Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dear Antwaun: What I Would Say If I Were Fantasia

In the new issue of Sister 2 Sister Magazine, singer Fantasia candidly discusses what went wrong in her relationship with Antwaun Cook.  Their very public relationship has been played out in the media from day one—how she fell in love with a married guy, how he left his wife for her, her pregnancy, an alleged suicide attempt by her, the break up, his admission of cheating on her, and now her explaining why it won’t happen again.  It’s almost like she feels she let her fans down and she’s making it up to us by promising that she’s learned her lesson.

She says she’s learned from her mistakes and has discovered that importance learning to love herself before loving others.

But what about Antwaun?  What if anything has he learned?

Here’s a young man from Charlotte, North Carolina who after beginning a relationship with Fantasia gained instant celebrity status.  The former T-Mobile salesman reportedly left his wife and child to pursue a life with someone who offered him an immediate upgrade….and no long-term contract.
Was he wrong?  Absolutely.  I don’t know anything about his home life, how he grew up or what role models he had or didn’t have.  But I also know that you don’t have to be a 20-something dude from the south to get caught up in a highly publicized extra-marital scandal.

Antwaun is in good company, From high-ranking politicians, to pastors and priests, to school principals and TV stars, Antwaun and others have been given a template of how to break moral codes, ignore marriage vows and live double lives.

The boys will be boys wink and nod attitude only works when you look at the small picture.  The big picture includes lots of casualties…in the Cook/Barrino case: his ex-wife, their child, Fantasia and their child, and even her older daughter.  Throw Antwaun in there too.  He’s a celebrity now but without the income to provide for his current two families.   If you Google “Fantasia’s Baby Daddy, his name pops up more than 14,000 times.  You can read about who he’s currently dating and his new job as the owner of a bail bonds company.

A lot of love and support comes Fantasia’s way as it does to any woman whose heart has been broken, especially by a married man.  I do hope that she learns to love and value herself and to discern who she can and cannot trust.

But the Antwauns of the world need to hear that same message.  Some of their behavior is also a result of self-esteem issues and them not really understanding their self-worth.    As mothers of sons, it’s never too soon to let them know our high expectations are of them.  Before they begin dating we should put as much scrutiny on their prospective girlfriends as they most likely will place on our boys.  Let’s not spend our entire investment on girls and leave it our boys to figure things out.

In case Antwaun has never heard it, it isn’t too late for him to become the man, the father and husband he’s destined to be.  And it isn’t too early to let our boys know they are expected to do the same.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride? What Teens Should Know About Adult Sexual Enticement

I see it and hear it every time a story comes out about a teenage boy being linked sexually with a female teacher: the snickering and even feigned jealousy of grown men who claim they wish they could have been as lucky when they were back in school.

Some even wonder why young boys don’t keep their mouths shut and just enjoy the ride. No pun intended. It’s such a double standard. No one in his or her right mind would ever find anything amusing, intriguing or sexy about a 30-year-old man having sex with a 14 or 15-year-old girl, but for some reason it’s assumed that when it happens to a boy, he’s living out his fantasy.

The most recent headline: Former NFL cheerleader, 42, charged after offering sex to 12-year-old boy at parents’ party in Tennessee. We know some boys dream about their teachers, their babysitters, in some cases, their friend’s moms and of course NFL cheerleaders. But dreaming about it is one thing, actually living it out is something different.

 I’ve taught my sons from an early age what inappropriate behaviors to watch for. What I haven’t taught them yet is how to ward off sexual enticement from people they should trust, like their schoolteachers. Because I’m a woman, it’s not an easy lesson to teach. I can only imagine the confused emotions that come into play when you are physically aroused by someone but completely aware mentally that those feelings are wrong. It will take a real man to explain to them how to keep these urges in check. But based on the reactions I’ve heard, how many men can I trust to give sound advice? How can I be sure that they won’t inadvertently send the message that a teenage sexual encounter with a female adult is some sort of rite of passage? I mean, I’ve heard about men who have actually taken their teenage sons to prostitutes and strip clubs.

So, let me put it this way. If you’re a guy who would be repulsed at the idea of your young son, little brother or nephew being molested by a male adult, you should be just as repulsed about a grown woman taking advantage of a boy. Sexual relations between adults and teens are wrong … period. And research proves they cause psychological damage.

We’ll declare this a judgment and giggle-free zone so if you’re a man or know one who was messed up by an older woman. Let me hear from you.

If we don’t start protecting our kids, the cycle of sexual dysfunction and lack of real intimacy will continue. Not a good look.

Between the internet, cable TV, and explicit song lyrics our children will be over sexed and over stimulated long before they’re mature enough to handle what they’ve been exposed to. Whether you have boys or girls, they’re going to meet up at some point with unhealthy attitudes about what’s expected of either.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CREATE THAT VILLAGE NOW: It’s Time to Be Outraged Over Rape of Young Girls

The verdict is in but the story about the two Steubenville high football players convicted of raping a West Virginia teen girl continues to make headlines. More recently two high school football players in Torrington, Conn., were charged with assaulting a 13-year-old girl, and the alleged victim has been menaced on social media as a ‘snitch,’ according to a report.

As a mother of two young sons, I cannot imagine what was going on in the lives of the football players to make them treat a women or girl in this manner.  As a woman, a daughter, an aunt, a sister and friend to women with daughters, I’m equally curious as to how an underage girl could be put in this situation. 
I don’t understand the alcohol consumption, I don’t understand a teen party with no adult supervision, and I don’t understand why there’s no curfew for these kids who were out all night.

As a victim, my heart continues to break because I know the life-long ramifications of sexual assault.
There are no easy answers to a story as complicated and tragic as the Steubenville case. Everything about it outrages and saddens me. The out-of-control underage drinking. The fact that dozens of people witnessed what was going on and NO ONE did anything to stop it. The social media aspect. The lack of friends who would step in and help the victim (some of her “friends” even testified for the
defense…) and what seems to be a massive cover-up to protect two stars of the storied football team.
Where were all the people that were supposed to look out for these young people and navigate them through the trials and tribulations of the teenage years? Teachers, coaches, parents, neighbors, pastors, etc.?

Even though this isn’t my world, it is the world for a lot more people than I’d like to imagine. The selfish answer is for me to worry about only what’s mine, to make sure that my sons are always at chaperoned events and that I have face-to-face meetings in advance with any adults that are supervising them.  I can also continue to demand that they respect all people, but women in particular.  I can take them to church and make certain that they’re spiritually and morally grounded.

I can judge the parents of the teens involved and wonder why they haven’t done the job that I might have done.

Or, I can realize that I can’t control every aspect of our lives, that there will be times when even the best of moms can’t nail down the exact locations of our kids.  They can leave home with some one trusted and end up visiting someone who makes you raise an eyebrow. They can be minding their own business and become the target of someone who just doesn’t like the way they’re dressed or the way their hair is cut.  They can be with family members or friends who flip out or they themselves can have a lack of good judgment that could lead to the unthinkable, just as it did for the teens who may have to be listed as registered sex offenders for life.

All children need to be taught that there are boundaries and where exactly those boundaries lie. If we’re only teaching our kids the rules, it doesn’t help so much when the kid with a whole different set of values shows up.

So instead of looking down at families who find themselves in the kind of peril these teenagers are in, how about looking outward and trying to have a positive influence on as many young people as we can. It happens through mentoring and all of us have a chance to take part in all kinds of ways.  There are children who have to look much too far to find someone worth emulating, too many boys who need a male to explain how girls and women should be treated and too many girls who need a female to explain what kind of treatment is unacceptable. We can’t solve all the problems of the world but I know for a fact that making a difference in one small way can change someone’s life.

If you’re part of a mentoring program shout it out or if you’ve been mentored by someone who has a positive impact on your life, let’s celebrate them right here. We have to stop talking about the village it takes to raise a child and start creating that village before it’s too late.