Do they understand the magnitude of the risk they’re taking, having unprotected sex?
“No,” Alex says. “Nothing ever happens. It’s been over two months.”
But still. What if something does happen?
“Then I’ll get a job,” Alex says. “I’ll go to Mexico. They already want me to play soccer for a team. Like second-division reserve. So, I’ll earn money.”
What about the pill?
“She’s afraid of getting sterile,” Alex says, while Alexis just moans, half under her breath.
Tuesday after School
It’s after 2 p.m., and school’s out: lines of yellow buses, gluts of cars with moms behind the steering wheels, and hundreds of kids streaming off toward the rest of their days.
A boy and a girl are talking to each other in front of San Diego High School. They lean against a metal railing, close together but not quite touching. Afternoon traffic streams up and down Park Boulevard.
William, 18, and Stephanie, 17, have been together for three years. They’re both seniors at San Diego High. In eighth grade, William worked up the courage to ask out Stephanie on Valentine’s Day. They’ve never broken up since.
How difficult was it for William to approach Stephanie?
“I told everyone I liked her,” William says, “but then I’d tell them not to tell her.”
Stephanie smiles, “I was the only one who didn’t know about it.”
And when William asked her out, she said yes right away?
“I liked him too,” Stephanie says. She has angular cheekbones and striking green eyes. William’s long curly hair is pulled back into a ponytail. His face is marked by the typically troubled complexion of a teenager.
Both William and Stephanie had dated others before but never seriously. And it was a few weeks after they started going out before they kissed each other.
Now they go to the movies or out to eat, or they like to walk around at Seaport Village.
William has a job at SeaWorld, so he can afford to pay for dates. He also borrows his mom’s car. But back at the beginning, they would take the trolley or the bus, and William would use his allowance to pay. He always pays.
“Even if I have money, he won’t let me pay,” Stephanie says, smiling widely. She throws an affectionate and grateful glance at William.
The two both get along well with each other’s parents, and they both follow the rules when it comes to curfews. “I always have her home by 11,” William says.
They seem to have their heads on straight. What about the future?
“Well, I kind of want to go to college,” William says. “But I’m not really sure, because I don’t have the money for it. But, for sure, I’ll be working.”
“I want to be in real estate,” she says. “They say you don’t have to go to college for it, so, I don’t know. But then they say it’s also good to have a plan B, so, maybe I’ll go to college. Maybe.”
What about their relationship in the face of college and jobs and adult responsibility? Do they ever talk about it?
“Yeah,” William chuckles. “She always does.”
And William changes the subject?
They both laugh at this, although the laughs are different. Then they both fall silent.
What about sex? How long was it before William and Stephanie took their relationship to that next level?
“It was about a year,” says William, matter-of-factly.
“At first, I didn’t want things to change,” Stephanie adds, “so I didn’t want to do it. Because they say when that happens, a guy becomes way overprotective. But he didn’t change that much.”
They always use birth-control pills and condoms. Both.
Where does Stephanie turn for good advice about her relationship? To her siblings?
“They’re all in bad relationships,” she laughs. Stephanie is the baby, the last of four children. “I have the most healthy relationship in my family.”
A Quick Note on Home Runs
Eddie, 17, is a junior at San Diego High School. He’s a redhead with long, red eyelashes and lots of freckles. He looks you in the eye, speaks clearly, and shakes your hand firmly.
Eddie, wearing his backpack, is waiting for the Number 11 city bus on Park Boulevard.
He’s been dating his girlfriend Adele for almost five months. Adele’s 16, also a junior at San Diego High. For their fifth-month anniversary, Eddie’s going to take her out to dinner.
It took about a week of hanging out together before Eddie and Adele first kissed. “We were comfortable with each other, right from the start,” Eddie says. “So we’ve never gone too fast or too slow. We’re always right on our own pace.”
Which is to say that Eddie and Adele haven’t slept together yet. Neither of them has slept with anyone yet.
“If we do, we do, and if we don’t, we don’t,” Eddie says, sounding sincere. “I’m not going to push it, and I don’t think she will either.”
But Eddie’s friends do tease him. He says, “They’re, like, ‘So!? You have sex yet?’ And I’m, like, ‘No.’ And they’re, like, ‘Oh. So when you gonna get some?’ And I’m, like, ‘I don’t know.’ When it happens, it happens. That’s all I go by.”
What about that minority of teens, the ones who aren’t into dating? What’s with them?
Two girls are sitting on the sidewalk on 47th Street, in a residential area of City Heights. They’re just sitting on the ground in the midafternoon sun and chatting.
Shanietta, 18, is a recent graduate from Herbert Hoover High School. So is 18-year-old Vylisha.
“I think that teenage dating is stupid,” Shanietta begins. “Because teens are young, and they don’t know what they’re doing. So, trying to find love at a young age, I think, is stupid.”
What should teens do instead?
“We could be doing other things, like hanging out with our friends,” Shanietta says. “But boyfriends and girlfriends are just distractions, pretty much.”