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My son, Chuck, recently went to what might be considered his first real teenage party. That is to say, a party where a great many teenagers get together and socially interact with all the nuances that go along with it. In other words, someplace adults would much rather not be. This party was at the house of one of his friends with parents in attendance, so I wasn't particularly concerned about anyone getting up to the kind of no good that teenagers are prone to when left unattended. Chaperoned parties may not be the favorite activity of teenagers, but they are helpful to parents.
I waited up for him, of course, and was rather surprised when he came home at 11 PM, since the party was supposed to go until midnight. He walked through the door looking rather glum and definitely not hoping around the room singing, “I Could Have Danced All Night”. In fact, he sat down on the couch and heaved a disappointed sigh. I took this to indicate that it would be alright if I asked about the evening. So I did.
He ran his hands through his hair and leaned back on the couch. His body language was screaming, “I did not have a great time.”
“Not the rollicking good time you were hoping for?” I asked.
He gave me a look which clearly suggested that I had uttered a gross understatement.
“It started out fine,” he answered, “but it deteriorated after the first hour.”
I waited for him to elaborate. I have found that it is generally prudent to allow Chuck to tell things in his own time and in his own way. He detests anything that smacks of interrogation.
“Things were going well enough.” He continued. “Then some of my friends who were girls came to me and told me that one of our guy friends was being totally obnoxious.”
“I assume they wanted you to do something about it.” I ventured. This kind of business can be really tricky for a young man. The call of a maiden in distress is pretty powerful to someone who has been raised to help others in need, but girls can get a little testy sometimes and it isn't always easy to figure out what is going on. I asked him what he did.
“I mostly spent the rest of the evening following him around and preventing him from alienating every single girl in the room.” said Chuck. “I have no idea what was going on in his head but he was acting like an idiot.”
“You could have just let him sink his own ship.” I suggested.
Chuck closed his eyes and sighed. “Not really. The girls were really annoyed and wanted to kick him out. He is usually a good guy but he seemed to think that the best way to behave at a party was to insult the girls and act like it was funny. I actually felt bad for him.”
“Ah,” I intoned. “I believe what we have here is a case of a young man who is clueless and unable to figure out what he is supposed to do. He's still stuck in the, “If you like a girl, throw a rock at her,” phase and doesn't know how to move on to a less negative way of expressing his regard.”
Chuck looked at me with one raised eyebrow. “I hadn't thought of that. Now that you mention it I could tell that he was totally nervous and trying way to hard to be funny. Poor idiot.”
It made perfect sense to me. There are so many milestones in the maturation process and not everyone has the same access to information or arrives at them at the same time. Obviously, this poor kid was way behind the wagon train and didn't have anyone to backtrack and get him up to speed. I said as much to Chuck.
“I kept trying to tell him that he was being a jerk and making all the girls mad at him,” said Chuck. “He thought he was being hysterical and I kept telling him he was being a moron. I think he finally got the idea because he finally shut up and went home.”
Poor Chuck. He is one of those people who always tries really hard to do the right thing and inevitably ends up with a bigger burden than he bargained for. He is a gentleman, so he will always step in if someone is insulting or abusing girls. He tends to be a very tolerant and compassionate person so he wants to help his friends if he sees them going down the wrong path. It can be exhausting. He came home early because being Sir Galahad and Sigmund Freud at a party can't be a lot of fun. I promised him that this would not be the case at every party he went to and that it would improve. I may have not been entirely truthful, though. Once alcohol is brought into the mix, it may be necessary to be Sir Galahad, Sigmund Freud, along with Oprah, Dr House, and Wyatt Earp at any point during the evening. Oh well...I'll let him learn that for himself.
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