Breakup Summit Teaches Teens To Be Thoughtful

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BOSTON — The recent murder of a Wayland High School graduate has drawn attention to teen dating violence. According to the state Department of Health, one in five teens will experience some kind of dating violence.

Parents often don't know how to talk to their kids about relationships, so the city of Boston's Public Health Department has stepped in. The department held its second annual Breakup Summit Wednesday, drawing nearly 250 teens and adults from around the state.

From 'Booty-Call' To 'Wifey-Hubby'

How you break up with someone often depends on the kind of relationship you have. And kids have a sophisticated taxonomy to classify their different degrees of intimacy and formality.

I asked Ricky Smith and Tanisha White, who are both 17 years old and live in Boston, to define some of the terms the other teens used during discussions at the summit. They work for the city's Public Health Department as Start Strong peer leaders.

City public health officials say heartache can disrupt a teenagers' life — cause depression, violence, suicide — so they're training kids to be more thoughtful.

"Booty-call" came up a lot at the breakup summit. Smith says both boys and girls say it.

"The relationship is strictly about sex," Smith said. "It's not the best thing, because usually at the end of the day, someone catches feelings, so it's a difficult relationship."

Then there's something even less formal than a "booty-call." It's basically a one-night stand, but the terminology is more raw.

"'Hit it and quit it' is sort of like a one-time, a temporary thing," Smith explained. "Like you just met someone, tensions arose, and like, you just had sex. A 'hit it and quit it' can turn into a 'booty call,' but the majority of the time, it's just like it's said, 'hit it and quit it.'"

What past generations called "courting" is now called "just talking". You can "just talk" with more than one person, but it can lead to formal relationship, or what they call "wifey-hubby."

"Boyfriend-girlfriend is serious, but 'wifey-hubby' is like a long-term relationship," White said. "Some people will use it the first week, but most people I know would use it after a year or so. It's basically like really committed in a relationship, so kind of like marriage, but it's not."

White says "wifey-hubby" relationships deserve proper breakups.

"I feel like all relationships deserve a formal breakup, because someone's feelings are involved," Smith added. If you "just stop calling them or totally avoid them, that's disrespectful. So every relationship — no matter how it is — deserves a formal breakup."

That's the message the city's health department is trying to get across. Break up the best way you can, and usually that's face-to-face. City public health officials say heartache can disrupt a teenager's life — cause depression, violence, even suicide — so they're training kids to be more thoughtful.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

To be clear, the city's Start Strong initiative centers on teens' emotional health. There's less focus on whether kids should or shouldn't be having sex. Instead, the program tries to teach them how to make good decisions.

The adult organizers say if they want to have open and honest conversations with teens, they have to listen and not pass judgment on their sexual activity.

Some of this year's summit focused on the unique challenges of same-sex couples. Breakups for gay teens can be perilous in different ways.

In a skit performed at the summit, Vicheka Chhot and Gertruidis Colon play a gay couple who have been dating for six months. Colon's character is openly gay and has been pressuring Chhot's character to come out.

"Um..I don't know how to put this," Chhot, 16, said. "It's just, I don't think I'm ready to be out there. I think it's better if we just go our separate ways."

Colon's character in the skit just can't accept a breakup and threatens her girlfriend.

"If you leave me, or even attempt to leave me, I will tell your friends and your family," Colon, 19, said.

The kids say the threats and blackmail sound familiar.

By the end of the summit, the leaders hoped the kids could identify signs of a bad relationship and hopefully build the skills to end them without doing too much damage.


This program aired on July 21, 2011.


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