Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'll teach them to disable the comments page ...

Dear Leslie,

I imagine you've probably received a fair bit of email about your article, so I'll try to keep this brief and let you know from the outset that this one falls into the "appreciative but critical" camp.

I applaud the thought that you put into this matter and I agree with your friend about the positives of having any sexual activity conducted in a friendly environment, rather than a dangerous one (I'm not really entering into the complimentary stage yet, am I?). I don't envy the conundrum set you, as a mother of boys, who knows what it's like to grow up as a girl with boys around.

But (there it is!) I think your friend is right. I think that in wanting to protect these girls from their own indecision or loss of control, you're also protecting them from their own decisions and any semblance of mature control they might finally have wrestled back from society. It might have taken a great moving of internal mountains for these girls to finally be able to make the decision to accept an invitation to stay over at a boy friend's (note the space) house. Just walking through your front door (rather than clambering through your son's darkened bedroom window) might be the finishing line for them. They are probably prepared to walk through the front door in the first place because your sons are the kinds of young men they are (young men who know that "no" means "no", but who also understand that lots of other things also mean "No", like "I don't know", "Um", "" and complete silence), raised by the kind of mother you are (the woman who would be Switzerland).

Enough about these girls. Onto the boys.

"There is a relatively straightforward relationship for boys between what they want, what they say they want and what they pursue – with sex, and everything else."

I think you're wrong about this. I've been a boy. I've been excellent friends with boys. It is not straight forward. Relative to girls, relative to anything. I'm not going to start asking where you get your ideas about this, but here are mine:

For teenaged boys there is almost nothing scarier than a teenage girl. Nothing. This does not get better with age. Look at the way women are treated by men, by society. Have you read Stieg Larsson? Apparently the working title for the first novel was Men Who Hate Women. This was not a new concept. But I digress - you know what I'm talking about.

The fact that your sons have girls who are friends puts them years ahead of their peers, I can guaranteee it. When they grow into young men, they will have left a large section of the male population behind forever when it comes to possessing the gifts that women can bestow upon others with their friendship: things like understanding, emotional intelligence and strength. They are already protected from the kinds of relationships which use up their joy and dignity. They will never be cowardly enough to use the words "slut" or "bitch".

I'll wrap up this "brief" (sorry about that) email with something reassuring: these sleepovers aren't about sex. They may be and eventually, they probably will be. But right now, despite the formal conversations between parents and the attempts at casual reassurance by partners, sex is not the only thing that two teenagers of the opposite sex can think of to do alone in a room together. Before the not-inevitable move to the least-squeaky trundle bed, there's probably a lot of learning going on.




  1. Beautifully put, Franzy. I too agree (and this is scary seeing as I have an eleven year old who looks fourteen) that I'd greatly prefer 'things' (if anything) occur at home in relative safety. It would certainly be preferable to getting drunk at a party and being photographed on someone's mobile and uploaded to Facebook.

    And it is surprising that, despite all the surveys that say X percentage (always higher than we'd like, of course) of 14 year olds are sexually active, twenty years down the track over a dinner party and red wine, some of the teenage stars will come out and admit that NOTHING happened. Even at uni, a few friends have told me that what we assumed was wildly inaccurate. Kids lying about having sex - whoda thought it?

    Kids are still frightened, self conscious and insecure and still, deep down, appreciate being home and safe. If they can have friendships that allow them to spend time together without ridicule, the influence of alcohol/drugs or pressure they'll be much better for it. God knows that's what I hope for my daughter.

  2. Not to mention that in the all boy sleepovers they're probably blowing each other anyway.

  3. Kath - I didn't want to get into my own past in the letter, but in all the mixed sleepovers I used to be at, it was more of a relief to be able to hang around with girls and NOT have to worry about sex or image or any of that schoolyard bullshit for a change.

    Dan - I think you're forgetting that in our culture, those kind of all-boy sleepovers are called "footy trips".

    But serious - gold comment. I have nothing to add.

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An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32