“A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence” by Rebecca Raby
As a mother of an 18yr. old son it was exciting as a parent to identify with the her “stages” of adolescence; The Storm, Becoming, At- Risk, Social Problem, and Pleasurable Comsumption. With every discourse discussed I found myself self reflecting on my son’s teenage years. Although Raby’s research focused on girls, there is certainly evidence to say that her discourses are stages of all teenagers. My son certainly went through all of those stages, some greater than others. My favorite stage was the “The Storm.” It was in this stage where he learned so much about himself and I learned so much about my son, and myself.
When Jerry, my son, was 11 we moved as a result of a divorce. Jerry took everything in stride. He was, and is, a very laid back person. Up until high school he was a straight A student . He had friends, (not a lot but some close friends) and he was, and is, very polite. I am not just saying this because he is my son, but he was the “perfect kid.” I remember the time in 10th grade when Jerry started to change ; not physically but his ideals changed, his motivation to be a straight A student changed, and the way he dressed changed. This all happened simultaneously. Many friends of mine told me this was his way of rebelling. I never thought of him rebelling, I thought of my son figuring out who he is. Just as Raby states in her text “They assume that all teenagers rebel just because this is the age when we start to become our own person” (433). One example of Jerry’s “rebellion slash finding himself is when he was fifteen. He was raised Catholic and spent years going to CCD classes. All of a sudden he decided, just weeks before his confirmation, that he wasn’t sure about God and didn’t want to make his sacrament. I begged him to just go through the motions, but he would not. I respect him now for his decision.
In a school of predominately white upper class kids, Jerry needed to venture out of the norm. He started to do the “Gothic thing.” He wore black , with chains hanging from his pants and black eyeliner and black fingernail polish. MY friends were so surprised that I “allowed” him to dress this way. He was still a very polite kid who was still doing well in school (A’s turned into B’s). My son just needed to experiment. I was happy his experiments didn’t involve alcohol and drugs. I knew this to be just a stage in his life. Others were not so sure. I will never forget my friend telling me that I should make him wear “regular “clothes and I should never allow him to wear makeup. I looked him in the eye and said” I do not want a cookie cutter kid.” This Gothic stage lasted for about 8 months. He slowly started to change and evolve into who his is, not who society thinks he should be. He has turned out to be a confident, secure young man who I am extremely proud of. He is in his first year at the Art Institute in Boston and doing great!
Raby’s text was such an eye opener for me because it just confirmed what I knew to be right. “The Storm” molded into “Becoming” which transferred to “At-Risk”, which thankfully was the least worrisome stage for me as a parent but I think this stage is happening now. Now that he is on his own and trying new things . These stages, like Raby states, are “interweaving.” They work off of each other. I am not convinced that the order is correct but as I reflect back I am happy and relieved that my son has gone through most of them with flying colors.
Point to Share - Do you think teenagers go through these stages in the order Raby states?