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This is Ben park with a program in the series coming of age about American youth in the 20th century. These programs are about today's teenagers. Their hopes and doubts fears and ambitions. The influences that are shaping their futures. Now obviously no one of these real life accounts can be called Truly typical of all. But there are some aspects of every young life that may touch on the life of a teenager you know. This program in our series comes from the life of one 17 year old girl. She tells her own story. I sometimes heard it when. My father and I were times like Columbine. And. So you never knew your father before your parents broke up. You know I was about two when they got divorced he married my very best girlfriend and when I was seven she married land. And he's very nice. I mean he makes her happy. She's got a nice home and she's quite content. Do you see your father. No I've never seen him. And that's one thing I think I'd like
to do eventually. Is meet him. So now she lives with her mother and stepfather. You'll notice various names have been scrambled. This is for the sake of anonymity. At the end of the program you'll hear a commentary by Dr. Bertram Schaffner. I know a lot about him but I've never seen him with the government you see ever indicated an interest in seeing you since mother received a court order that he couldn't see me. He has never indicated such an interest. She was quite explicit about that. There was a battle over my custody and now. She filed they want to complete custody he is need not to see me. But now that I mean in the past year we've never even spoke of him that was just out. She's still quite touchy about that matter I think. But now you speak about it and once in a while I get my check every month and she gives that to me now and I put that in the bank or. Spend it however I want to.
And I told her that I want to meet him some time. And she said well you're perfectly welcome to. She said I don't think you like him but that's one person opinion. And from what her friends have told me her girlfriend is quite a man. Have you ever have you had problems with your parents. You know. We always sit down and talk things over and as for parents mothers that I talk anything over well. And it's nice nice always there. But as for running my life he doesn't have a hand and. Why is that. Well he doesn't seem to show too much interest. In the things I do. And as long as I'm not doing anything wrong he doesn't step in. Does he ever step in. No he never has. Does he take little interest in what you're doing because he's not your natural father.
No I don't think that's the main reason one has a very quiet person. Anyone who walks into the house amazed that he's 16 they quietly somebody each night by 8 my sister a ghost about the same time she dies and. He just isn't the talkative and trusting type and I don't think maybe I was not a juvenile delinquent he did show some interest but I rather doubt it. How did you get along little sister. Oh he just adored his child and the father. Does he talk with her life. Yes. He helps them with their homework or anything. My friend. Have you ever resented the fact that you don't talk to him. He doesn't talk to you. When I was small I did that. No I don't. There's no reason. I've always. Been mostly on my own since I was 14. I'd work and then I'd come home and do
my homework and on the weekends I'd go out and get him at a reasonable hour. I do what they ask and we get along wonderfully. You've been working since you were 14. Yes mostly just to get out of the house or mostly because you want to make money or what. It's nice I like to meet people and working gives me an opportunity to do a lot of people you have a chance to talk to them Do you. Yes most kids tend to make their friends. From among their classmates and in general. But I find them in school or around the neighborhood. When there's a good reason why I didn't find my man school. And that's because when I was about 13 years old I was in eighth grade at the time. That's when things started changing for me. At 13 when most girls were about thirty two twenty two thirty two was thirty eight twenty seven thirty eight. And that made things rather
difficult in grade school I was teased constantly and I was made very self-conscious of my appearance and in high school unfortunately I went to the Chicago school for two years and a grad school for one and I hated it there. I could hardly wait to get 16 so I could quit school. I mean it was really I made miserable for me. I was the only girl in school who didn't wear sweaters but that was of my own choosing and I wore things that would make me bland and as much as possible with my background. But they made it terribly hard on me and it seemed like adults just overlook that and. They made me feel what we did was talk. And so I was thrown in with them really. I. Mostly everything I've learned has been from adults because I've been around them more than I have.
High school students I met. Some very wonderful people by working at Walgreens. I started working when I was 14. Against my parents well and everyone else. But I wanted to work. And there I met many doctors and radioman and we just sat down and talked for periods of time and they taught me so very much very thing what kinds of things. Like Kim who is. A lawyer friend of mine he stared now. He got me interested in reading a lot of books which I never did before and he really interested me and I was hoping to be a lawyer this is two years ago. But being around them they had faith in me. Have you made any any fairly close friends through work. Yes quite a few. There was some author he's
working on a new book about Japan right now. It's a history book and he who runs the radio station and he's offered me a job there as soon as I graduate as a copy girl writing advertisement. And now the lawyer. And this is the retired actress I was working at Walgreens when I met her and then she asked me up to her hotel for tea and we started talking and I would sit and listen to her five hours. She'd tell me that her relatives didn't like or understand her and I was the first person who had been nice to her and that she's been here for years and what she was was just a lonely old woman. And I let her ramble on about her theatrical experience and about the boy she used to date. She's then a 60s now and I feel that nobody should be left alone and that if she thinks
that I'm really a friend of hers I'd like to be. She had mentioned the man who runs the radio station. He stopped in for coffee one day and I happened to be on a coffee break. He sat down and we just started talking about the radio station and he told me he'd seen me working here for about three months now and he invited me to come up and tour the station whenever I wanted to and I didn't think anything of it at first and then about two months later I suddenly got the urge to go up and tour the station and I asked him if that appointment was still open and he said watch. And so we made it definite for Thursday at 3:00 and I went up there and he showed me all around the station and how it all. Radio machines work and he introduced me to them. Broadcasters whose names I happen to forget very shamed about that. And then we had dinner together and
he wanted me to start right away as a copy girl because I'd written a few advertisements for ARM. And there was an opening. But with school I want to finish before I do anything like that. Going out with men who are quite a bit older you are as a student any problems in terms of their sexual ideas. Has this been a problem to you. You know because I live about on the line right away. I found that if you go with elderly people you have to gain their respect. There's no sense going out with them otherwise you will have nothing in common. When you have you know some some problem that you want to talk or want something to talk about with somebody or you go to well. I can't talk to cam because he's dad he's the one person. I
think of my whole life that I could tell anything to. Anything absolutely that bothered me I'd tell him. And his death was quite a shock to me. And now I guess I'd talk to Kay. I don't where I. Keep things locked myself. She's about the only one I can talk to. A mother I don't. She's nice and we talk about some things but everything's really bothering me. I keep it inside. And the next level is with your girlfriend and then my doctor. This man who used to talk about things a lot of things with him for instance. The trouble I had in school. Little things that happen at home. And if I start to wonder about. Questions of religion I'd discuss them with Ken and he always had a sensible answer for everything.
It sit down and make me I think over the situation and. I don't know who's just a person you can. Talk to. About the only person. And. I was very very fond of him. They die suddenly. Yes I had a heart attack. I remember I went to school one day quite cheerful in the morning as I usually do and now. It's given up because he had a bad heart and he was teaching at the school I was attending and didn't need to teach He was extremely well off but he didn't like to be idle and he thought that he could contribute something because he was a well learned person. And. So a friend of mine no one in the school knew that I had been come out of house and had dinner with the family or anything. When I go to
their house and have dinner with he and his brother and. Sister. Well we just read books or something like that but I remember I walked into school one morning and Hay said you know that teacher that you're quite. You know quite well an iced Yast she was dead and I wouldn't believe her. I said well wishes to her in the morning for jokes especially about nature so please cut it out I want to continue to be in a good mood. She said No I'm serious and I remember running blindly through the halls and down to the principal's office because I was Cam's best friend and from there they sent me home and I was out of school for about two weeks. And I was just so attached to him that I couldn't believe it was dad. And even as much as 6 8 and 10 months after that I drive on the bus and see someone who looked like him I'd practically get off the bus when they did.
I saw a car like yes I'd wonder if he was then I had a hard time believing he was dead. OK with the calls I have ever had to a father or a friend. He was both. And. You know it's just quite hard having him die. Oh man was he careless fifty when he died. And the juror talked about their age with him. I think in the back of my mind I was planning on marrying him. I know it seems ridiculous and it did to my mother too when I told her. But then after a while. I think she saw my point. I was completely devoted to him it had never been married. And. He could offer me everything in the world that I wanted besides an extremely good name and position. He'd been around the world several times and I knew people all over the world.
And. He was intelligent. I guess I wanted that more than physical love for someone mentally that I could talk to. And I thought if I can make him happy. For the next eight or 10 years I knew he couldn't live longer than that. He told me that. I thought that. I'd be happy just making him happy. And. So he was. Sort of. Everything rolled up into one. I would imagine that a number of people have probably said to you you probably thought yourselves that you're looking for your father an older man. Several. But there again that's until they meet the person when they find out. And it's an entirely different. I mean if he is interesting you can talk about things I live with and we have something in common. And that's all. I don't look upon the people that I
go out with as my father although several have wanted to adopt me into their family. My family I mean that I don't say the reporter is divorced now he has three sons and he just mentioned that he'd like to have me as a daughter. Sense of a been possible to marry him but that and what was your reaction to that. I felt flattered naturally and at the time I felt flattered that was the part I didn't want to marry him. The marriage of the Sleeping with the man and I had no intention of but he's very nice and he has a lot of money. I just couldn't. Did you consider it. Oh you wanted to talk to anybody about it. Oh I told mother about it. She told me that there again it was
up to me she'd like me to wait until I was 18 to make a plan. But if I press the issue I would have gotten. My way. You always get your way. A new show. Why. That's because I'm usually right. What are your plans after you graduate high school. Well I've got two things in mind right now and I'm going to wait about three months or so before I decide definitely. But Ron is that opportunity to go into radio. I find that very interesting and I like it immensely. And then the other is teaching scuba diving in there and this is quite a switch from working in radio. But I'm an ardent diver. I'm simply mad about it. I'm studying right now to get my degree in diving where I'll be able to teach what scuba diving while scuba diving is where you get about 60
pounds of equipment on your back and go under the surface of the water. 60 or 100 or 150 feet and it's really quite wonderful. We do a lot of salvage work. You say we were this is when our diving Association. And we go diving just about every weekend when it gets cold. We'll be going ice diving under the ice. And I think I like it because it's exciting and dangerous and it's challenging and you go down with a rope and you don't let go of it. You might get lost and if your air supply ran out you'd just about had it. I'm fascinated by this really nothing like it here. The piece under there and everything's new and different every time you go down. It's a different challenge because you're diving in unknown water. At least it's unknown to you because you haven't been down there before. And this summer I went
diving shark water and that was quite interesting too. We went down Spears and I think I'm looking forward to the school year being over. Anyway I am in another way. I'm looking forward to it because I finally have an opportunity to really be on my own and if I could have the time to go to college I'd love to. I have always gotten what I wanted. No matter what it was one way or another I've always gotten that from a bike. To a job. When I heard you had no opening for a copy girl that was when I. Conveniently arranged it so that I'd go up there and tour the studio. And I had to work things out in my mind. He offered me the job. And I can always get things my way if I work hard enough to each of these programs in coming of age we invite the informal comments of a recognized authority
for clarification and further understanding of what we've heard. We asked for a comment from Dr. Bertram Schaffner a practicing psychoanalyst and consultant on mental health to the United Nations secretary that this is a. Simple ordinary girl was quite a remarkable human being who has been through some very special circumstances that have. Contributed to her being the kind of person that she is. And yet in other ways she is also typical of today. I think she's really bothered about the fact that she can't know her father possibly one reason she's bothered about it is that she seems to get everything else that she wants. And a man that she is kept from mating becomes doubly attractive. In a
funny sort of way I think she is bothered by the fact that she can have her way there and later the stepfather quote doesn't step in on the mother when she goes to her for advice. Well do what you think best it's up to you. This gives a child quite a. Distorted feeling of what it ought to be able to decide on the one hand it gives the child the feeling I ought to be able to do anything. I think we can hear in what this girl says that she does feel she's got to try the impossible such as entering the water under eyes or a shark filled waters and be able to come out alive. But on the other hand we say that she continuously seeks grown ups who in a sense can take care of her.
Many times people appear to be seeking danger when really they are trying to find out what is dangerous and they would like to be told stop. Let me protect you. This is not good for you. I think this girl has not yet been told by anybody how very dangerous it is. I'm not at all sure of what she wouldn't enjoy having somebody say I care and I've about you that I don't want to see or going under eyes or around the sharks but up to this point it's as though she's feeling. People don't care they just say it's up to me to make decisions. I have to decide where standers. Well how do I know. You see most children are aware of danger and consult their parents about danger and would like to be stopped. Now apparently according to what this girl says her
mother says again to quote the girl well it's up to you dear. I don't think that this girl thinks her mother can give good advice. I'm not even sure this girl thinks that her mother did the right thing and divorcing her father. She says After all I hear he's quite a man. It is unfortunately very typical of our times that parents are not sure what it is right to tell children that parents are not sure how to define a situation. That parents I'm not sure how to explain either what is expected of the children. All right the children have a right to expect from the parents. When she talks about the lady who used to be an actress
she mentions the fact that she doesn't think anybody should ever be alone. And it seemed to me that she was talking about herself. I'm so glad you brought that out. She doesn't feel anybody should be left alone. I would say that this is the most profoundly true statement that this girl has made in spite of the fact that she says whatever I want I get which might give you the impression that she's a terribly spoiled overindulged child who's had everything I would say that this is really in essence a deprived child a child who has been deprived of the ordinary companion that education or responsible a quality of parents. She really has been left alone. She's been left alone by a father who was required either by the courts or by the mother to stay away. But essentially she's also been
left alone by her mother because a mother who says it's up to you is making it easy for herself not for the daughter and is really leaving the daughter alone with the most important and troublesome problems of life. I can believe this girl when she says that the intellectual means more to her than the sexual. Somehow I think that this girl has an impression that the sexual is a trap in which men and women get caught and that she is not eager to repeat her mother's experience. Somehow I feel this girl is very preoccupied with proving her worth and her ability and as she says with keeping herself in a good mood. I'm not
sure that this girl is prepared for the trouble of life. Not that I would expect a girl of 17 or 18 to be. However in some ways it seems that she expects perfection of herself. It made me rather sad when she said that she was ashamed that she couldn't remember the names of the broadcaster's gods. What does she think a 17 year old to be able to do. Well for that matter somebody of twenty seven or thirty seven or forty seven. I should think that she has enough on her mind without having to remember the names of everybody. Also she seems to blame herself for making plans to obtain what she wants in this world in a way. I
think this girl has been taught to be self-reliant and independent and not to expect any real help from mother or father or stepfather. And here she is taking care of herself and then apologizing for it. She simply doesn't know the limits of what ought to be expected from people. No wonder she was so extremely grateful to the man of 50 who expected literally nothing from her. But it was trying to guide her who was sensible as she said. No wonder she couldn't believe that he was dead. No wonder she will be looking for that kind of a sensible intelligent parental figure for a while until she is ready to accept a younger person.
Next week we'll hear the voice of a 17 year old girl whose life is in many ways happy and normal. However her growing years have been greatly affected by a problem which is becoming increasingly common in 20th century America. The problem is an alcoholic parent coming of age is a series about American youth in the 20th century produced for the National Educational Television and Radio Center by the Center for mass communication of Columbia University. The series is distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is Ben park. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Coming of age
Rita looks for older men
Producing Organization
Columbia University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program explores why a certain young woman prefers older men and what it means. Bertram Schaffner is a featured guest.
Series Description
Explores the thoughts and feelings of American youth in the 20th century. Writer-director Ben Park talks with teenagers and parents, teachers and friends.
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Social Issues
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Director: Park, Ben
Interviewee: Schaffner, Bertram, 1912-2010
Producing Organization: Columbia University
Writer: Park, Ben
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-21-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:54
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Chicago: “Coming of age; Rita looks for older men,” 1961-04-17, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Coming of age; Rita looks for older men.” 1961-04-17. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Coming of age; Rita looks for older men. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from