Lessons from Teen Mom

(The observations in this post are about Teen Mom 2)

“Television rots the brain”

“Reality television is trash and a waste of time”

These are common statements, especially among educated, serious grown-up types. But I contend that if you look, there are common threads to human behavior and motivation that can be observed in these types of shows. Here are a few things I have learned.

What girls want

There is just one thing: they want to feel like the #1 priority.

It manifests in a variety of ways, but that one desire appears to be at the bottom of every fight. The boy goes out and doesn’t come home or doesn’t call. The boy works on his car. The boy looks at his phone too much. The boy seems uninterested. The boy buys himself a new truck rather than spending the money on a nicer home their family. The boy is texting other girls. All of these are interpreted as “he values something else more than me” and it is an uncomfortable feeling, the way that the sexual infidelity of their girls is uncomfortable for the boys.

Using children as a proxy

Often, the teen moms will speak in terms of the children when expressing what they, personally, want. Perhaps they think this makes the demands seem more valid or less selfish. “I would like a nicer house for my child.” Or, “my child deserves the child support money.” Or, “I want my child to have an intact family.” Or, “I want my child to have the entire family together at his first birthday party/first Christmas.” Or, “I want to go complete a college degree to show my child that she can too.” Or, “I want you to be around more often to spend time with your child.”

It’s almost as if being a mother makes ones needs less relevant or less reasonable. Perhaps they carry less weight, or the girls have concluded that the boys don’t care about them anyway but should at least care about the children.

Observations on the boys

Fatherhood is of varying degrees of importance to the different boys, but they all seem to think their lives shouldn’t change much. That is, while most of the girls’ lives change drastically to where they barely leave the house, the boys continue to party, meet up with friends, sleep through the night, taking on the responsibilities of fatherhood only when it suits them (or in the case of Jenelle’s baby daddy, not at all).

In response to the girls expressing their one desire, the boys usually either shut down or leave. Of course, this makes the girls even more upset, which results in things like bitterness, anger and cheating.

Despite not giving the girls what they want, the boys are still vehemently against the idea of the girls finding other boys to date. It is an attitude of “I don’t care enough to make you happy, but the thought of you with someone else makes me feel like less of a man.” So it is common for the boys to do just enough to keep the girls from moving on.

General

It is probably harder for the girls to find a new boy than vice versa because the bulk of the childcare falls to them. Or at least, it seems clear that the girls perceive this to be true. I think this accounts for why the girls try so hard to force things to work out. A commonly repeated theme is “I just want my child to have a family” — meaning a standard nuclear family with a mom and dad who are together, ignoring that single parent families are still families. Also ignoring that the relationships they have with are mostly unhealthy, verbally abusive, and to their own detriment.

Without knowing it, the girls lowered their own value in the eyes of the boys by acting needy, wanting the boys to be around more, demanding their attention more, and putting up with mistreatment. This made the boys more likely to be distant, indifferent and rude. Which in turn made the girls more frustrated and desperate. Vicious cycle. One of the girls, Chelsea, even made the observation that when she asks her boy, Adam, to come over he doesn’t, but when she doesn’t ask, he comes.

I don’t have any useful conclusions here, but perhaps if it’s unclear how to act to get what you want, you might try being a mirror. Response for response. Effort for effort. Silence for silence.

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