Last Saturday after a youth football game, one of my friends and I took our 11-year-old sons to Hooters for lunch. Both boys knew what Hooters is known for and one of them actively wanted to go while the other didn’t show any outward signs of interest but perhaps he was just good at hiding it. In any case, we had a decent lunch and before leaving our waitress obliged us by taking a picture with the boys.
Days later, I told my sister-in-law about it and her immediate reaction was, “How could you?”
Had I made a mistake … …and encouraged my son to think of women as objects to be gawked at and joked about by men (or boys), or was it just some harmless fun and perhaps I had even gained an insight into where my son on the eve of puberty stands on this issue?
My 11 year boy has reached the age where girls at school are showing interest in him but he is not ready to reciprocate with equal interest in them. The trip to Hooters, I saw, as an opportunity to see how he conducts himself around women. If he drooled and couldn’t take his eyes of the waitress, then that would be an unmistakable cue to me to start preparing another birds and the bees talk. If he acted embarrassed and shy, then that would be a sign that such a pointed talk could wait a bit. So what happened?
Not much at all. After we paid the bill and headed out, my son turned to his friend and said, “That was messed up.”
To be fair, I should also ask myself if I would take my 10-year-old daughter to a place that featured muscular men in tight shorts serving her food. I would have no problem with that. Again, I would be curious as to her level of interest rather than fearful that the trip to spark a heightened awareness of men at a too-early age.
I just don’t see these types of trips as changing anything. Rather, I am sure that my children’s interest in all things sexual is stamped in their DNA somewhere and not subject to rise and fall based on how many boobs they see over a cheeseburger. In fact, in a world where sex is used to sell anything and everything, I don’t think my son saw anything in the restaurant that he couldn’t see on tv, youtube, at the beach, or anywhere else.
I have to say I was surprised how many families I saw eating at tables near us, and nobody seemed to bat an eye at two boys drinking root beer at such an establishment. In the end, I would rather my kids be exposed to such things and see their reaction rather than driving through McDonald’s for yet another Happy Meal in which nothing is gained but a 1,000 extra calories of processed food.
Update: My son told me tonight that he regrets the trip to Hooters. We ran into his football coaches at the restaurant, and they have razzed him about it ever since. “This will take a long time to go away,” he said, adding that “I can see teasing me about it at the next football practice but not three practices later.” I could only tell him, “That’s just what guys do.”
Update II: I have heard so many opinions from readers about this post. Some of you think I am a boneheaded Dad who has put his son on track to become a sex pervert. One of you told me you read the post and immediately took your son out to eat at Hooter’s. As the debate raged, I was thinking that there is one voice we haven’t heard from and that is a Hooter’s waitress. So at my next opportunity, I plan to talk to a Hooter’s waitress or two and ask them what they think about 11 year old boys coming into the restaurant. It might be interesting.