Friday, September 7, 2012
First: Kudos to the person who made the text look like a tree. That's clever. It is also the only nice thing I have to say about this particular arrangement of words.
I've been a leader of young women and young men in some church capacity for most of my adult life. And I hate these things. They're everywhere. Someone has a creative idea which is supposed to let our youth know they're to keep themselves pristine or whatever--and it conveys messages I'm certain the author of the idea never intended. So today, because this "tree" makes me feel incredibly grouchy, I'm debunking some of those messages.
1. Girls aren't like apples. They're people. They have thoughts and intelligence and ideas and talents and potential and beauty, and the concept that they're simply sitting on a tree waiting to be consumed by boys makes me want to scream a tiny bit. It's a stupid comparison which demeans all that young women are and can become.
2. "The best ones are at the top of the tree..." Since when have we started sending the message that some people are better than others? I have been taught that God is no respecter of persons, that all are alike in his sight. I've read this in the scriptures, as well. I've never read anything in the scriptures about really great girl-apples hanging at the top of a tree.
3. What does this say about the majority of boys? They like rotten apples? Or, if we follow the metaphor, they simply exist so that they can take advantage of "easy" girls. This is an unfair and rather nasty stereotype rearing its ugly head. In truth, classifying young men and women according to their sexual appetites is a huge disservice. As teens, they go through so many physical and emotional changes that even they aren't sure who or what they are.
4. "They just have to wait for the right boy to come along..." Okay, Dian...deep breath..... I cannot even begin to express how much I hate this statement. To any girl who might stumble across my words today: Don't you dare wait for "the right boy!" Get out there and live! Dance, sing, go on a mission, get several degrees, travel the world, adopt orphans, run for public office, buy a house, teach others, write books and poetry, run marathons, enter bodybuilding contests, be a part of Doctors Without Borders or Habitat for Humanity! Do whatever you want, but DON'T WAIT FOR ANYONE! You have one beautiful life. Figure out who you are and celebrate that. I promise, if you do what I've said, regardless of whether or not you meet and marry someone, you'll have fewer regrets and your life will be amazing. Also, people who explore and expand their potential tend to attract other people. There's a good chance that while you're becoming wonderful, you'll encounter someone just as amazing as you are and the two of you will decide to spend the rest of your existence together. But don't wait. You are not an apple.
This nasty-cutesy tree has been posted repeatedly on Facebook for more than a year. It's always accompanied words similar to this: "If you're a parent of a young woman, you need to read this!" I agree. Read it, retch a bit, then tell your daughters (and sons) all the reasons things like this detract from who they really are, why such things should never be spread (like diseases), and then let them know in real words what point the stupid tree should be trying to convey:
"All young women are wonderful in the sight of God. All young men are, as well. It's great if they make it to adulthood without contracting STDs or having teen pregnancies or just engaging in sexual behaviors which are demeaning to their partners and undermine their own self-esteem. But if they don't, they can recover. The Atonement is for all people and it brings us all to the same level in God's sight. And no one is going to finish this life without making regrettable mistakes and hurting other people unless they die within their first 12 months. Try your best to treat yourself and others with respect. Learn self-control and remember that one day you'll be old and sex will only be on your mind 95% of the time. And if you want to climb trees, don't do it because you're trying to find a mate. Do it because it's fun."