the MIRREN LEE

The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Day 63 Single Parent: Duhhh …

Posted by themirrenlee on 03/03/2012

Single parent. Duhhh …

That’s what I was at 16. I got pregnant at 15, but didn’t know until I was about 5 months gone. I’d never had regular periods, so that didn’t warn me, and my weight gain was minimal. We had daily P.E. (physical education) classes in school, so I exercised a lot. At the time of getting pregnant, I was actually doing a term of gymnastics, wondering why it was getting harder to balance and tumble! I also began to notice my stomach pushing out my leotard a bit. The nausea I had been experiencing, mostly after eating, I just thought was some kind of bug.

In short, I was clueless. My friends and I would talk about sex, but the conversation was on the level of, “Do you think you can get pregnant through underwear?” Words such as “erection”, “ejaculation”, “sperm”, “orgasm”, “birth control”, were never mentioned. (Forget about “STDs” – herpes, chlamydia and AIDS hadn’t been “invented” yet! We’d heard of syphilis, but we thought that was just a guy thing.) All we knew was that sex could lead to pregnancy, which was highly shameful, but we didn’t know “how far” we could go before it was a risk. Without sex education (unknown at that time in schools, and parents wanted to pretend like we’d never do something like that), we didn’t know that sperm are tricky little things, and can sneak in without the guy actually having to “go all the way”. Nor did we know that “pulling out”, if we did go all the way, is not an effective means of contraception.

Do you know how I even found out I was pregnant? I was lying on my bed, complaining to my mother that I had “butterflies” in my stomach, making me feel unwell. She put her hand there, looked shocked, and said, “Oh my god, I think you’re pregnant, and that’s the baby moving!” Again, clueless much?!

This was the Swinging Sixties – the greatest irony of all. The Pill came on the scene in 1960, but in 1966 was still not in widespread use, and of course most parents didn’t want to give it to their daughters, anyway (because that would admit that sex was actually happening), while many Catholic doctors wouldn’t even prescribe it. People forget now why we NEEDED a sexual revolution – to bring it all out of the closet, and give us some control over protecting ourselves from unwanted pregnancies

In Los Angeles, where I was raised, teenagers got their driver’s licenses at 16, and then practically lived in their cars. Those of us who came from “challenged” environments, as I did, couldn’t take people home, so we used our cars for just talking and hanging out, as well. It was a breeding ground for intimacy. Not surprisingly, many of my classmates that year (my third year of high school) got pregnant, including the Homecoming Queen! The tragedy was that everyone I knew was given the choice of either giving their babies up for adoption, or being kicked out of home. One was not allowed to work if under 18 without a parent’s signature on a permission slip, so there was no choice – the babies were adopted out. One girl I knew had twins, and struggled trying to keep them for a few months, but eventually caved in, gave the babies up and went back home. How do you forgive your parents for something like that? Or ever forget the babies you’ll probably never see again? How do the parents turn their backs on their grandchildren?

I was reminded of all this by two things: a comment from Hollie McKay asking me what it was like being a young single parent, and what did I think of the single parent reality shows; and the news today on Huffington Post that Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin State Senator (would you be surprised to hear he’s a Republican?), wants single parenthood to be legislated as a form of “child abuse”. He says single parents choose that lifestyle so that they can get government benefits, and this is a way to stop them from doing that. I had to stop and take a breath over that one.

I answered Hollie’s question in the Comments section. In a nutshell, I was already Mom and Dad to my 6 siblings because, as my mother once told me, “We wanted a girl first so she could look after the others.” I had no idea I had gotten pregnant; I still thought I was a virgin! No one ever believes this, but it’s absolutely true. I was going with my first real boyfriend, and I always thought I stopped him from going “too far”, but obviously I didn’t. You had to be there.

Once it happened, even though I was pressured first to have an abortion (ooops, too far gone), and then to adopt him out (no way), he was just another one to look after – and he was probably the easiest of the lot! The story of being pressured to get married, to a man I ultimately found out was sleeping with my mother (!), is for another time, and gives you an example of what I mean by a “challenged” family.

The really tough thing was having to drop out of high school in my final year. I had David in June, and started my Senior year in September, but it was impossible to continue after a couple of months. First, my “husband” turned out to have major, major issues which made me leave him, and then back home I had my hands full looking after my family. One thing my parents were never going to do is kick me out of the house – they needed me to look after their children.

As for the esteemed Senator’s belief that ALL single parents are of the same mindset, and in the same circumstances, well, just … really? Are you really that stupid? Oh, wait: Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman … hmmm, I guess he might be. He says he’s talking about “non marital parenthood”, but uh, duhhhhh, unlike when I was raising David, being an unmarried parent is now as common as dirt. For goodness sakes, women are going to sperm banks precisely to BE single parents! Of course, it also smacks of racism because the feeling is that it’s black women doing this “sponging” off the government (as if people get rich on food stamps). Unfortunately, the photo used in the Huffington Post article was of a black woman and her daughter, which doesn’t help. So what kind of “ism” is it when against single parents? Singleparentism? I know, to even talk about it gives it too much credence. The man is obviously just insane.

The one thing, though, that I really haven’t ever understood is the single parents who struggle to raise their children, and yet keep having them. There are no excuses today for contraception ignorance, and being a good parent is too difficult and too important to blithely keep churning them out without being able to give them the right environment to grow up in. Which is what my parents did. I had Sarah 20 years after David; and I put the fear of God into them about having children before they were ready. David was 32 when Nicky was born, and Sarah, at almost 25, is not even sure she’ll ever be ready for the responsibility. I scared the shit out of them about parenthood! My work here is done.

So this will be the first post to start explaining my upbringing in the “A Different Kind of Normal” Category. There is a lot more to my pregnancy story, and the weird marriage to an insane bigamist, but another day …

BTW, Hollie is a fantastic Australian friend I’ve known for years who is now a highly respected Fox News Entertainment reporter, who both writes a column called PopTarts, and appears in entertainment news segments on TV. Catch her at this link:  Entertainment News | Latest News, Videos & Photos on Celebrities, Movies & Music | Fox News.

Finally, a note about my Cast of Characters post yesterday. Wow, I didn’t preview it and so when I saw it published I realized the formating was almost unreadable! Note to self: preview everything before publishing it! I will redo it soon.

What a long, complicated post. This time,

I’m really just sayin’ … a lot!

2 Responses to “Day 63 Single Parent: Duhhh …”

  1. HollieM said

    You are amazing! Thanks for the shout out. I’m so happy you are blogging so I can keep up with your world.

    • And thank YOU for being the one who kick started me into starting “A Different Kind of Normal” by asking me that question! I’ve been trying to start this book for years, and just couldn’t seem to get unblocked about it. But now I’ve decided to just do it in blog form and then put it all together in a properly written style once I’ve got all the material written down. I don’t feel overwhelmed about it now, so thank you! Starting is always the hardest part about writing, isn’t it?!

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