- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

"What's up, boy?" my daughter, Raneka, said to the caller, who responded "nothing much" and asked to speak to her younger sister. Raneka told him Andrea was at work, and they chatted a few seconds or so. Then he told her that he'd call later that afternoon. That call never came. Alonzo S. Simmons Jr., 21 and a family friend who had called our home at 1:56 PM Monday Aug. 6, died shortly thereafter the victim of a gunshot blast to his chest. He will be buried this morning.

To be sure, the death or injury of a young person is difficult to take under any circumstances. When it is the result of an unforgiving relationship, one can become downright angry. Yet that appears to be where young people are deliberately headed these days into relationships that lead to nowhere.

And if a study solicited by the Arlington, Va.-based Independent Women's Forum is any indication, boy-girl relationships not only aren't what they used to be, but never will be what they once were.

Essentially what has happened is that dating, or courtship as it used to be called by earlier generations, has become benign. "he culture of courtship, a set of social norms and expectations that once helped young people find the pathway to marriage, has largely become a hook-up culture with almost no shared norms or expectations," the study says. "Hooking up, hanging out and fast-moving ('joined-at-the-hip') commitments are logical, though we believe seriously flawed, responses to this disappearance of a culture of courtship."

The cultural disappearing act is the offspring of baby boomers who, while weaned on two-parent households, adopted the so-called liberating causes of the champions of choice. Hence, the supermom's little hybrids of today: clueless yet desperate androgynes.

Indeed, 50 years ago women and their children were dependent on daddy and not too ashamed to flaunt it. Twenty-five years ago, the icons of Ms.-ism told women their bodies were theirs and theirs alone. So today's young women are less willing to rely on marriage for sex or money.

While the survey raises the spectre that this might be because separation and divorce are more commonplace, there is something more sinister in America's cultural psyche that's at play here. I'll call it irresponsible parents.

For example, many months back a teen-ager stalked and shot two high-school sweethearts following a quarrel at a school game. Months later, we learned that the two sweeties had been closer than close, actually as close as husband and wife. They had slept together, and had shopped for groceries together. There were playing house, just like a husband and wife.

But wasn't that a little too close for teen-agers? Wasn't that relationship just a little more, shall we say, intense, than it should have been? Than is healthy? Didn't either of their families see the warning signs?

Indeed, after the two sweeties had gone on to glory and after the gunman had been safely tucked into his jail cell, the ugly truth came forward. What had happened, according to friends and relatives, is plain old-fashioned jealously. The longtime boyfriend was jealous of the girl's relationship with the guy-turned-gunman and the guy-turned-gunman was jealous of the girl's relationship with the longtime boyfriend.

Children do get that way a lot because they don't know how to readjust their comfort zones. They get emotionally confused when their parents split up. So, if they are that close as boyfriend and girlfriend, it's easy to see why they feel so threatened.

I won't get preachy here, but the bottom line is that it is our responsibility to comfort them and remind them to readjust the comfort level.

Mr. Simmons was trying. He was trying to readjust a lot of things in his young life, including his relationships. As a matter of fact, readjustment was the topic of our last conversation. You have to "let go," I told him. His usual response was, "I know, Ma."

So, there he was Monday afternoon, not long out of the slammer for having done something stupid, sitting on the stoop and minding his own business. Along comes his unhappy girlfriend. They do something they had done on many occasions bat around nasty and stupid words. Then bang.

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