Pregnancy or Purity...

I had a bit of an adventure with my daughter, Ashleigh, last Friday. She’s taking a psychology class and the teacher assigned the students their first project. Ashleigh had to come up with a psychology experiment, perform it, then type up her results. She brainstormed a lot of really good ideas, but finally settled on the one for which I became her assistant.

Ashleigh is 16 and looks like a typical high school junior. She contacted a maternity store in our local shopping mall, explained her project, and asked if she could borrow one of their maternity pillows—you know, the kind that makes you look pregnant. The store manager of Belli Couture willingly accommodated her request. Ashleigh’s idea was to walk around the mall, approach people of different age groups and ask a question to see how they would respond to her as a single pregnant teen.

We arrived at the maternity shop and entered a dressing room to put on “the pillow.” Suddenly, Ashleigh looked hesitant. “I can’t do this,” she said, uncharacteristically shy. “Plus, I feel like I’m…I dunno, being mean doing this.”

“It’s not mean!” I said. “You’re not making fun of pregnant teens, you’re recording how society responds to them.”

After a little more encouragement she bravely entered the mall. Ashleigh decided the question she would ask would be something along the lines of, “Do you know of any stores in the mall carrying baby bottles and supplies?” My job was to trail her from a good distance behind and take notes on people’s physical and verbal reactions.

The first woman she approached was close to 70. She answered Ashleigh quickly with a shake of her head, her eyes flicking from Ashleigh’s face to her protruding belly and back again several times. After Ashleigh thanked her and moved away, the woman continued to stare after her with some head shaking and a disapproving look.

After that first woman, Ashleigh approached men & women of all different ages, couples with children, and a group of teenage girls (she drew the line at approaching teenage boys! Ha, ha, ha!) And do you know what the most shocking thing about their responses was?

That they weren’t shocked at all!

Aside from the first woman, and an older man, whom Ashleigh didn’t speak with but merely walked past, nobody appeared at all surprised by her appearance. Most people barely glanced at her tummy and never looked back once she’d walked away. Even the group of chattering teenage girls she approached, all turned, looked her in the eye, provided an answer to her question, then turned right back and continued their conversation without missing a beat.

When we finished and returned the pillow to the maternity shop, I commented to the store manager on the surprising lack of response from people. The manager of the shop replied, “Well, I’m not surprised. You see a lot of that kind of thing today.”

What a sad reaction! I think she’s wrong, though. I think her perception is skewed because of where she works.

A report, updated in 2006, on U.S. teenage pregnancy statistics conducted by the Guttmacher Institute shows that the pregnancy rate among 15-19-year-old teenage women in this country is at its lowest level in 30 years—it’s down 36% from its 1990 peak. And there is a growing body of research which suggests that increased abstinence on the part of teens is playing a huge role in that decline.

Those are some encouraging statistics!

I’ve heard some parents say it’s unrealistic to expect their child to remain sexually pure until marriage. In my opinion, those parents are setting up some pretty low expectations for their kids. I give teens today a lot more credit than that.

I’m a bit out of the what’s-cool-in-music loop, but I heard on the radio today that several celebrities, including popular teen pop trio The Jonas Brothers, have been proudly displaying their purity rings. In case you don’t know, a purity ring is worn to symbolize a promise to remain sexually pure until marriage. The middle Jonas brother, 18-year-old Joe, is quoted as saying they wear the rings as “promises to ourselves and to God that we’ll stay pure till marriage.” It’s awesome to hear such positive role models actively proclaiming great moral and spiritual values for kids like that.

You go boys!

Image by: Mahalie

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Ashleigh is a great kid. I enjoyed reading this.