2005-01-05

Perfectly Normal People Do Something Insane!


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Here we go again. WaPo reports on a Virginia teen couple found dead in an apparent double suicide or murder suicide. Before I get rolling, this is a tragedy. It troubles me, and I feel for the families left behind that have to try to sort this out. That said, something drives me absolutely crazy in the way the media deals with stories like this.
"Michaela Wegner, 15, was a cheery honors student who baked cookies for her classmates and thanked her teachers for their hard work. Harold Anthony Holt Jr. was a 19-year-old Dallas Cowboys fan who had dreams of a career in computer drafting.

They lived in spacious South Riding homes separated by two miles of wide suburban avenues and a verdant golf course. And they were in love. "

Awww ... it's almost too perfect. Actually it is too perfect. But that's what we need to make this thing really dramatic. So far we have two perfect little angels whose only crime was being in love. It's a regular Romeo and Juliet I tell you.

But wait. All is not as it seems. Apparently the Wegner's parents thought Holt was a little too old for their daughter. Understandable. Probably something we would have been concerned about at the top had we not been blinded by the verdant golf course.

Let's be honest. When you put all the pieces together I'm guessing that her parents weren't nuts about this guy in any way. She's a sophomore honors student, working on the yearbook, and no doubt doing all the little things that someone shooting for a nice college does. Her parents must have had high academic hopes for their little girl, and might well have seen Holt as a threat to their daughter's well-being. If so, it turns out that those concerns were well-founded.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong, good or bad. I'm saying it's NORMAL. Smiling, baking cookies, Dallas Cowboys and "dreams" of drafting once you finish your stint at a trade school dont' define normalcy or reality in this case. They are simply a very small collection of facts carefully chosen to present a distorted picture. Is this done simply to make the story that much more dramatic and sell newspapers? I don't know, but these attempts to distory the reader's view of normalcy bothers me. Normal is two parents saying, "I don't care how 'deeply' in love you think you are - our 15-yr old daughter is not dating an adult!"

And when you're a teenager and you are "in love" but your parents won't allow it, normal can go in one of two directions. 1. You sneak around behind your parents' backs, pretending to go to a friend's house in order to see your forbidden love. I'm not saying I condone it, but that's how the teenage mind works. Or, 2. you obey reluctantly, and mope around the house griping about it every chance you get, until one day you meet someone closer to your own age and station in life and realize that your parents were right. This really pisses you off so the moping and griping continue, but at least the whole Capulet/Montague thing has quietly died with your future still in tact.

Most teenagers, young as they are in some respects, can figure out that regardless of the complaint, shooting yourself isn't going to substantially improve things.

When what is essentially a double-suicide seems reasonable enough to carry out, SOMETHING IS WRONG. I don't care how many cookies she baked, how many teachers she thanked, or how much he loved the Dallas Cowboys, there are problems somewhere. It certainly isn't necessary to talk about the blemishes now, or ever in the newspaper for that matter. The point is, you can't tell us what sweet, normal kids these were when the very reason you are talking about them defies that notion.

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