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TITLE: The New Cool
By Elizabeth Hale

When I was a teenager, cool meant smoking. Cool was doing drugs, having long hair, railing against oppression of any kind, fighting with our parents over what amounted to nonsense. Alas, I was rarely accused of being cool.

These days, the new cool is to be in possession of your own cell phone. Certainly, this is a much better kind of cool than before. No argument there.

Last night as I sat here, furiously typing, trying to make the elusive point I was trying to make, my son came into my office, and began, for what seems like the millioneth time, to make his case as to why he needs a cell phone of his own.

I sighed. Here we go again, I thought.

"You don't need a cell phone, Dusty," I said, repeating my line in this never-ending play.

"But what if I need to call you?" he debated.

At which point, I hauled my behind out of my chair and hauled him into the kitchen, where I pointed to the phone. "Use this if you need to call me. You know all my numbers." We spent another twenty minutes of our precious lives going through the routine of this conversation.

I am not against his having a cell phone, per se. If I thought he really needed it, I would waver a bit more. In our current situation, my family is weighing everything in our lives--do we need this, or is this just wasting our money and our time?

Dusty just thinks cell phones are cool. He sees all these people,in person, every day, who he is just dying to call. He doesn't NEED a cell phone, not to talk to his friends, and never to talk to me! He never calls them on the regular phone so what makes him think he will call them on a cell phone?

Last night, he presented me with a little twist on the old argument, and this one might buy me a bit more time to get him to question, for himself, the real reasons he wants this phone.

"If I save up and buy the phone and the minutes myself, can I get one?"

Hmmm. Dusty knows that in our bankruptcy, we are forbidden from signing any contracts that incur debt, so any type of contractual phone is out the window. My husband and I use pay as you go phones and use them for emergencies only, most of the time.

I say, "Save up the money first, and then we'll talk about it."

This temporarily solves the problem. Dusty often 'forgets' to do his chores so his allowance is iffy. No work, no money. This is another thing he needs to learn sooner than later.

Dusty just wants to be able to pull a cell phone out of his pocket, flip it open, and look as cool as he thinks his friends do when they do it. Cell phones are the newest status symbol among the young. If you don't have one, well, you just aren't cool!

I can picture my future if he gets one. Every five minutes or so, my phone will ring as he flips his phone out casually in front of his friends.

"Hi, Mom!"

"Hey, Dusty."

"I'm across the street at so and so's house. Just wanted to let you know". This is nice of him; he's checking in with me. Problem is, I already know where he is because he isn't allowed to leave the house until he tells me where he's headed. Minutes will be burned. I see dead minutes. I thank him, and remind him that he is wasting his minutes. We will hang up. Five minutes later, my phone will ring again.

"Hi, Mom. It's me again. I was just letting you know that so and so and I are leaving(point A) to go to so and so's house at (point B)".

"Um-hm," I will say, knowing just as well as he does that our house is smack in the middle of points A and B, and it would be just as easy for him to stop off and tell me himself. In person. I will thank him again without mentioning his minutes this time. Meanwhile, I have no idea who else he is calling when he isn't calling me! We will hang up again. Five minutes later........

"Mom, what's for dinner? I'm starving," I will hear.

"Come home and find out," I will say through clenched teeth. Inevitably, cell phone-pay as you go-nature will win out. At this rate, he will be fresh out of minutes within a half hour. The good thing about this is that he will be compelled to do more work around the house so he can buy more minutes for his oh-so-cool phone. The bad thing is I will, undoubtedly, have to listen to him complain because he has no more minutes.

I can picture his future therapy sessions over my horrible parenting, too.

"Mr. Hale, what brings you here today?" the therapist will ask gently.

"My mother," Dusty will begin sadly as the therapist nods. Another mother problem. They get a lot of those. "She wouldn't let me have a cell phone when I was young. She questioned every thing I did, FORCED me to examine my motivations for EVERY SINGLE THING! She made me PAY for things I wanted, with my own money! She was so HARD ON ME!"

Yes, I can envision all this. I wonder if it is inevitable.

As Barbara Johnson says so beautifully, sometimes I am simply left to ponder the question, "Where Does A Mother Go To Resign?"
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