Teen-agers' dramatic skit helps peers, parents discuss sex, consider dangers

April 24, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

The mother was hysterical. She had just found a box of condoms in her teen-age son's bedroom.

"A box of condoms!" the mother screamed. "What are you doing with a box of condoms in your room?"

"I thought if I wanted to do it one day, I wanted to be prepared for it," he replied.

Premarital sex is wrong and goes against the family's religious beliefs, his mother said.

The two froze -- amid applause from the audience.

The confrontation wasn't real. The pair were members of Reality Check, an improvisational acting troupe composed of county high school students who perform thought-provoking skits on teen-age issues.

The actors were members of S.H.O.P., or Students Helping Other People, a group of students who promote drug-free lifestyles.

Rebecca Kotraba, a Howard High School junior, played the mother. Dan Fingerman, an Oakland Mills High School sophomore, portrayed her son.

The troupe performed the skit last week during a two-hour

program titled "Seeing Both Sides Now" at the Howard County School of Technology on Route 108.

The program was sponsored by the Howard County Inter-departmental Committee on Teen Pregnancy and Parenting, a 6-year-old organization designed to give parents and children the opportunity to discuss and handle the often embarrassing and uncomfortable subject of sex.

"The committee's belief is if we could get parents and kids talking, especially at an early age, we could avoid some problems," said Amy McDonough, a committee member.

After the skit, some of the audience -- mainly adults -- asked questions of the actors, who remained in character.

For example, Gerry Maxwell-Jones, facilitator for the county's Teen-Age Parenting and Child Care Program based at the vocational school, asked the mother what happens now that she's found the condoms.

"I don't know," responded the mother, who said she entered her son's room looking for one of her books.

"Right now, I'm just so angry. He's obviously not being honest with me. I don't know why. We told him he could come to us."

Ms. Maxwell-Jones also asked the son what he would say to his mother once the situation became calm.

He said he would probably apologize first. "At the time I bought the condoms, I didn't think about what my mother would say if she found them. I just wanted to be protected."

The skit parallels the difficulties that parents and their children have discussing sex, and shows how difficult it is for each to understand the other.

Parents in the audience asked the Reality Check cast how they should approach the subject with their children.

Saleena Lund, 16, suggested that parents discuss the topic occasionally, but in a comfortable manner.

"A good place to talk is in the car," said Saleena, a Howard High School junior, "because you don't have to look at each other."

"Don't do it too much because naggingness gets in the way, and they won't want to talk," offered Rebecca, 17.

The three teen-age cast members said that teen-agers' primary source for information about sex is their friends and that schools provide little data.

However, youngsters' friends are often misinformed, Saleena said, and "that's why you need to talk to your kids."

During another discussion, Ms. Maxwell-Jones said parents should not assume that teachers are teaching their children all they need to know about sex.

She said parents need to bear the responsibility and educate their children about sex when they are in elementary school.

"It's too late to be talking about sex when they are in high school and going to the prom," Ms. Maxwell-Jones said.

One woman who attended the program with her husband and 11- and 12-year-old sons praised the program.

"I think it's a good opportunity to discuss some issues you feel uncomfortable with," said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "It's never something you just jump into."

Many at the program said sex is dangerous and deadly in the 1990s.

Andrea Ingram, executive director of the Grassroots homeless shelter in Columbia, said her 17-year-old daughter is "literally scared to death" of communicable diseases.

"I think kids have reason to be scared," she said. "We [her generation] weren't scared of death. We were scared of getting pregnant and going to hell."

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