My son is growing up in a technological and social media world that is completely different than the world in which I came of age. That’s not news to me or to anyone.
My husband and I started dating in 2005. Maybe I’m in the grips of technological nostalgia, but to me, I think my decades of dating life took place in a golden age of dating.
When I think about my dating experiences from my twenties and thirties, I imagine myself as a less fabulous version of Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex and the City. Wearing much cheaper clothes. And not going dancing at Manhattan clubs. And never wearing expensive designer heels. With no smoking, tutus, or curly hair. (Okay. I never was anything like Sarah Jessica Parker, but despite the well-deserved plummet in reputation that Sex and the City as a brand now suffers, doesn’t every woman over the age of 30 imagine that her romantic life was at some point just a little like Carrie’s?)
I had my share of romantic heartbreak and painful breakups. Bad boyfriends, great boyfriends. Boyfriends who suddenly stopped calling, boyfriends who never stopped calling. Boyfriends who may not have been actually “boyfriends” in the strictest sense, but I wanted them to be. Long relationships, short relationships. Relationships that I knew were stupid even before they started. I waited for the phone to ring on many nights. Other times I ignored its rings. Sometimes I prayed for a relationship to survive, and other times I prayed for them to end. During some years I worried that I was dating too much. Other times I was worried that I was dating too little. Approaching my mid-thirties, I worried that I would die alone. But then I would find myself in another relationship that exhausted, bored, or hurt me, and I’d want to be single forever. And then I’d worry about that.
When a relationship ended, for the most part I never had to think about that person again, if I chose not to.
But here’s one thing that I never had to worry about: texting. And here’s another: Facebook. I never received a drunk text. Or was blocked on Twitter by a promising date.
Yes, most of my dating life occurred after e-mail was typically used as part of courtship and communication. And then cell phones became part of modern American courtship. And online dating. And, yes, I even think my dating past intersected with Friendster and MySpace. But I think it’s still true that my dating experiences wouldn’t have been much different if they have taken place in 1983, or 1993, or 2003.
Last night I read an article in New York Magazine written by a millennial called “All My Exes Live in Texts: Why The Social Media Generation Never Really Breaks Up.” After reading it, I wanted to go into my son’s room, take him out of his crib, and make him promise never to sext anyone ever, ever, ever. Ever. And tell him that bad boys who sext grow up to be Anthony Weiner.
I’m used to the desire to protect my son from lots of imminent (and far off) dangers: germs, falling off playground equipment, unfriendly dogs on the sidewalk, sunburns. Even the rising cost of college education.
From the article, here are a few other things that I’m sad that my son will experience in his future life on a regular basis:
1. Scrolling through an ex’s Twitter feeds.
2. Using Snapchat.
3. Realizing that he’s received dozens, if not hundreds, of pictures of naked people on his phone.
4. Deciding which “ex blocker” app or plug-in to erase your ex from your social media, e-mail, and internet history.
I’m not a prude. It doesn’t bother me to realize that my son will have a future sexual life, way before he gets married or even maybe before he’s ready.
But more than anything I can’t help but wonder — yes, I’m still channeling Carrie Bradshaw here — how to talk with my son, or any kid, about relationships and sex in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and iPhones. We’re so far beyond the point in which parents just have to worry about someday having the “birds and the bees” talk.
When should you have the “sexting” talk with your kid?
If you have a teenager, how do you talk about social media, romance, and sex?