The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh


Life is stressful enough.  And now—?  I've been getting all these alarming missives from parenting organizations about the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why."  As in, 13 reasons why this teenaged girl commits suicide—  Which is depicted on screen, as is a rape!  Yikes!  Apparently all teens are secretly streaming it, so we parents need to open up the conversation.

But then I'm thinking: What if my two teen daughters are the only teens not watching it?  And then my raising the topic would be—what do you call it?  A trigger?  It's so confusing these days!  College campuses are full of "safe spaces"—  But middle schoolers can stream suicide shows!

And my younger daughter?  She's already fluttery, like a leaf.  Sample text—and I can't convey how terrifying these words look on one's phone: "Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Please!  I'm so scared.  I don't know what to do!  Help me!"  Situation?  She was in the bathroom at Starbucks and the toilet wouldn't flush.  Fortunately Dr. Mom was right outside the door.

So with this one, driving home from school, I just ask, with an odd vague heartiness: "So. . . What movies or TV shows are all the kids watching these days?"

"All the kids?" she says.  "What are you talking about?  What kids?"

"You kids!" I say.  "You!  You and your peeps!"

"What?" she says.  "Nothing."  She goes on instead to describe her traumatic field trip.  Instead of studying tide pools at a nice quiet museum, her class went to the actual beach!  She slipped on a rock and all these kids from the Medical Magnet too-eagerly stormed her with gauze and bandages! 

Okay.  I'll let that fragile kid be.  Now it's on to my older, more sophisticated daughter.  The one with the nose ring—at least it's fake.  I ask her bluntly: "So, what's the deal with this '13 Reasons Why' show?"

 She groans.  "I already read the book back in sixth grade."

"In sixth grade?" I exclaim.

Apparently at her old middle school, everyone was reading books about teen suicide—  Which appears to have been an actual cottage industry, possibly it's own Young Adult genre.  Sheesh!  What happened to Nancy Drew?

She says she did watch the show but stopped during the rape scene, which was a bit much.  In fact, now, on social media, the show's premise had surfaced as a joke meme.  As in, "I asked to borrow a pencil.  You said you didn't have one."  Ominous pause.  "It's one of the 13 Reasons Why." Ba-dum-bum.

In the end, Dr. Mom felt a bit out of her league.  I guess I'll just have to trust that the teens are going to be fine.  And to be on hand to flush the toilet.}