Raging Hormones: Why puberty begins at twelve
Puberty is a difficult period in the life of a child. Not only are there rapidly progressive physical changes, but also as if mystically or magically materializing out of nowhere, unusual thoughts and proclivities directed toward the opposite gender emerge like a wild Blue Norther rolling across the plains of West Texas.
Most children probably do not have a clue as to the whys and wherefores of what is happening; or at least not until their peers start to disseminate both information and misinformation about sex. I have already mentioned my friend Eddie, who told me that sex was when a man puts his penis in a woman’s ass and then pisses in it. Meanwhile as their parents are wallowing in anticipatory dread about appropriately timing “the talk about birds and bees” in some cases, ironically the children could probably teach their parents a thing or two they didn’t know themselves; Eddie notwithstanding.
When the subject is finally put on the table it is usually accompanied by dire prohibitive warnings about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; or if religion is piled on by evoking the sexual guilt card and the additional threats of eternal damnation, premarital sex becomes a crime against God; a Cardinal sin.
The reason no one can reasonably come to grips with the problem is a lack of scientifically based understanding. That is, the dichotomy between the societal sexual taboos versus the age at which puberty starts can be explained by the fact that biological evolution has remained a constant factor over time while concurrent societal evolution has become more technically complicated. Societal issues outpace and artificially grow further away from those biological roots.
This has created a significant paradox that unintentionally accounts for the mandatory sexual suppression of the adolescent, who is capable of reproductive breeding but who is also incapable of subsequently coping with day to day survival, making a living, and supporting a family. All of this was more easily facilitated when humans lived in communal tribal bands surviving as hunters and gatherers. For human beings it is simply the case that they are both genetically and biologically programmed by design to begin their reproductive cycle at about the age of twelve. This took millions of years to evolve, whereas our modern technologically oriented society has only taken a few hundred.
The emergence of secondary sex characteristics therefore is nothing more than nature’s way of signaling to the rest of the world that a child is announcing: “Hey look at me. I’m ready.”
The human species, by evolutionary standards is relatively frail. Without the modern medical miracles of safe habitats, weapons, tools, decreased maternal and infant mortalities, vaccinations, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, exotic surgeries, and the other marvels created by life extending sciences, a human being would stand little chance of living past the age of thirty or forty. Face to face with a Grizzly bear, and without a knife or a gun; the bear will always win. In fact, the average life expectancy of a white male in the United States in 1900 was thirty to forty, which oddly enough also correlates well with the female menopause.
Age forty for a human being then, is a biologically programmed time for everything to be “over and out;” so to speak; including the rationale for a number of Medieval royal patricides.
Even so we are still doing better than our Cro-Magnon forebears whose average life expectancy was only twenty-five years, or our European ancestors in the Middle Ages, who barely made it to the age of thirty. That is why European Royal families married off their girls at about age 14 and nobody blinked an eye about it being a form of pedophilia.
To illustrate this point, does anyone not think it odd or ever wonder why Alexander the Great had already conquered half the world before he was twenty-five? He had to seize the day because the odds were critically against him living for even another half decade. Or why is it a fact that most elite athlete’s careers, including tennis, baseball basketball and football are over before they even reach the age of thirty. Or that for certain other athletic endeavors such as Olympic level swimming, and especially for gymnastics, that the age of twenty five is also considered to be “over the hill?”
Mortality issues were also the only omission in the otherwise exceptionally brilliant thinking of America’s forefathers when they drafted the Constitution. If they had even an inkling that someone could actually live to be 90, they would have set term limits for all political offices at the documents’ inception.
In some primitive tribal cultures the rites of passage to adulthood are actually the official signal of availability of the young man or woman for marriage and child rearing. These people for the most part do not fixate on the appropriate age. They fixate more on the biology, which they simply take for granted, with guidance directed only by empirical observation.
The rites of passage of the Jewish Bar Mitzvah or the Catholic Confirmation ceremonies are also neither mystical nor magical. They have simply lost their true identifiable meanings as a marker for official passage into adulthood. The development of breasts and pubic hair on the other hand, has not. What this means is that if a human being had not already reproduced at a young age, his gene pool would basically become extinguished.
Being just two generations removed from my Italian grandmother who was married when she was sixteen, this circumstance was not considered to be anything out of the ordinary; nor did it raise any eyebrows. Even today there are still pockets in the deep rural south where there are teenaged child brides.
Maybe OK as long as it is not your fourteen-year-old first cousin, which coupled with Jerry Lee Lewis’ notoriety, was more the reason that got him into trouble than for actually marrying a child in the first place. Consanguinity in his case was worse in the eyes of his fans than his getting drunk one night and because Jerry, in believing that he had more talent than the King, tried to drive through the gates of Graceland to kill Elvis Presley with a handgun.
What we now have instead is a society that has become so complex that many people are forced to delay having families until they are in their thirties or even forties, which according the biological species time card should be just about the time they would ordinarily become grandparents or even getting ready to clock out for good.
The ultimate, unanticipated ironic consequence of this longevity has left some of today’s generation having to care for two sets of children. Their own, who may not leave home until they are in their mid to late twenties, and their aging, slowly disintegrating parents who may even have to move back in on the heels of their grandchildren’s recent vacancies. This is known today as being “The Sandwich Generation.”
Couple this with the new modern insanity of men and women becoming parents when they are in their fifties, or even worse for men who become fathers in their sixties or seventies and you get:
- Hey Johnnie. How come only your grandpa brings you to school. What ever happened to your dad?
All of this only leads full circle to the way it was originally designed in the first place; the early orphan phenomenon, which is summarized as follows:
You are born. You give birth. You die.
Parents, teachers, and clergy lose perspective or understanding why they have such difficult issues when trying to control teenagers. The reason is that ten thousand years ago teenagers were more functional as integral parts of a larger group, and in fact were expected to reproduce as soon as they could to ensure both the survival of the tribe as well as the greater overall survival of the human species. Imagine, then a primeval cave in which Barbie was the doll who had to play with a real baby, while Ken was the buffed dude out hunting a Bison instead of playing X-box.
Hormonal cycles are finely tuned end products of a biological evolution that makes it virtually impossible to beat any rational thought or guilt out of a blossoming adolescent.
The reason that puberty begins at twelve is very simple. It was designed solely for the preservation of the human race, but not at all for the preservation of parental sanity.
|©||Film: Written and Directed by Michael Dugan|