Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Want to Hold Your Hand

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Who would have ever thought the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, written by Lennon and McCartney and released almost 50 years ago could potentially become the battle cry of many a young Tennessean in love?  Well, if you believe internet headlines, legislators in my fair state have banned hand-holding.  

Just an evening or so ago, I was shocked to read “State’s ‘No-Holding Hands Bill’ Blasted” as the headline for a news story on Yahoo, which is the home page on one of my laptops.  

My first thought was What?  You’ve gotta be kidding me.  Some state is actually making it against the law for kids to hold hands.   Oh, please.  Do they actually believe this will lower the number of teen pregnancies and STDs?  

My second thought upon reading the above mentioned headline was Oh, please, please, please... don’t be Tennessee, don’t be Tennessee.  

Tennessee is my home.  It is where I was born, bred, and will likely be buried.  I love it and there are very few places I imagine I would rather live.  Your home state is like family.  You see, I can poke fun at my family all day long or complain about them from time to time or, on very rare occasions, get downright mad at one of them.  However, for an outsider to do the same crosses a line which would certainly bring about consequences.  Make fun of one of us and see how many more Christmas cards you’d get from me. Oh, yeah.  You’d be cut off.  Shunned.  Dead to me.  So, think twice before doing it.

I feel the same about my state.  Certainly, there is a reputation that has been cultivated (similar to the reputation of most of our neighbors residing below the Mason-Dixon Line) over the 216 years of our existence that lends itself as fodder for the thoughts of non-natives. Some good, some bad.

While pregnant with our children we have almost certainly walked about barefoot in our homes from time to time (and, okay, I would be lying if I said there aren’t some women who may even walk around barefoot in public, too - which I think is really, really tacky unless you're on a beach or at the pool) ,most of us over the age of  thirty-five have used an old-fashioned, outdoor toilet on some occasion (though it’s been years for me), we’ve been known to put peanuts in our cokes (I prefer mine in a bottle, rather than a can), and there’s a reason we’re known as The Volunteer State.

Then every so often the powers that be in the state government do something which garners national headlines in a way that creates a little head shaking.  A few years ago after the death of Michael Jackson our state legislators set aside business as usual (i.e. the economy, education, infrastructure, etc.) to take up the matter of crafting a state resolution to honor the performer.   Of course, there were objections.  These resolutions are nothing more than official “pats on the back” but they do cost money and in a state hurting financially this particular one was seen by some as a waste.  I had to agree.  Other than marrying Elvis’ daughter I’m not sure of any direct connection to Tennessee Jackson had beyond his posters hanging in countless teenage girls’ bedrooms across the state (mine included).   

Fast forward to just a few nights ago...are we now seriously banning hand holding? Well, Yahoo, Jeanne Sager of The Stir, and many other outlets would like you to think so.  According to the Yahoo article, Sager feels “teens contending with raging hormones need honest information, not unrealistic nonsense about how hand-holding leads to getting knocked up.”  Well, turns out that’s not exactly what this legislation is about.  

Tennessee has an “abstinence only” sex-ed curriculum, which recognizes abstaining from sex as the only absolute way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.  The new bill (which really isn’t that new as it was passed a couple months ago) restricts educators from  the Promoting of “any gateway sexual activity or health message that encourages students to experiment with non-coital sexual activity”.  You can go here to read it for yourself.

While we’re on the subject of sex-ed being taught in schools, let me say I am not so disillusioned that I think all teens will wait until marriage or have only one sex partner in their life.  Even people raised in the best, most moral homes in the country are ultimately human, and humans make mistakes, especially teens, who will lack a fully developed frontal lobe until they reach their twenties.  John and I long ago decided to “never say never” when it comes to raising our children.  Every time I hear a parent say, “My child would never do such and such”, I respond with something like, “Oh, well that’s good” or “Well, that must be quite a comfort to you”, all the while inwardly rolling my eyes.   Yes, I have good children and I hope and pray that they will always strive to make good decisions in their life but, again, they’re human.

As a parent and an educator,  I have no problem with “sex-ed” classes being taught in schools. Do I think my second-grader should receive such lessons?  Of course not.  Do I want a teacher or outside organization making suggestions for alternative experiences to my daughter.  Again, no way.  But I believe it is important for schools to teach age appropriate lessons to our students about their bodies, about puberty and reproduction, and also the risks and consequences of unprotected sex.  I should point out that I feel the better, more successful way to teach these lessons is in groups separated by gender and, of course, that parents be allowed to keep their children from participating if they so choose.  

Now, while the bill may be somewhat vague, I have to believe that our elected officials weren’t really thinking of hand holding or kissing or even cheesy pick-up lines (Are you from Tennessee? ‘Cause you’re the only 10 I see) as “gateway activities” when they drafted the bill. Typical for many online, more liberal-leaning news sites the whole thing has been blown out of proportion to, in my opinion, create some catchy headlines, poke a little fun at a southern state, and mold like minded people by making those who agree with the legislation feel a little unsophisticated for thinking such and be more likely to have a change of opinion. These kind of bloated, misleading stories really get my goat, especially when I feel they are trying to make a mockery out of my state and, in turn, me.

So, you know what that means, don’t you?  The editorial staff at Yahoo will be forever removed from my Christmas card list.  Oh, wait.  They were never on it.  I guess I’ll just have to exact my wrath by  changing my home page.

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