I thought I’d write you this FYI even though this is wildly premature.
You’re both still at the age when neither of you is sure how the internet works nor can you distinguish between Facebook and email.
The word ‘selfie’ probably strikes you as a good name for a stuffed animal or a Marvel villain, and the mere mention of GIRLS makes one of you blush and the other wrinkle your nose in embarrassed anger.
This may be premature, but perhaps not. After all, who you will be begins right now, with who we’re helping you to become. That’s a parent’s baptismal promise, to shape you so that your character is grounded in the character of Jesus.
God, I hope your Mom does a good job of it.
What it means to have the character of Jesus, who was the perfect image of God, is to regard others as the exact image of God.
That means, boys, to see people as holy, as sacraments, and sacraments- as you’ll learn in confirmation- are examples of a whole lot more than what’s visible to the eye.
That means, boys, to treat people as (God’s) people.
And never as objects.
It means you never see only a person’s physical beauty, or notice only their lack of it- which I also hope you’ll learn is a terribly unbeautiful way to live.
Brass tacks time, boys:
If you see a pretty girl, in real life or on FB, and from that point on that’s all you can see in them or that’s all you can think of them…that’s YOUR fault boys NOT the girl’s fault.
I hold you responsible and I’m damn sure your Mother will too.
Sure, said girl made her choice when she dressed said way.
But you, boys, make your choices too.
You can choose to objectify others or you can choose to treat your neighbors as your self.
In truth, if you do grow up to objectify girls, boys, it’s our fault too, your Mom and me, for letting you be shaped by a culture that sexualizes everything for a $ and only sounding the alarm years later when we don’t like what its done to you.
But I don’t think that will happen to you boys.
Some parents excuse their boys’ demeaning girls by demeaning boys, treating boys as though they were no more than talking animals, slaves to impulses and emotions.
I think I’ll give you boys more credit, which also means I’m giving you responsibility.
You can treat girls as they should be treated.
But let’s be realistic, sometimes you won’t. You’ll have impulses, thoughts, desires…and THAT’S OKAY. It’s natural. It’s part of being human. It’s not any girl’s fault and it’s not yours either. It’s not dirty or bad or unholy.
Jesus (God) was human, don’t forget, so there’s nothing that can run through your head that didn’t run through his. And so there’s nothing you need to be ashamed of.
When you hit puberty, boys, you’ll realize to what an extent that’s Gospel.
While we’re on this track, boys, let me just say that, like other parents, your Mother and I certainly hope you’ll ‘wait’ for that perfect girl (and if it’s not a girl that’s fine too, but that’s an FYI for another day).
Always remember, though, if you do wait you’re no better than anyone else and no worthier of my love.
And if you don’t wait, you and your other whomever is no less beautiful to me. Or God. Parents who suggest anything to the contrary are on some ugly, unGospely footing.
Finally, boys, let me ask a favor of you.
If, in the years ahead, a girl friend of yours ever posts a ‘selfie’ on Facebook, please don’t let me pontificate to you or judge your friend.
And please don’t let me use faith-based innuendo or pious-sounding (but still very sexist) double standards to imply that your friends are slutty. Even if our culture’s still not beyond that, Jesus was.
Just remind me, boys, that you’re still just children. Figuring life out.
And if your friends do post ‘selfies’ I hope you’ll never let me get so self-important (your Mother will probably help) that I feel empowered to shame your friends or lecture their parents via social media (it’s their job, after all, not mine to tell their kids what not to post) or think that complete strangers on the internet should read my parenting advice.
PS: If I do ever lecture your girlfriends about what they wear in FB pics, please remind me to take down any shirtless pictures I have online of my own kids.