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Lynette Love knows all about the downsides of May-December love affairs. Relationships between older men and younger women aren't new, but these romantic and often predatory pairings are something she experienced growing up in Detroit. They're also the subject of her debut book, May-December Winds: And Dorothy, You're not in Kansas Anymore (AuthorHouse).
Love is well-versed in the excuses teenage girls often use to justify their May-December relationships she used to be one of those girls herself. The 44-year-old Love, a native Detroiter who just relocated to Memphis, has spent most of her adult life working in social services. She's heard countless young girls go on about their older boyfriends, how they "love them, and would do anything for them." And, she's seen many of these girls impregnated by those same men, who promptly abandon them. As a naive 16-year-old, the same thing happened to Love.
Love born Lynette Higgins is also fluent in the lame excuses men use to justify their lust for teenage and prepubescent girls. And she's the first to admit that she's no angel. Love enjoyed defying her parents by dating older men when she was in high school. But when she got pregnant, her 24-year-old boyfriend immediately changed his telephone number and stopped coming around. Love was hit with the brutal reality that she was "just another piece of ass."
"I never thought I would be an author. It's just something God put into my spirit," Love says. "It's something that needs to be talked about. There are so many girls involved with older guys. I am a survivor of this ignored epidemic and most parents are unaware or don't think it's happening to anyone they know, so I realize the need for this type of book."
Love began writing in 2004, driven by a string of incidents in Detroit and around the country that saw young girls victimized and sometimes killed by their older male suitors. She was moved profoundly by the murder of Lauren Wilson-Church, a 15-year-old Oak Park girl who developed a phone friendship with a 36-year-old man. The guy strangled her to death when they met in a park and she rejected his sexual advances. In 2005, Victoria Sandoval, an 11-year-old girl from New Mexico, confessed her real age to her 20-year-old boyfriend, who responded by raping and killing her.
Love had begun a scrapbook of all the homicides involving young girls and older men, and as the number of clippings increased, so did her desire to write a book that could potentially help make a difference a warning to adolescent girls, written in a language they could relate to and understand.
Since the book's release this year, the response from her target audience has been mixed. Some girls who've read it tell her it doesn't relate to them, or are standoffish. Love understands that denial is an integral part of what keeps destructive relationships alive. She hopes that opening up a dialogue will help.
"Some have attitudes and think they are mature enough to handle it," Love says. "On the surface, they do it for the same reasons that I did it back then money, attention, sexual power and knowledge from an older man but deeply rooted is the need for love, communication, self-worth and self-esteem."
Other girls who've read the book have had transformative experiences and, Love says, are able to see in a nutshell how common the problem is.
The author understands how easy it is to get trapped in a May-December relationship. Her home experiences reveal generational dysfunction: Love's parents are about 19 years apart, and her mother was pregnant at 16 by an older boyfriend. Love's grandmother was 14 when she got pregnant.
"I write in the book that if all the women in the family get pregnant at 16 years old, then make sure that the next girl in the family is surrounded with positive images and things so that she won't become a teen mother also."
In May-December Winds, Love points out predatory red flags that girls should watch our for in men; The book is, in essence, a self-help guide. It avoids soapbox preaching but offers advice on how to successfully bail safely on this type of negative relationship as some girls who try are harassed, stalked or even killed in the process.
It's also about sexual abuse.
"What I want to stress to these young girls and the older guys they end up dating is that this isn't just a societal issue, it's a legal issue," Love says. "What's happening is that these young girls are being raped and not realizing it. That's serious. I lost my virginity when I was 14 to an 18-year-old who victimized me. It took me until I started writing this book two years ago to realize that I was actually raped. Me crying, scratching, saying 'no' lets you know that it wasn't consensual. But I didn't know any different. That's what's happening out here on these streets, and people need to call it what it really is."lynettelove.net.
Jonathan Cunningham is a staff writer for Orlando Weekly. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.