Jerry Davich: Teen mom offers advice to girls: ‘Sex has consequences!’
Jerry Davich email@example.com May 24, 2012 6:12PM
T.J. Myricks is photographed in her Gary, Ind. home Wednesday May 23, 2012. Myricks, who had her first child at age 16, went on to get her bachelor's degree from Purdue University Calumet in Human Development and Family Studies with an emphasis on Child and Family Services. Myricks is also in the process of publishing a book, PhatPhat Memoirs, which will be out this fall. May is Teen Pregnancy Awareness Month. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:37AM
TJ “PhatPhat” Myricks could have easily been profiled on MTV’s hit reality shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.” She was indeed 16 and pregnant and also a teen mom by age 17, of two children no less.
The Gary woman was a rebellious teenager and a chronic runaway who made all the wrong decisions, including her reason for getting pregnant less than a year after her first baby was born.
“It was on a dare,” she told me, referring to a dare from her friends to have sex with a teenage boy. Unprotected sex, I should point out, with a boy she has never seen since.
That sexual encounter resulted in her second pregnancy, and second child, a daughter who was adopted and raised by Myricks’ own father and his girlfriend at the time.
For viewers of those reality TV shows, Myricks’ early life sounds sadly familiar, a textbook case of what not to do as a teenager.
Here’s a quick snapshot of her former situation: Two kids before age 18; high school dropout; lived with different family members; public housing assistance; welfare and daycare struggles; several mediocre jobs; convicted of a felony; abusive relationships with men.
“My life was a downhill spiral,” she readily admitted.
But along the way she learned several life-changing lessons — each was painful, but productive.
“I made a lot of mistakes through trial and error.”
She also earned a GED. She enrolled in college. She later graduated from another college. She then began writing about her experiences under the pen-name “PhatPhat,” a nickname given to her as a kid that lingered into adulthood.
“Writing has been self-cleansing for me,” she said.
These days, at age 33, Myricks is writing a new chapter in her book of life. She started a blog at phatphatmemoirs.blogspot.com, and she wrote an essay titled “Babies Having Babies” at girlslikemeblog.wordpress.com. She’s also working on a book.
“One of the most vital parts to increasing awareness is to offer teens real-life examples and experiences such as mine to nurture the thought process of understanding that SEX HAS CONSEQUENCES!” she writes in her essay to teenage girls.
She told me that too many teen girls today have no respect for themselves, which explains why they send “sexts” text messages with nudity or crude remarks to boys.
In an ironic twist, Myricks’ firstborn child, a son, is now a teenager who has seen some of those texts from girls his age.
“It’s a vicious cycle, but teenagers are a different and bolder breed these days,” Myricks said.
Still, she hasn’t entirely escaped her teenage years altogether.
The father of her first child is “still in the picture,” Myricks noted, but not as much as she would like. And she has a frosty relationship with her estranged daughter, who still doesn’t live with her.
“It’s all part of my struggle,” she explained.
I figured that this month, National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, is the ideal time to share Myricks’ struggle, especially with school ending soon for most teens. They’ll have a lot of extra time on their hands, and we know how teenage hormones work, right?
On the upside, the teen birth rate in this country has fallen to a record low since such data were collected, seven decades ago.
The National Center for Health Statistics states that the teenage birth rate for American teens fell 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, the lowest since 1946. Still, minorities such as Hispanics and blacks still have the highest teenage birth rates. (Asians have the lowest teen birth rate.)
Experts aren’t exactly sure why the significant drop. Increased contraception such as condoms and other birth control measures. The “just say no” advocates who support abstinence are also claiming victory, which is fine, too.
Regardless, “teen pregnancy” is an all too familiar phrase in our daily vocabulary.
“Everyone is related to this topic in some way,” Myricks said.
She’s definitely correct about that. Teenage pregnancies may be lower, for whatever reason, but most of us know someone who was (or is) in this difficult situation.
Do those MTV reality shows sway or scare teens from having sex, as they’re allegedly designed to do? Or do those shows somehow glorify it by making those troubled teens household names in our TV-obsessed society?
I lean to the latter, how about you?
Porter County Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, allegedly said a gay slur at Tuesday’s council meeting.
In response to a judge’s reference to releasing the “low-hanging fruit” at the overcrowded county jail, Polarek reportedly asked, “Are you telling me that there are fruits in the Porter County Jail?” Ha, ha, ha.
Someone at the meeting, Curt Ellis, interpreted Polarek’s quip as a gay slur and asked for a public apology. Polarek later clarified his remark, saying he was referring to the “fruit-cakes, crazies and wackos” who comprise the jail population. Not gays and lesbians inside the jail.
Ah, I see. So it’s OK to slur people with mental illness problems or addictions, but not gays? OK, got it.
In my line of work, the entire human population is fair game for jokes, ridicule and amusement.
But a public official at a public meeting shouldn’t have the same latitude with such sophomoric barbs. He should save those quips for a more appropriate location — an executive session behind closed doors — where other public servant “fruit-cakes, crazies and wackos” make such funny remarks.
Listen to Jerry’s “Casual Fridays” radio show today at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.