The women were carrying dishes into the kitchen. Woody grinned, cocking his head towards the study. “I want you to see something,” he said.
Woody sat behind his desk and pointed the remote at the TV. Cody settled into a large chair.
“What you got?”
“I want you to see something. It’s on this video.” said Woody.
Cody watched as giggling teenage girls appeared on the screen. They appeared to be drunk. One of them turned to face the camera and raised her t-shirt to expose her breasts.
“Hey, wait a minute, Woody. What’s this?”
“Hold on. It’s one of those ‘Girls Gone Wild’ videos. I want you to see something.”
Cody didn’t feel comfortable. He hadn’t seen this side of Woody before. “Look, man, maybe we shouldn’t be watching this with Jill and Mary Beth in the other room. Why are you….”
“Just hang on there, ol’ buddy. It’ll only take a minute. I want to show you something. Here…it’s coming up. Watch this.”
“There,” he said. “The tall one on the left. Look at her, man. You have to admit she looks just like Sharon, doesn’t she? This is Daytona. Didn’t you say Sharon went to Daytona Beach on spring break a couple years ago? Doesn’t she look like Sharon? You think it’s her?”
Cody gazed at the frozen image, numb in his chair. She did look an awful lot like Sharon. Actually, she looked exactly like Sharon.
“What do you think, old man? Is it her?”
Not many girls were that tall, and the left-side pony-tail was her signature look that year. And that smile. But he didn’t want this young woman to be his daughter, who was now in graduate school studying to be a landscape architect. He struggled to remain calm, because he didn’t know what to say, and a mixture of anger, outrage, and embarrassment was rising within him.
“It couldn’t be her,” said Cody. “Besides, what are you doing with a video like this? Has Jill seen it?”
“No, I wanted to show it to you first. I got it from Kenny. He thinks it looks like Sharon, too. I thought you’d better see it.”
“Look, Woody. Don’t show this damn thing to anybody else. It’s not Sharon, but I don’t want everybody in the world thinking it is. It’s embarrasing as hell, man. And for God’s sake, don’t show it to Jill or Mary Beth….”
This scenario never happened. The conversation just popped into my brain intact when I saw one of those “Girls Gone Wild” video commercials on a cable channel. I couldn’t help myself. I guess I have an over-active imagination. I remember saying to my wife, “I wonder what a father would say if he happened to watch this video and recognized his daughter half naked with one of these sex-crazed idiots hanging on her. I bet he’d think, ‘So this is what I got for that hundred grand I paid for her college education.’”
The world is strange, and the scenario isn’t all that improbable. All the young women in these videos have fathers, right? Whenever I see one of these commercials, I think of the parents and the shock they’d feel watching the video.
As bad as that would be, it’s nothing compared to what could have happened that Spring Break weekend in Daytona. She could have been arrested. With her fun-loving nature and giggly-girl judgment seriously impaired by alcohol, she could have contracted a sexually transmitted disease or become pregnant. Or both. She could even have been raped.
Or worse. How often did she participate in wild parties like this? Was she already launched on the road to acoholism?
But none of these dangers are the worst-case scenario. The worst thing that can happen is the most likely thing to happen. She could have suffered permanent brain damage.
This sounds like an over-statement, but it’s not. I’m not talking about an adult losing a few hundred brain cells. I’m talking about permanently limiting the creation of the foundation for higher-order intelligence during a sensitive time of brain development.
During the adolescent years, the prefrontal lobes – the part of the brain that handles understanding, reasoning, foresight, decision-making, planning and other “executive” functions – in short, higher-order intellect – is under construction. It’s a one-time window of opportunity to establish a person’s foundation for critical thinking. At the onset of adolescence, this window opens; in the early 20s, it closes. The foundation is set. During the rest of your life you can build on it, but the foundation limits the kind of structure you can build.
The process is exactly like what happens during infant brain development. Mothers are strongly cautioned against using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy because they can disturb the development of a baby’s brain and body in the womb. The child could be born with horrible defects.
Neuroscientists now know that the same developmental process is underway in teenagers’ brains. If the child drinks alcohol during adolescence, it can derail normal development of the all-important prefrontal cortex.
This is the real horror of Spring Break. The week-long party is big business for the resort community, and the residents put up with a lot in order to benefit from the revenue. And mommies and daddies smile that their kids are making a little history with their friends. It’s all just a part of being young, isn’t it? We survived it and so will they.
They have no idea. If parents were told about the risks, I imagine some of them might say, “That’s alarmist bullshit. What are you talking about? Kids need to sow some wild oats, get it out of their system. I did crazier things than that when I was a kid, and look at me now. I made it through just fine.”
It’s one of the unique features of human intelligence – the ability to be confronted by the truth and then claim it’s not so.