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The Answer Blog

That “L” Word

If the “S” word dominated the first episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager—as 15-year-old Amy gets pregnant after one-time sex at band camp with a boy named “Tricky Ricky”—the “L” word reigns during the second one. In it, Amy and 16-year old Ben fall in love.

After Ben tells his friends that he wants to marry and have children with Amy, they warn him that he’s too young and should see other girls. But Ben is satisfied with the nonverbal girl he calls “my little Amy.”

He doesn’t care about the gossip that she had sex with “Tricky Ricky.” At the end of a call, he says wistfully, “Now we can end our phone calls the way adults do, by saying ‘I love you.’” They do.

All this talk about love wouldn’t have interested me if I hadn’t just read Maureen Dowd’s recent Times column “An Ideal Husband.” It featured a long quote about marriage from Father Pat Connor, a 79-year-old, celibate Catholic priest from Bordentown, NJ.

I was riveted immediately, because Father Pat was a great favorite of one of my best friends, and when she died a few years, he performed her mass of burial. I remember him as a jolly man with a real gift for gab. Well, gab he did to Dowd about love and marriage, based on his decades of marriage counseling. His views on the subject are as clear eyed and reality based as the pronouncements by Amy and Ben are naïve and overly romantic.

For 40-years, Father Pat has been giving a lecture, “Whom Not to Marry,” to high school seniors, “mostly girls because they’re more interested.” He gives them practical advice about the dangers of marrying a man who has no friends, does not use money responsibly, is overly attached to his mother, does not have a sense of humor, is uncommunicative and has personal habits like drinking too much.

I know The Secret Life is a fictional drama. But I wish that the thousands of teens watching Amy and Ben could be exposed to just a little of Father Pat’s wisdom. Sexuality educators who teach young people about “love and relationships” might want to ask students to define the “L” word and come up with their own list of characteristics for Ideal Husband, Ideal Wife or Ideal Partner. Answer would welcome any results.

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