I had two remarkable calls to my radio program recently. The first was remarkable not for its uplifting value, but for its cheekiness, naiveté, and dangerous loss of perspective.
A 20-year-old woman called to ask a question about her fiancé. I always “interrogate” callers before they ask me their questions because often the question is not the caller’s actual issue, and in this case, I discovered that her fiancé was 22, they’d been dating for two years, and were shacking-up at her divorced mother’s home.
I asked, “If you want to live together as man and wife with all the perks that come from that, why didn’t you just go to a Justice of the Peace and get married?”
“Because I want a nice wedding,” she sweetly replied.
“You mean a traditional white-dress wedding?” I asked. She said yes.
I said, “So, you want a traditional wedding, which celebrates the commitment between two people who are going to become one in body and soul, but you’re shacking-up and having out-of-wedlock sex while living with a guy who can’t even afford a little apartment, so you’re living under your mother’s roof without paying rent … this is your idea of ‘traditional?’”
There was stunned and annoyed silence at the other end of the phone, so I asked, “Do you plan to also have your sons and daughters shack-up in your home rather than marry?”
She said she did not. I inquired as to why, and there was another annoyed silence.
She made noises as if she might hang up, but I pressed on. “What is your problem with your fiancé?”
“He financially supports his mother and all his siblings. They live in a nice home. I don’t think he should be doing that because we will need that money to have a home of our own,” she said.
“My dear,” I told her, “he is going to continue supporting his family because that is his primary commitment. So I suggest you make a deal with your mother to pay rent and continue living in her home with your future husband, or find a small apartment that doesn’t cost much, because you’re going to have to budget to support his mom and siblings first. That’s the kind of wonderful guy you have!”
At least she was polite when she hung up.
The second call was from a 24-year-old who wanted to complain about her relationship with her mother and how she doesn’t want the same for her relationship with her three small children.
She told me that her mother was negative and would hurt her feelings being critical, saying things like, “Your situation is due to your own stupidity.”
It turns out that the three children had two different fathers, and mom had never married either one of the men.
I asked what about her mother’s comment wasn’t spot-on? There was stunned silence.
“My dear,” I said, “Your children are in chaos with your multiple relationships and out-of-wedlock births. I think the beginning of you not having an estranged relationship with your children, as you have with your mother, is to own up to your mistakes. Instead of labeling her assessment of your behavior and circumstances negative and critical, tell her that she’s accurate and that you need her support now to bring stability to your children’s lives.”
These two young women sadly represent the status of young people today -- no firm sense of right and wrong, propriety, modesty, integrity, or forethought. Their parents and our society have let them down, supporting the notions that values are simply subjective, negative judgments, and that what you feel at the moment is your best measure for making decisions.
The first young woman is trapped by her pseudo-commitment of shacking-up. She doesn’t have the luxury of objectivity and will probably marry, be angry, have children, and divorce. The second young lady may very well search for another guy to give her the fantasy of a happy home, as she has unprotected sex with him to affirm his attachment, and have yet another child.
We might excuse both young women’s behaviors due to underlying emotional “issues,” but in the past, value judgments, shame, and morals have always served to protect young people. We need our values back!
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