With shows and movies like Teen Mom, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Pregnancy Pact, and 16 & Pregnant I’ve begun to notice a new trend — American’s intense fascination of pregnant teenagers. Perhaps this interest surged when Britney Spears 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, told the world of her pregnancy in December 2007. Her story shocked people, even though many had no idea who she was. Her story was followed closely until she gave birth in the summer of 2008. Then she fell off the planet.
But MTV, ABC Family, and a group of high school girls in Massachusetts must have all seen the interest in Jamie Lynn’s story and found some appeal to teen pregnancy because the networks created their own shows and the girls in Massachusetts made a pact to get pregnant, spawning a Lifetime Original Movie.
While I see no glamour or appeal in being a teen mother (especially after seeing Teen Mom) or being pregnant at all I can fully admit to being fascinated by this phenomenon. One night over break I was indulging in the latest episode of Teen Mom (don’t judge me, it’s addicting) when my dad walked in the room and we had this conversation:
Dad: What are you watching?
Me: (consider lying because this is awkward) um, Teen Mom.
Dad: Teen Mom? What’s that about?
Me: (thinking: seriously?) um, moms that are teens.
Dad: Why would you ever watch something like that?
Me: I don’t know it’s fascinating and trashy.
Dad: Uh, ok. I don’t want you to become a teen mom Cara.
Me: I’m 21. Can’t be a teen mom anymore.
Dad: [awkwardly walks into another room]
In my all-girls Catholic high school I didn’t know a single girl who had a baby or showed any physical hints of a pregnancy. You don’t often see undergraduate Cornellians walking from Olin to Statler with a baby bump. Maybe we are just in a world where having a baby at our young age is seen as a huge impediment to our bright futures (because it is.). And again, if you look at Teen Mom — particularly the story of the self-professed overachiever Maci — you’ll see how much of a roadblock a baby really is.
Maybe for some girls, watching shows like The Secret Life of the American Teenager makes pregnancy and teen motherhood look great. And while I can admit that Ricky Underwood of Secret Life is seriously good looking and made a beautiful baby with Amy Juergens — watching the show would never (at any age) make me want to go through with her horrifying ordeal.
Perhaps for myself, and anyone else at Cornell guilty of feeding into the media’s obsession with teen pregnancy, we just want a glimpse into a life path the majority of us never chose or would have wanted to choose. So in mid-February when those ten new episodes of 16 & Pregnant premiere on MTV I will sit in rapture as I watch the stories of these girls who have decided to share with us, but at the same time I’ll be thinking how happy I am that I was never one of them.