punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

"Don't do drugs... but don't rat out your friends, either..."

So, we had this talk with Christopher about being alone at conventions. Since he was 8, we let him roam about FanTek cons, and by 11 or 12, he could roam through other cons where we knew people. We told him never to leave the hotel, go into a hotel room with strangers, yatta yatta yatta. He's never gotten into trouble, and has been a fairly good and polite congoer all this time. Now he's turning 15 in July. Soon he will reach the age where I was when I went to cons... unsupervised.

Balticon 19, I think it was, was my first con away from home. I had the best time. I didn't drink, do drugs, have sex, or anything many of the more mainstream teens consider "fun." Most of us in the McLean High School Science Fiction and Fantasy Club were the same way, and while some did smoke a little recreational herbs, drank fermented products, and engaged in non-reproductive copulation (or, as we jokingly called it, "romantic congress"), it wasn't a standard, and we all were pretty cool about those who did, as long as it wasn't brought back into the room (that we knew of). But all that time, if I wanted to smoke some weed, get drunk, and have sex with some loose Trekkie, I could have found it pretty easily.

This was during the Nancy Reagan, "Say NO to drugs" era, which... I can't tell you if it had any effect on us or not. All I can say is I have never taken an illicit substance in my life, and while intellectually curious about the experience, never felt the real need to experience it for myself. Most of the friends I have current have, probably more than once, had different experiences. I don't judge them one way or another, unless their current state reflects badly on these practices, past or present (that is, burnt out or stoned/drunk most of the time). Which leads me to a parental "gray area."

My 1980s "Say NO to drugs" training says just that. NO! CR is, in my mind, officially with rule and statement, not allowed to drink until he's 21, and certainly not allowed to do illicit drugs ever. He has been repeatedly told this since age 4, and we talk about it from time to time (which averages out a few times a year) whenever an example proves itself (like watching, "Behind the Music" in VH1, where it seems either drugs and alcohol or greed destroyed a good thing). I am frank, open, and honest. I hold nothing back. That being said, I do not rule his life. Currently, he has no personal issues with drugs or alcohol, although he sees many people at school who have problems already. All his life, I pointed out examples, sometimes with eager help of friends, just what drugs are, and he's now pointing them out to me. I am FULLY aware it's not a simple "YES vs. NO" kind of thing. It is definitely a gray area of illegality vs. freedom, what is a drug, and just why does one say no?

So, recently, a good friend from a convention we help has been asking CR to be a kind of "youth liaison" for the convention. We realize that this means not only representing teens to the convention, but representing the convention to the teens. This is a big responsibility, and we think this may also entail him traveling with the convention folks to various other cons without us. This means our soon-to-be-15-year-old is about to strike out on his own. Yes, he will be with friends, almost all adult friends, with the chance to be a responsible ambassador, so to speak. We're taking this offer seriously, so we spoke to CR about it. And what goes on at cons when your parents might not be around.

This led to some gray areas. We say, "Yeah, some adults might be drinking, but you shouldn't." But why not? Drinking responsibly is a big part of maturity. Personally, I am a teetotaler, I don't drink a drop of alcohol except when they are present in some medicine I am taking, or maybe a taste of some foo-foo drink takyala is raving about. I don't think negatively about others who drink, even when they get drunk a few times a year for fun. We even have drinking parties at our house. CR is no stranger to drunk people, but he's never encountered them in an unsafe situation. Drugs we have never done, but CR knows that we have friends who have taken marijuana as recently as this year. I personally consider MJ, when taken in small amounts less than a few times a year, not that big of a deal. More people do dangerous stuff on alcohol than MJ. Most MJ people do is giggle or go to sleep. I have never seen someone high from weed do anything mean or violent, and the worst I can think of is if they are in care of something like driving a vehicle or babysitting kids, they might space out or doze off.

I am fairly confident that CR will not get involved with drugs, alcohol, and sex. I am also really confident that the people he'll be with will not be doing that, either. But I thought I had all the bases covered until takyala mentioned her thoughts to CR on "telling on those who do." Her message is counter to the message so many school lessons teach. Her view is, "don't rat on your friends." I have to say, looking back on my High School days, I would agree. Let me tell you a story from my youth. The story is real, but the names and identifying details have been changed in case someone still doesn't want Mom to find out 20 years later.
It was Disclave 85 when this happened. My second con. Our hotel room was pretty full; we had 12-14 people staying there, although the hotel only officially knew about 4 of them. It was Saturday evening, and I was relaxing on the bed when at some point, Hal broke out some marijuana. I recall being shocked, stunned, and that Jack Webb voice about marijuana making you flip out and do crime started boiling over into my head. But I was shy and non-confrontational. Somebody covered the hotel smoke detector with a bandana, and lit some incense sticks. OMFG, I said in my head, except spelled out, it's just like those movies. Someone will play Iron Butterfly, blacklight posters will fall from the walls, and someone will film the reflection of the party in a flexible mirror! But instead, two separate groups formed; the girls and the boys. Both sat in rings, passing a toke. Then they handed it to me. The greatest pressure to take drugs in my life went like this:

Bertha: [shows me lit joint] Want some?
Punkie: No.
Bertha: Okay. [passes it to someone else]

I realized my friends were not offering it to me because they wanted to force me to take it (like those damn films showed in health class), but because they were being polite. No pressure. No stress. No, "You're not going to tell the fuzz, are you?" Then the girls started talking about boobs, and when they started taking off their shirts and bras to compare them with one another, I got real embarrassed, and left. Later, one of them asked me if I had flipped out, but I honestly replied something like, "No, it just seemed like you were having a private moment, and having some guy staring at it would have been rude." I still think I did the right thing; it was none of MY business whose boobs were lopsided.

I should be noted the men got all serious and quiet, and started drumming. I wasn't into that, either.

I can totally see CR doing the same thing. He's inherited my prudishness. Did I rat on my friends? No. Do I want him to rat on his friends? No. But there's that parental twang of fear that wants him to tell ME. So far, he has told me stuff about his friends. Recently, a pair of them had sex. Twice. There would have been more times but the second time, they were caught, in mid-act, by the girl's parents. Now they are not allowed to see each other, and since the whole episode got pretty traumatic for the girl, she's kept up that end of the bargain with her parents, much to the dismay of the guy, who felt he really did love her. CR has also mentioned someone we both know, a very fannish girl and her clique of anime fans, has gotten big boobs. This girl, who has Aspinger's syndrome written all over her, does not seem to notice what to do with her new boobs, and thus, tends to press them into people when speaking to them, fondle them absently, and do other things that makes CR uncomfortable as I do when I am with someone who, say, picks their nose absently.

But then I ask, "What is he keeping from me?" I kept my friend's antics far away from my parents. By high school, after my father was taken to court over child abuse charges, he never again meddled in my affairs, and my mother lived in some fantasy land where I was permanently 8 years old so she readily accepted whatever "Mary," one of my Sci-fi mentors, told her. Later, I got the "Mary" position when Mary graduated from high school. Of course, when I was in charge, I never allowed any of those kinds of goings on, and no one seemed to resist that decision. Although, I must admit, I told some worried parents a lot of half-truths. "YEAH, your daughter is FINE, I saw her in the gaming room just a little while ago. Yes, she did take her medications. She misses you too, I'll tell her... buh bye [click]. HEY? Anyone one here know what happened to Christina? I haven't seen her since we got here. She games, right? Her mom just called, someone find her and tell her to call home." This was the days before teens had cell phones. I expect CR to call me, but if he flakes, I'll be calling HIM! But our relationship is pretty solid. I can't say with 100% confidence he won't get into any trouble, but I am reasonably assured that since he doesn't get into trouble now, his chances of getting into trouble alone at cons are slim.
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