Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 12, Tuesday March 27, 2007




Epidemic incurable: The boyfriend malady

However long and far we may have walked down the emancipation lane, certain differences between the sexes should, still and will exist for many more feminists to come. Just as some advantages can be reaped only by women, some adversities are also almost singularly female. Throw in a patriarchal society as the backdrop and you have yourself another banner to carry, another slogan to shout out and another grievance to grieve. And to that end, a particularly dominant crisis facing the youth of today is a lose-lose situation for teenage girls, made to feel incomplete by their peers if they do not have boyfriends and chastised strongly to the extent of attack on character by their elders if they do have one.

But before fingers can be raised or reasoning offered, it is important to understand why the youth scene of today has shaped up to be what it is, just as it is necessary to probe into the assortment of factors that have added to this current culture. Apart from the obvious determinants of television and the Internet, one of the foremost contributors to the apparent obsession with having a boyfriend or girlfriend is just how contactable people have become. The advent of mobile phones or even the widespread use of landlines has made the world that bit smaller and relationships (dare we call them that) just that bit easier to facilitate. This does not come to say that dating was not an option for yester generations, only that two or three odd decades ago, relationships were more difficult to maintain.

The hype of today dictates either one of two eventualities- teenagers are already seeing someone or if they are not, they are out and searching, torches alight. Whether teenage girls are actively in a relationship or whether they are in the process of getting there, one fixed element in both scenarios is the involvement of peer pressure. With the Bangladeshi education system incorporating private teachers into its framework entirely, the scope to meet and get involved with the opposite sex without hawk-eyed school rules of discipline paves the way for the dominating relationship trend of today. And it is during this time that the first phase of peer pressure kicks in.

In their early teen years, girls are made to feel incomplete by their contemporaries or feel so by way of consequence if they do not have boyfriends, as most of their friends will probably already have by that time. Half of this attitude can be written down to immaturity-a stage when boyfriends must be got simply because that is what everyone seems to be doing (and enjoying!) and it is some sort of obstruction to an otherwise healthy status. And the poor teary-eyed receivers of this treatment are unfairly duped into thinking they lack somewhere in the likeability factor for boys to invest attention (rarely affection) everywhere else but in them.

As concerns purposes less ill-intended, sometimes the feeling of solitude can seep in without the scheming deliberation of others. In a reasonably sized group of friends, if all but one girl has a 'better half' to her name, it is sad but inevitable that she should feel a tad out of place. By way of natural instinct, people spend the majority of their time with the person they are involved in a relationship with as compared to previous circumstances when surplus time and attention could undividedly be consigned to friends. The unwelcome prospect of having lesser phone or meeting time with a friend can easily be pinpointed as the initiation of feeling lonely. And when time and meetings can be arranged, the third-wheel feeling is difficult to scratch out when there are so many couples fussing over each other. At times like this, who can hold it against an unfortunate young lass for feeling incomplete in herself and subsequently sending out silent prayers for her very own, enough-to-immerse-herself-in boyfriend?

Sarcastic reasoning can be very easily put aside to tender age but it is when these girls reach the latter part of their teenage years or early twenties that loneliness takes on a new and more complex meaning. 'I will admit to not only wanting someone in my life, but actually taking the trouble to search for him', says Preeti, an A-Level student, 'But that has more to do with the want for companionship than anything else.' There are probably few to argue with the fact that there comes a time when we all look for a person to talk to, or confide in, a time when we want to be understood and to understand, a time when we realise that strong or weak, we all need outlets for love and grief and stress and pain-outlets we can only find in another person. Their absence thereof, inspires loneliness, understandably.

A second set of problems that unfortunately must be dealt with by girls involved in relationships is the way they are perceived by adults for being so. A by-product of the conservative culture that we once were is that relationships, without the nod of approval that is marriage, are still frowned upon as being too forward. At its worst, generation previous deems it blasphemously unacceptable and imposes prison equivalent restrictions on their daughters (only to leave free more loopholes to cascade through); but perhaps some sense can be made of this based on the fact that parents rightly feel a stronger sense of urgency when it comes to being protective over girls.

At its best, the prospect of having boyfriends is not blessed by the three wise men, but at least it is not vehemently opposed either. Even for parents following this school of thought, concern over their daughters' well-being or even safety in some cases, is not unnatural, it is simply not allowed to turn into paranoia. 'I think such problems are in the dying stages of their lifespan considering present time and mind frames' says Shayer, a twelfth semester North South University student, 'I feel that people are becoming more accepting with changing times and mentalities and it is but one more generation before such rigidity will bid itself adieu. As a parent, I hope I at least will.'

Have it certain flaws because of an early age or come it in more advanced years; be it innocently plagued by immaturity or be it nurtured by good sense, relationships are just another step in the natural order of things and accepting them with just that amount of severity is probably the only sane way parents and teenagers can deal with them. Deliberate intervention in the form of stomping one's foot down and searching high and low for someone (anyone) for the sake of simply having a relationship tag or parents thrusting across the enemy line members of the opposite sex can only lead to hostility from both ends. After all, some things are simply best left to flow freely.

By Subhi Shama Reehu


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