I seem to be having the same, recurring conversation with old friends, new friends and even acquaintances lately. Actually, if I think about it, it’s a conversation that has been repeated ad nauseam since this past June – coinciding perfectly with the release of the movie The Fault In Our Stars.
Being Mom to a tweenage girl is the one similarity binding all those that I’ve had this conversation with and, after my most recent conversation, I started thinking about how warped our sense of appropriate – or inappropriate – might be.
Hear me out.
I couldn’t add much to the very first conversation that I had on this subject. I hadn’t read the book and certainly hadn’t seen the movie. I wasn’t even sure I knew the basic storyline. But, after listening to several moms debate the suitability of the book for their own daughters, I decided I needed to check it out. I started reading the book the very next day. I finished reading it the day after that. John Green can have that effect on you.
I will admit that after the first 50 pages or so I thought the book was a bit inappropriate for my soon-to-be 11 year old. It was one, single, solitary page in that group of 50 that had me thinking that way. A scene between two hormonal teens who were ‘in love’ – leaning up against a building, the two were making out and he touched her boob. Friends of the two love birds awkwardly kept their distance while discussing the ridiculous behavior playing out between their horny friends. From there, the story moved on.
Did I mention that the building those two love birds were leaning against happened to be the building where they met regularly for their cancer support group?
Shortly after reading the book, I found myself driving with my own daughter and her BFF in the backseat. Interestingly, they were having the same conversation that had been playing out among the adults. They talked about who among their friends had been allowed to read the book – whose mom thought it was inappropriate and whose mom thought it was just fine. My daughter began insisting that she wanted to read it and, of course, her BFF felt the same way. “I don’t know,” was all I needed to say to get those girls riled up.
“It’s not inappropriate,” my daughter began insisting. The two girls rattled off a list of friends who had read it or were going to read it before I stopped them.
“I don’t know if you want to read it,” I finally managed to say to them. This got their attention. I went on to explain that, although there were parts of the book that might be considered inappropriate for them, I wasn’t certain that they wanted to read such a heart-wrenching story of teenagers living and dying with cancer. This struck a cord with my overly sensitive daughter and her friend. After talking a bit more about the storyline, both girls decided that they definitely were not ready to read that book.
Here’s the thing. If I were to read The Fault In Our Stars alongside my daughter, I would find exactly two short scenes that might cause an awkward moment between us. By comparison, I can find at least half a dozen awkward moments while walking through our local mall with her. Ever walk past a Victoria’s Secret window with your tween daughter? How about an Abercrombie & Fitch store with their nearly naked male models plastered on the walls? The female models in nearly every single young adult store are scantily clad – at best, and I am 100% certain that the conversations she listens to on her bus ride to and from school would make my toes curl! Yet, here we are debating the appropriateness of a beautifully written book about teenagers – babies – attempting to live their lives in-between surgical procedures and experimental cancer treatments. Hmmmm.
I am delighted that these conversations prompted me to read such an incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully written story. I’m happy, too, that my daughter recognized how emotionally difficult she would find the storyline. Happier still that I didn’t stop her from reading it because I was afraid she would notice two young people who genuinely respected each other and the intimacy between them.
But that’s just my opinion.