.

  5. I’m not sure why people think that if we ignore deeply rooted social problems, or throw some good church teaching at them, they will go away. I guess no one wants to say out loud that they poor and the uneducated are on their own. My sister worked with at-risk mothers for many years, and told me recently that the whole system — at least where she lives — has been reengineered to be an adoption factory for middle-class families who want babies. They are not even trying to help the mothers anymore.

    Thanks for writing this.

  6. rob – it rattled me. and even my trailer park clan doesn’t suffer misfortune to that degree… as for the butt-heads? they’ll never get it. busily shipping bibles and duct tape off to Haiti, they don’t understand that the alleged ‘greatest nation on earth’ is supremely fucked…

    newscoma – one little sliver of the darkest reaches of american society. there are more. so many more. i am humbled in my ignorance, and spoiled by my fortune…

    gnukid – sure, i did pitch in. but this ‘farting around’ thing… i have resources (personal skills, experience, network, financial) to at least tackle some small part of it… and i choose not to at the moment… need to think on that some more…

    sekanblogger – ah, but what is stupid? who decides what is stupid? my definition includes the former governor of alaska… but, alas, we can’t suggest sterilization for her…

    annie – must have been heart breaking… and frustrating… but after a few generations, it seems to become encoded. nearly impossible to break the cycle… in my town? east side is poor ‘appalachian american’ and the west side is poor ‘african american’… one of the most segregated cities in the nation. still. but the young girls we served? came from east AND west. this is not a black/white issue. not by a long shot…

    nursemyra – there was a time when i planned to do more. my intention was to retire early, and work this full time. i think i’m in the process of dusting that concept off… education is an important first step, but changing process, policies and execution of services? that’s even harder…

    tNb – like you, i’m often put off by long posts. the blog-medium seems to work most effectively with nuggets of 500 words or less. but Lora’s post sucked me in. and triggered many, many memories. and many unpleasant thoughts… and may well have triggered more than that for me…

    chris – the ‘adoption factory’ concept is not unique to where your sister worked. several of the ‘crisis pregnancy’ operations in our town are thinly masked baby emporiums. “Don’t abort! Sell!” There simply are NO ‘crisis pregnancy’ clinics on the west (black) side of town, but about six on the whiter east side. as dark as this is, however, the adopted kids have been given a ticket out… in some cases, that’s clearly the best option… my next rant will likely be on the rush to ‘save haiti’, while ignoring the disasters on our own turf…

  7. I saw that from Rob’s place as well. Life can be such a lump sometimes.

    When I first arrived in NYC the city was still on its knees. It was awful. I use to carry quarters around in my pocket and dole them out on the subway to the multitude of beggars. But then a strange thing happened. I got numb. I stopped seeing them. I’ve since surmised that it was a defense mechanism that kicked into place. The relentless exposure to the downtrodden was too much for me.

  8. unbearable banishment – it is a defense mechanism… the blindness. but you still know that they are there. it’s the policy-makers, talking heads on Fox News and the imbeciles that follow them that FAIL TO RECOGNIZE that there are situations amongst the american citizenry that cannot be fixed with a job, a slogan, or ‘hard work’… we can’t forget.

    fragrant liar – the parents? most of these girls were from single parent homes. and their mothers had lived the same ‘dream’, and were in some form of struggling to keep their own heads above water… these aren’t suburban girls just horsing around playing house. these are girls who simply haven’t known any other lifestyle… it breaks my heart…

  9. I clicked on the link, Daisy Fae. I am always happy to read a post of compassion and that includes ones that point out uncomfortable truths. That of course includes this one of yours.
    Slowly, over my fifty years I have come to realise and see that a hiccup of fate (which come in many forms) can be easily worked through for some people, but not for all.
    For some folk, a hiccup of fate can be the beginning of the ruin of a life. Sometimes acts of compassion can help heal those lives.
    I embrace people of compassion and I embrace you now.
    Thankyou, Daisy Fae.

  10. syncopated eyeball – thank you for your kind words. maybe the foundation of compassion lies in knowing that we are all one random hiccup away from the dark and swirly parts of life… for me, though, ‘feeling’ it isn’t enough. i need to find a way to do something useful…

  11. Yeah, it’s hard to believe how hard it is to live in poverty or be disabled. I spent 35 years taking care of other people, and have survivor’s guilt about what I do have. It’s hard for me to ignore the people sleeping in doorways, or begging on the street. But I don’t often have what I think I can share. I feel like I should be doing something, too. So I’m knitting layettes for preemies, hats for homeless women, whatever. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and an income that lets me have internet access. I am well off. I could use more chocolate, though.

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