We are all quite knowledgeable about the party known as the “Quinceanera” (a term already used in the English language that may threaten to replace the traditional “Sweet 16” in the US), but if you have a daughter, granddaughter, sister or niece about to turn 15, you should also know the dangers that can not be ignored or overlooked.
Quinceaneras dangers: Myths and Realities
Many years ago, when the tradition of celebrating the 15th birthday emerged, families who could afford to pay for these celebrations, had a very precise goal: to introduce their daughters into society and start looking for a good match to become their daughter’s future husband.
Families with fewer resources had to settle for a less lavish celebration, and sometimes with small or no family meetings, but there was a common denominator between these two very different ways to celebrate: after reaching this age, the girls could shave their legs, paint their lips, do face makeup, dress a little more daringly (according to the concept of “daring” that was dominant at the time) and even have a boyfriend.
The immature confusion of growing up:
Times have changed a lot, and most girls now, win or self assign these “privileges” before age fifteen. However, the age of marriage, the age to assume the enormous responsibility to raise a family, is delayed and usually extends to well beyond 20 years of age. This causes some confusion in these girls since on one hand they want to take all the benefits of being considered an adult, and on the other they don’t want to stop being girls.
There is a segment of Latina girls where that confusion, coupled with cultural and social factors leads to the highest rate of single mothers in the entire United States even before their 18th birthday. Then they have to face a responsibility that they do not want and are not prepared to assume.
The way to tackle this phenomenon transcends the boundaries of family and school (mainly moral, psychological and economic values of the girls) to become a point of discussion for the whole of society, who must find ways to address – and properly focus – that internal conflict between the girl-woman and the woman-girl, in answer to the need for a gradual and progressive transition, where you assume individuality as part of a gradual integration into society and not as an explosion of rebellion, or a reflection of multiple personal and social dissatisfactions.
Bulimia and Anorexia:
Recently, in this Blog we discussed the issue of Bulimia and Anorexia as pitfalls for teenagers. In this article we address the need to pay close attention to the 3-4 year period before and after girls arrive in the Quinceanera mindset and to the manifestations of certain phenomena such as exaggerated concern for food, consideration of “vegetarian” food, rejecting the so called “fast food” and a tendency for social isolation.
The fashion industry, major film and television media, advertising and more recently social networks have tried to impose a standard of beauty, which in most cases is unreachable by the “mere mortals” who read about it. Becoming extremely thin and sickly is a pattern being followed by girls who are still not ready, neither biologically nor psychologically to understand the risks.
Fortunately, some things are changing and both brands and society have begun to realize the damage (sometimes irreparable) that they are causing … but while this process of “learning” concludes and we manage to change certain social paradigms, it is advisable to be very alert in the family and in the school, teach girls to love themselves as they are, for their attitudes and efforts, not their temporary abilities and achievements.
Bullying and Cyberbullying:
At the rise of quinceaneras the only people who knew the details of your party, your dress, how much your parents spent, if you looked too fat or too thin with your party dress, were those close friends you invited to your party or those whom you later showed the famous photo album dubbed “Memories of my 15’s“. Nowadays, one hour before the party starts, the pictures have already started flying at a breakneck speed through the Internet and transferred across borders and oceans. Then throughout the party the images multiply and comments of all types can spoil the party to the honoree and her inner circle of friends and family.
The Internet has many advantages and benefits, but also shows a dark side, sometimes full of cynicism, irony or anonymous enemies who try to destroy a reputation relying on the most cowardly of resources.
Bullying at that age is particularly cruel, and given a refined character because of the feminine nature, is said to be even worse among girls than boys. And its digital extension, cyberbullying takes forms and methods sometimes so sophisticated that neither psychologists nor experienced lawyers can always manage to round up the culprits. So if you have young girls in the family, you need to know what is happening in their school or group settings, as well as in their digital environments.
It is not crude “espionage” or brazen interference into their lives and their personal freedom. It’s about understanding how they relate with their physical and virtual environment, how they are perceived and treated by their peers, what effect is causing the opinions of others to be instilled in our daughter, niece or granddaughter. These great dangers for quinceaneras are not issues that can be taken lightly, since a high rate of youth suicide near age 15 is related to the three factors mentioned above.
We should have a better communication with our teenagers and we should step in their shoes more often … perhaps we’d be astonished at how much we are missing and the enormous amount of things we can learn and help to correct. What do you think?