The short story, “Where Are You going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates explains how a young girl was struggling to find herself. Oates writes about a girl named Connie who was 16 years old and was lost in a world of fantasy. Connie had a split personality/image while at home and when she was out with her friends. Living in a world of fantasy, Connie would ignore her family by tuning them out and being distant. Connie would constantly be in front of the mirror admiring herself and seemed self-centered. Her mother always nagged at her and wanted her to be more like her sister June. June was the child that did everything right in her mother’s eyes; Connie was like the black sheep of the family. With these expectations, Connie felt resentment towards her family, especially towards her mother, “She makes me want to throw up sometimes,” (Oates 200). She was her own person and was nothing like her sister June; she’d only wished her mother would see that. Connie mostly kept to herself while at home and often listened to music; listening to rock music was Connie’s way of escaping from the real world into her fantasy world. It set her at ease rather than listening to all the bickering and nagging. While out with friends her persona was totally different; Connie was very gregarious, “she had a high, breathless, amused voice” (Oates 200). Connie’s father on the other hand, was a workaholic, mostly absent; he never really did tell Connie what to do. Being that Connie’s mother always compared her to her sister she felt worthless; but when she went out, she felt a sense of belonging and worthiness. Connie became rebellious; while going to the “movies” with her friends, she was really going to the drive-in where the older kids hung out. Her appearance changed when her parents weren’t around. Clothes would be changed or modified. For example, when Connie would leave her house with her friends, she would be dressed appropriately in a pull over jersey; but when she would be out, where there were no parents around, the jersey became shorter than normal being brought up showing skin and thrown off her shoulder. Modifying her clothes was her way of feeling older and more attractive towards boys and even men. The sense of men catching that attraction made Connie feel good about herself and her sexuality; it boosted her self-esteem. But little did she know that attention would cost her life. Oates’ short story is still relevant after 45 years because modern parents are even more absent from their children’s lives, young girls are being sexualized earlier and social media brings more predatory threats to teenagers. The absence of a parent mentally, physically, and emotionally can lead a child to become rebellious. The feeling of being neglected and not “loved” makes one look for “love” in the wrong places. Connie’s father worked and was emotionally absent at home, “When he came home he wanted supper and he read the newspaper at supper and after supper he went to bed.” (Oates 200) From all the nagging and jealousy that Connie’s mother acted upon, she was also emotionally absent in Connie’s life. When a child does not have supportive and positive parents, they are lost and don’t know how to act. When a child is being wild and rebellious, that is simply a cry for help. Inside, they are suffering from neglecting of their parents which leads to feeling worthless like Connie felt. Instead of Connie being able to go to her mom and talk about girl problems, she ignored her and didn’t want anything to do with her, “Connie wished her mother was dead” (Oates 200). A mother is supposed to be a person a child can go to with their problems and when in need of advice. When children are feeling neglected and not loved, they go out to the wrong places and meet the wrong people. In today’s modern society the issue of teenage girls dressing seductively and teasing boys has increased enormously. Teenagers take advantage of the fact that their parents are not around enough and are going to places that are not appropriate such as clubs or parties. While being out, they make themselves appear to be older and send wrong messages, they are flirting with danger. It happens more with single parents or in the absence of both parents. When there are parents involved physically, mentally, and emotionally, kids don’t have that need or desire to be rebellious. Music influenced Connie’s exploration of sexuality. She mostly listened to Bob Dylan’s music. Connie hears music all the time in her head; the music made her feel sexy; it probably led her to want to be sophisticated and appealing. Today, the media, fashion, and children have seemed to worsen compared to 45 years ago. Kids are more involved with their friends rather than their families. The importance of appearances is now a teenager’s priority. Fashion is influenced from the music and film industries. In music today the three most common subjects are money, sex or drugs, very sad but true. Women are exposing themselves sexually in music videos and movies, making kids want to do the same. Internet is also another type of media that promotes dating and uploading inappropriate photos. It seems that the teen pregnancy rates have increased, “In 2011, a total of 329,797 babies were being born to woman aged 15-19 years,” (CDC). Teenagers like Connie are very naive and impressionable. Teenagers like Connie are pure and innocent and are targets for getting stalked by predators whether it is in the community or online. Oates explained how people can appear to be someone they’re not; for example, by changing their physical appearance. Oates’ story was a good example of predators appearing to be younger than what they were. Arnold Friend, who was a thirty-year-old man, made himself appear younger, “He had fair brown hair, with a lock that fell onto his forehead. His sideburns gave him a fierce look” (Oates 203). He dressed like a teenager and drove a convertible jalopy which caught Connie’s eye at the restaurant. Arnold Friend, like most predators, knows exactly where to prey on young girls, the restaurant. Facebook is the modern example of a “drive-in” where predators choose to prey, “Facebook can be a highly dangerous place, especially for naive and impressionable teens”, (Facecrooks). Predators, like Arnold Friend, know exactly where to go to get what they want. The youth today, are putting their whole life story, from exposing themselves through their statuses, to uploading revealing pictures on the internet, (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), which gives a lot of information to strangers. “It’s a recipe for trouble: naïve teenagers, predatory adults, and a medium- the internet- that easily connects them.” (FBI.Gov). There are many teenagers being preyed on daily for example, “John Zimmerman is a 26-year old who used to be the tour manager of The Getaway Plan, a teen band which is now inactive. Zimmerman was recently laden with 87 charges, particularly 23 counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years old, 3 rapes, and multiple counts of indecent acts and using the Internet for procuring minors and child pornography. He claimed 55 victims in nearly four years, right up until he was arrested last November 2009.” (Facecrooks). Zimmerman, like Arnold Friend, acted to be someone he was not, he told young girls he was a tour manager and would give them backstage tickets to the upcoming shows, he made himself appealing to reel in the young girls, “He knew just what to say and how to say it in order to make the teens trust him” (Facecrooks). Oates’ story is even more relevant today than it was in 1966. The society is based on children having absent parents, and a lack of discipline or guidance. The music and film industries are sending wrong messages, highly influencing our youth. Predators are everywhere online or in the communities; our children really need to understand the importance of “stranger danger”. The story showed that young girls are easily taken advantage of, and they are easily manipulated in to doing things they should not be doing, just like Connie. By the time they realize that flirting with danger is not a good idea, it can already be too late. Oates wrote the story to send a message: be careful what you wish for, and act your age. Looks can be deceiving and sending the wrong messages can result in serious matters such as rape or even death. Works Cited
1) CDC Centers For Disease Control and Prevention “Teen Pregnancy”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. Births: Preliminary data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2012; 61 (5) Table 2.
2) Facecrooks. Facebook Sexual Predator Claimed 55 Victims.
Keeping the Kids Safe on Facebook. Copyright 2009-2013.
3) The FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation “Stories”
FBI.Gov is a official site of the U.S. Government, U.S.
Department of Justice
4) Joyce Carol Oates. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Literature and the Writing Process 10e. Eds. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X. Day, Robert Funk, Linda Coleman. Boston: Pearson, 2014. Print. 199-214.
Cited: Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. Births: Preliminary data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2012; 61 (5) Table 2. Boston: Pearson, 2014. Print. 199-214.