I've been up all night. I mean I've been sleeping here and there, but with several bouts of tossing and turning in between. Part of it is the influence of Sudafed mixed with cough meds(wow that stuff is powerful. Sudaspeed?). The other part is worry about my influence over some teenage girls in my little neighborhood.
I used to be a teen girl leader (called the Young Womens program) in a Mormon congregation in my neighborhood. This ended when I confessed I didn't know if I believed the tenets of my faith and was asked to turn in what is called a temple recommend. More on that some other day.
Well, for some of the older girls in the neighborhood this week is prom week. And the kids in my neighborhood are poor. And I, they've noticed, have dresses. So last night a bunch came over to ask if they could borrow some of them for the dance.
Keep in mind it's hard for me to share. I was raised an only girl. And although I did always wish for a sister, sharing was not part of that vision. And these are teenagers. So I was reluctant but torn. I do have quite a few very pretty dresses, some I never wear. And these girls are from poor families. And it's the nature of Mormons (and good Christians everywhere) to share what they have. So I caved. "Yes, sure, come in, let's see what I've got". Flood gates open!
Enter my bedroom, dresses, shoes and jewelry flying. Conversation flowing (about, what else? Boys!).
All 5 of the girls there were LDS and from nice families and remember me being their leader (even though, let's face it, I only really ever went to church for YW most of the time). But they remember me being their leader and example. And I tried very hard to support the standards taught.
So when these darling girls come over and look to me for guidance and ask questions like "Is this dress modest?" "Why won't my mom let me pierce my nose?" or when one of the girls confesses (at the tender age of 14) that she's had sex with her boyfriend...it gets tricky.
They think of me as like a cool surrogate parent. They trust me. Trying to give out good, helpful advice while not pissing off any parents is like navigating a mine field.
Yet, I know why these girls come to me and not their moms or their YW leaders. They are looking for real answers. They think I have them. They are young and sweet and trying to figure out how to navigate life. Their leaders are frumpy. Their moms (at least a good portion of them in my hood) are from foreign countries and don't always understand American culture. And these, like any other teenage girls, want to be liked, want to have nice things and want to do well in life. And here I am, the strange, single, white girl with the pretty dresses and youthful personality and I'm not their mom.
I tried to do the best I could, advising the one girl to wait till she's really ready (not 14) with a guy who loves her (not the douche she was with) and to please, next time, use protection for the love (she didn't even think to do that! And yes I DID advise protection over abstinence because that is reality, deal with it). With the modest dress thing I was cautious. That was always the fight I had with my own mom. In my mind it was perfectly fine to wear what I wanted (looking back, it was not on plenty of occassions. Hello bra strap showing and mini skirts to church?). To me, my current dresses are fine. But their moms might not think so. So I made sure they got that, suggested a cover up, and let them decide. The piercing thing was harder. I want to pierce my own nose. I admitted I'd thought about the same thing. A little jeweled stud is very pretty. Then worried I'd said the wrong thing and encouraged a rebellion. "Sarah wants to pierce her nose, mom!".
Also, to add in a little icing on this teen advice cake, they asked why I have such nice things. Was I rich? No, no, definitely no, little girls. I just don't have kids and a husband. Yay! I mean, whoops, uh, I think you are encouraged to get married so do that, mmm ya. Actually, what I really mean is, you are teenagers, why does your belief system fill you with this crappy nonsense? Your worth should not be wrapped up in getting married. I mean, you know, when the right guy comes along it's wonderful. Ugh, I give up! I have nice stuff because I get to spend my earnings on myself instead of answering to a husband and kids and you know what? Something no one ever tells you when you are raised Mormon is that if you are single you are not lonely and sad. It's really, really fun.
So I tossed. I turned. There's been not much sleep. I probably said all the wrong things. Encouraged some rebels and hopefully they don't go home and tell their parents. I love that they like me so much and look to me but man, this is tricky. I don't know what I'd do if I were their actual parents.