Sunday, December 2, 2007

Single mom’s the word

Single mom’s the word -
For generations we’ve bemoaned the pathology of teenage single parenting among the poor, particularly inner-city African-Americans. Bill Cosby has just been crisscrossing America decrying fatherlessness (70 percent among black Americans) and pumping his latest book. In a particularly poignant moment with Tim Russert on “Meet the Press,” he imagined a young child thinking, “Somewhere in my life a person called my father has not shown up, and I feel very sad about this.”

Then Cosby said that father hunger “turns into anger” and a plaintive, “Why don’t you care about me?”

Four years ago, Joanna Lipper published her classic book on teenage single mothers in Pittsfield, “Growing Up Fast.” It detailed the horrors - abuse, violence, homelessness, even hunger -that plagued babies of young girls too poor to care for them. A 16-year-old who actually planned a pregnancy with her high school sweetheart told Lipper she thought motherhood “would bring my popularity up because people would be like, ‘Hey, she’s got a baby, and that’s cool.’ ”

Yet “cool” is exactly the message Glamour magazine is sending in its December cover story - a sort of trickle-down “isn’t this swell!” intended for young women with neither the money, maturity, nor the skills of a Bridget Moynahan or a Melanie Brown. Or for that matter the very weird Angelina Jolie, who’s become some sort of motherhood poster girl anyway. A Brad marriage is apparently out of the equation there as well.

Not long ago I interviewed a 36-year-old Dorchester mother whose 18-year-old son was murdered. At one point she said she wished she’d finished school so she could’ve found better work and been able to move from a place she’s scared to live in now. But she can’t. Her boy had no father. She has no husband, no second income. She earns little herself. So she is trapped, and there’s nothing “cool” about it.

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