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James R. Stout

Hey, Brainless!

            Scientist and medical researchers say that a teenager’s brain isn’t fully developed. In fact, the consensus is that a human brain doesn’t become fully developed until approximately the age of 25. Now, if you had told me that when I was a teenager I would have been offended and I would have scoffed at the very idea of something so obviously prejudiced. But as I grew older, I came to the realization that there might be something to the studies showing these results.

            I have made it no secret that I possess a very good memory. I can only hope that it stays that way until I die. The thing about those studies that makes me know that they are true is that I clearly remember some of the things that I did as a teenager and I now realize how foolish and dangerous they were. What I’m about to disclose may surprise you. I would never have admitted these things as long as my parents were alive. Why? Because it would have likely caused them unnecessary stress despite the events having been decades ago.

            I’ve written about my high school girlfriend quite a bit. I’m betting she doesn’t remember some of these things, but then again, she might remember them, but would never admit to it. No, it’s not something nasty or anything like that. It’s just we were so clearly doing some dangerous things that could have proved disastrous. I was 17-years-old and she was 16-years-old. Her parents were very strict and did not allow her to be out past 10 o’clock on Friday or Saturday night dates. In the beginning, they only allowed us to go out on double dates. I certainly understand how they felt and why. In the early part of 1973 we did something, on several occasions, that I now shiver at the thought of doing. It was so downright stupid and dangerous but at the time I barely thought of it as anything other than normal. I can only plead now that my brain was not fully developed. Seriously.

            It was all so well planned. I think that characters like James Bond must not have fully developed brains. I literally had no fear in doing what we did. I didn’t own my own car yet, but I did have my own set of keys to my mother’s car. It would be a school night when we made our rendezvous. I would wait for my parents to get good and sound asleep. I would slip out the back door, get in the 1967 Chevy Nova, start it up and head for my girlfriend’s house. It’s not as though it was close either. It was about 10 miles away. Not exactly right around the corner. It meant driving to I-10 from our neighborhood, getting on the freeway, driving 6 exits, and then drive to her street. It was a cul de sac. So, it wasn’t like I could just drive past her house and meet up with her. No, I had to drive down to the turn around and come back up the street and park on the opposite side of the street a few doors down. Any resident could have easily seen me, wondered who was parking in front of their house, and called the police. Fortunately, that never happened.

            I would quietly open the car door and no interior lights came on because I had unscrewed the overhead light bulb. I would walk across the street and up to her driveway and then to the rear of her house. I would wait there for her to sneak out of her back door. We would skip across the lawn and the street and get in my mother’s car. I would start it up and off we would go. Sometimes it was simply a drive down to a 24-hour Jack-In-The-Box to get a cola. It was always about the thrill of being able to see each other. We would sometimes park on one of the other streets in her neighborhood and just talk. Sometimes we would be gone a couple of hours. I remember that one time we drove all the way back to my house so that I could retrieve my wallet that I had forgotten! What if we had been pulled over by the police? What if we had a minor fender bender? What if some creepazoid had tried to harm us? This was just before the mass murders in Houston were revealed. Murders of teenagers. What if a friend of her parents had been out late and saw us? Frankly, the what ifs could go on and on. We could have been physically harmed. We could have simply been caught if her parents had awoken and not found her in her room at home. It would have been the end of us. I can’t say as I would have blamed them if they forbid us to see each other. But strange as it may sound to say, God was looking out for us. I choose to believe that rather than to believe in dumb luck.

            These middle-of-the-night forays ended by the summer. It started to soak in that we were truly running a terrible risk. I look back on those early days of 1973 and those nights of sneaking out and I shiver. Perhaps partly because of the way things are today, but mostly because we just weren’t thinking about what we were doing. Oh, I can laugh about it now, but deep down inside I can’t believe that I put not only myself, but someone that I cared a great deal about, in harm’s way. I would never do that now. Even after we broke up and I eventually met my wife to be, I still made some bad decisions. Getting married at 21 and my wife being 18 comes to mind. We were simply not ready for what was coming, but then we survived.

            I look back on my teenage years with mixed emotions. I had a lot of fun in those days. I was in the peak of physical condition and rarely got sick. I learned a lot during those years. I also remember some of the dumb things that I did and somehow got away with. I think about all the people in my life during those years that could have been hurt by my reckless behavior. I am so very glad that I was spared what could have been terrible things happen to me. I have to thank God for his allowing me to be spared and for watching over me while my brain was not yet fully developed. If you have teenage kids today, then don’t worry about them hating you if you are a little too strict. They’ll understand one day and be thankful for you more than you will ever know. Pray for your kids daily. Pray with your kids daily. Help their brains to develop and explain to them in an age appropriate manner just how dangerous our world and our society is today. Arm them with the knowledge that they need to know. Love them with all your heart and make sure that they understand that if you’re a little hard on them at times it’s out of love that your decisions are made.

 

 

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