Not the Brady Bunch

We want to get married but our teenage kids like each other maybe a little too much.

By Cary Tennis

Published May 28, 2004 7:17PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

My sweetie and I want to get married -- second marriages for both of us. The only problem is that I have a 15-year-old son and she has a 14-year-old daughter who get along well, maybe too well, in fact. We haven't all been together very much at this point, but there definitely seems to be some mutual attraction going on between the kids, and I know my kid is doing double back flips trying to impress her kid. Inappropriate involvement (sex) between the kids could clearly destroy any marital bliss we might otherwise experience. Short of waiting three years for my son to leave for college, do you have any suggestions for dealing with ...

Too Many Hormones in the House?

Dear Hormones,

I had the radio on because I like to write with the radio on and I was thinking about your problem and the DJ said, "You feel what I'm saying?" and I said, "Yeah, I feel what you're saying," and then a commercial said maybe I'm suffering from chronic hidden fee anxiety and that made me angry the way you get angry at the president when he says "peremptorary" and I changed to KFOG but kept thinking about your problem, and the new DJ sounded like Roz on "Frasier," and I was thinking that waiting for your son to leave for college might be hard, but surely some kind of waiting is in order, and at that moment Tom Petty started singing "The waiting is the hardest part."

Cool, huh? I pay attention to coincidences.

Like, what else have I got? I haven't got a degree in marriage and family counseling, that's for sure. All I know is what I know from being 15, which is that we were crafty and secretive and determined to do whatever came into our heads regardless of or maybe even because it might get us killed or arrested or maimed or burned or addicted or pregnant or run over or shot or dog-bitten or drowned or drunk in the road or kicked out of school, because how else could we know that we were truly alive and not simply blank extensions of those adults to whom we lived in constant bleak thrall?

We were so slight of being that we could barely see ourselves in the mirrors of our bright suburban homes much less in the mirrorlike eyes of our parents and teachers or God forbid in the mirrored sunglasses of the Florida Highway Patrol. So we became as ingenious as thieves and as thick as dogs, creeping about the darkened neighborhood overturning trash cans and copulating in parked vans, accomplishing with great effort whatever was sufficiently idiotic to prove that we were real. Proving that we were real was the only thing that mattered in that luminous green season of pimpled immortality. So I could quite imagine these kids of yours, lost in the teenage aftermath of divorce, sullenly concealing the depth of their hurt -- because, come on, you know it hurts them harder than they let on -- I could see them seizing any weapon of outrage just to get to you, just to leave their mark on you and your sweetie and this union you propose. And what could better prove to the world that in spite of their apparent invisibility they actually do exist than to have sex together and even become pregnant!

So, yes, in short, your fears seem well-founded. Who knows what hormonal idiocy rages in the barely formed brains of these loving little strangers of yours, these natural anarchists, these children for the maintenance of whose welfare you have signed on for life.

But enough of me and my unresolved issues and my exaggerated prose style. Really: A marriage and family counselor will at least know the law. And maybe he or she would have some stories to tell. Maybe the counselor would say, "I knew a couple like you, only in this case it was the man who had the daughter, and the woman who had the son, and they didn't know about the attraction between the kids. So they got married, and the kids found themselves with that attraction and, well, let's not go there. Let's just say it wasn't a happy ending."

Maybe she would say something like that, and your heads would clear, and you would see the carnage at the end of the road, and because you are adults you wouldn't just go, Wow, cool, but instead the intoxication of love would be tempered by this other gravity, this sense of destiny and responsibility for the innocent lives you're caring for, and a solution then would seem so clear you'd be amazed you hadn't seen it before.

Do the sensible thing. Consult somebody with specific knowledge in the area. Have patience. The waiting is the hardest part.

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Cary Tennis

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