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'When I was Garbage' - One Teen Mother's Story
June 21, 2005 5:40 AM   Subscribe

When I was Garbage by Allison Crews at age 17, teen mother advocate and activist. "I had become garbage, worthy only to sit in my isolated desk and cry to myself and throw up in a dirty bathroom stall. I was a pregnant teenage girl."
Allison died recently aged 22. She was active in girl-mom.com, an online and in life support and education network for young mothers.
"To radically accept and defend a woman's right to choose, we must acknowledge the multiple ways that women come to make reproductive choices. By marginalizing teenage mothers, even within the feminist community, we are failing to recognize the realities of countless women and their children."
There's a report of her funeral and a website has been set up to collect memories for Allison's 7 year old son. {Allison's LJ} All of this comes via BitchPhD - her entry is also worth reading. (previous semi-related MeFi)
posted by peacay (50 comments total)

 
As a life long friend of adopted kids, A potential adoptive patent and a close friend of 2 young mothers it has seemed to me for years that the biggest problem facing young single mothers is everyone else around them.

Once anyone is pregnant who intends to keep a child moralizing and preaching has no place. A real "culture of life" would support any new pregnancy as a celebration. In a religious sense, new life should be a celebration of opportunity and community. In a social sense, a society that had proper healthcare structures and social support for Any parents would to stress over single motherhood.

yes, a young single mother has chosen a hard road, but why do people feel a need to make it harder?
posted by BeerGrin at 5:50 AM on June 21, 2005


Oh I can't believe this. This is terrible news. Allison was an amazing woman, a passionate advocate. She will be greatly missed.
posted by annathea at 6:28 AM on June 21, 2005


Her essay at 17 and her obituary at 22 should be required reading in sex ed classes. Maybe it will help prevent other tragedies.
posted by Doohickie at 6:43 AM on June 21, 2005


Suicide? You'd think that someone so intent and adament about being a mother wouldn't abandon their child like that.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:05 AM on June 21, 2005


Suicide? You'd think that someone so intent and adament about being a mother wouldn't abandon their child like that.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:05 AM PST on June 21


Yeah, that's pretty weak.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:06 AM on June 21, 2005


Doesn't look like suicide, though. No note left behind, for example. Given that she was a writer, that's pretty telling.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:14 AM on June 21, 2005


i agree that it's horrible to leave a seven-year old to deal with the legacy of a mom who checked out... however, as angry as i am capable of being with people who choose suicide, i think we have to remind ourselves of the depths of hopelessness and despair that usually lead to such a choice. she was a smart grrrl and had to know how people would react. IOW, if she chose that anyway, imagine where her head must have been.

been there myself. ain't nothing rational about it, is there?
posted by RedEmma at 9:15 AM on June 21, 2005


I feel pretty strongly that it's not anyone's place to criticize this woman. It's obvious that things were difficult for her, and I wish they hadn't gotten too difficult to live with.

I read about this on bitch. ph. d. this morning and spent an hour or so clicking through the links about her, but thanks for putting together the post, peacay.
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:22 AM on June 21, 2005


solid-one-love, Julie, Alli's partner, said it was suicide. (see her post on Alli's livejournal. She would know, I imagine.

Is anyone else disturbed that the 7-year-old being asked to speak at the funeral? "I didn't want her to die," he said. There is something in this and in the way Alli wrote of him while she was alive that seems ...I dunno... like using him as an object or prop.
posted by Cassford at 9:25 AM on June 21, 2005


I wonder what the "lovely couple" thinks about this.
posted by ackeber at 9:34 AM on June 21, 2005


What RedEmma said. All kinds of people kill themselves, and rarely does it have much (if anything) to do with the difficulty of one's economic or domestic circumstances.
posted by MattD at 9:40 AM on June 21, 2005


presumably she hasn't talked to the "lovely couple" in about 7 years, so I doubt they have much to say.
posted by soplerfo at 9:43 AM on June 21, 2005


I never read anything about Allison before, but its particularly saddening to notice how optimistic she feels by the end of Garbage. I do wish we knew what prompted this. If she could get through the first seven years of motherhood, its hard to imagine that there's anything else that couldn't have been worked through.
posted by gsteff at 9:48 AM on June 21, 2005


Doesn't look like suicide, though. No note left behind, for example. Given that she was a writer, that's pretty telling.

Is it true that most suicides leave notes?
"No, in fact a surprising number of people who complete suicide do not leave suicide notes. According to Canadian researcher Dr. A. Leenaars, who has extensively studied suicide notes, the percentage of those who leave notes varies from 12 to 37% percent."

Perhaps she felt she had written enough.
posted by prak at 10:08 AM on June 21, 2005


Who are the "Lovely Couple"?
posted by delmoi at 10:26 AM on June 21, 2005


Tom and Kat...uh, nevermind. The "lovely couple" refers to the man and woman who had been planning on adopting Alli's child when she was pregnant.
posted by Cassford at 10:45 AM on June 21, 2005


The piece she wrote about her pregnancy was remarkable stuff. Suicide, homicide or falling anvil, I'm sorry that she's gone.
posted by palinode at 10:56 AM on June 21, 2005


Suicide is often a momentary decision when it feels like life is too much. Look at Hunter Thompson's suicide. I can understand the sentiment but killing herself leaves her children without their mother and that's very tough to get around.

I don't think I could ever willingly not be there to help my son. His need far outweighs my own problems.
posted by fenriq at 11:02 AM on June 21, 2005


She was forethought personified, huh?
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:09 AM on June 21, 2005


It's often said- easier to judge than to understand. It's obvious that this person put in a lot of time for her son- including all her advocacy. That speaks for itself.
posted by bobot at 11:11 AM on June 21, 2005


Is anyone else disturbed that the 7-year-old being asked to speak at the funeral?

I read this as more of an "open mic" situation, meaning that the boy chose to go up and say something about his mom, not that he was asked to speak. This is pretty common for the funerals I've been to.
posted by whatnot at 11:13 AM on June 21, 2005


Has anyone who was close to her provided any insight as to what was going on before the suicide? It's hard to understand after the inspiring story of her choosing to keep the child. (I say this as someone who is ardently pro-choice.)
posted by graymouser at 11:19 AM on June 21, 2005


(thread derail warning!)

Graymouser- ok, you get to be a stand-in for a pet peeve of mine (so realize i'm not calling you out per se, just venting/curious)

Why did you feel like you had to qualify your statement? Is it somehow anti-pro-choice to support someone who chose to keep a child? Isn't that, in fact, the whole point of being pro-choice- supporting (and being inspired by, one could say) the woman's rights no matter what her particular decision may be?

Again, realize I'm more expressing a pet peeve than calling you out specifically- I just can't figure out why people keep expressing this sentiment as if it's some kind of crime against feminism. In my view, it's a right-wing perversion, this idea that being pro-choice = pro-abortion.

Thanks for being patient (hopefully!) with my rant.
posted by bobot at 11:31 AM on June 21, 2005


She was an amazing girl. I've handed her story "When I was garbage" to more than one set of parents with pregnant teens that didn't want abortions and forced the local high school principal to read it when he and some teachers were treating some local pregnant girls like trash.

For the record, suicide wasn't proven, it very well could have been accidental, so out of consideration to her memory, her partner Julie who is beating herself up with guilt, her parents, her friends, and for her son who will one day see all of these things, I'd like it if we could refrain from judgments about her death, please.

I wept when I first heard the news. I'm weeping again now. There are no words to express the sadness and disappointment and emptiness that her passing leaves behind. Goodnight hippest of the hipmamas, where ever you are.
posted by dejah420 at 11:54 AM on June 21, 2005


bobot - I brought it up because I am ardently pro-choice, that I find her story compelling and inspiring despite the fact that I consider abortion an acceptable moral choice. I didn't want the "inspiring" comment to sound like I'm a pro-lifer.
posted by graymouser at 12:34 PM on June 21, 2005


You know, I'm sorry but I find this story a little desturbing, it's hard to specify exactly how, maybe if I thought about it a long time.

The whole teenage pregnancy thing. I just keep getting the sense that some people view raising a child as some kind of punishment for wrong behavior. I don't think raising a child should be looked at as a punishment.

I'm reminded of some bit of TV, some documentary where they focused on a Teenage girl who had a kid, talking, and she was holding her baby. The message was "don't fuck, or you'll end up like me."

And then they had this raft of teenage mothers walking in, holding their babies, none of them looked happy, all sullen it was as if they were saying "Repent your wicked ways or end up like us, embittered and embabied!" It just struck me as weird.

Another thing that springs to mind is a comment on about a 13 year old girl who the florida government was trying to prevent from having an abortion. Some one was claming that not allowing her to have an abortion was a triumph for "individual responsiblity" or something like that, I mean wtf.

Our society makes it pretty impractical to have children at that age, maybe we should look at ways to improve society in order to make it more practical, while at the same time trying to discorage it. Or something. Whatever.
posted by delmoi at 12:52 PM on June 21, 2005


.
posted by pyramid termite at 1:10 PM on June 21, 2005


So I hate to be Mr. Insensitive, but doesn't her suicide vindicate the fact she was incapable of raising a child? That perhaps she was selfish in trying to raise it herself? Though it may not seem blatant in what I read so far, I saw a lot of teenage rebellion in trying to buck what everyone was telling her. Her constant appeal to emotions, probably due to the hormonal cluster fuck at the time, justified in her mind keeping the baby she couldn't handle.

Of course, forcing someone to do something they don't want to is perhaps the greater evil. Damn you gray areas!
posted by geoff. at 1:22 PM on June 21, 2005


So I hate to be Mr. Insensitive, but doesn't her suicide vindicate the fact she was incapable of raising a child? That perhaps she was selfish in trying to raise it herself?

Yeah, cause that SEVEN YEARS of parenting to raise the boy is just worthless, ain't it?

Mr. Insensitive is right. Also see "Mr. Didn't Bother To Read the Articles" and "Mr. Didn't Read The Comments Before Posting Inane Bullshit."
posted by dejah420 at 5:03 PM on June 21, 2005


...That perhaps she was selfish in trying to raise it herself?

Dude, you didn't read ANY of this. Her whole shtick is selfishness. Starting from when she wouldn't give the baby up to the couple more fit to raise it, following to the point seven years later where she tells the kid "fuck you" and kills herself. Michael Frigging Hutchence was a better parent than she was.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:18 PM on June 21, 2005


I read the articles and the comments and while it is tragic that she died, I can't help but also feel that it must be a loss for the idea that a person can come out of being a young mother, be vocal and, well, happy with their situation.

Ultimately, it had to be her choice, you know? And while there are going to be people in that situation who prefer to keep their babies, and those that give them up in the genuine hope of providing them a better life, I don't know for sure that either answer is the absolute best. I can't really judge what is selfish in that situation. There are people who believe that they themselves have a responsibility to raise their children, and that because that child is theirs, they owe it their best attempt, even if all evidence points to that attempt being inferior to the easy effort put forth by a willing adoptive couple. I don't know that they are wrong, but I do know that we have no right to force their hands.

It is very tragic that a person who had been surviving a very difficult life, and been a beacon to others in a similar situation, succumbed. But we can't really expect flawless heroines and perfect generals leading the charge.

I guess that I also agree with Curley though, in that the one who is going to suffer most here is her child, and that failing him like this, well, there's nothing I can really think to say about it
posted by SomeOneElse at 7:30 PM on June 21, 2005


.
posted by warbaby at 7:42 PM on June 21, 2005


I don't understand. Wouldn't she be abandoning her child by committing suicide? Doesn't this contradict all she has advocated?

I wonder why, along the way, people forget they have to live for others. :(
posted by slf at 7:52 PM on June 21, 2005


Ok...one more time. There is NO PROOF that she committed suicide. One blog entry from a grieving, guilt ridden partner does not a fact make. It is actually assumed that her death was an accidental overdose when she mixed a prescription drug and alcohol.

Could you all get off the judgment train now, please?
posted by dejah420 at 8:44 PM on June 21, 2005


dejah420: I don't mean to pick on you, but is there a link that talks about prescriptions drugs and alcohol being a potential cause of death? I read every link in the post and didn't see anything to that effect; although I may have missed it.

I didn't know of her before this post, but from what I've read I hope it wasn't suicide. Like others have said, it contradicts what she stood for.
posted by aclevername at 10:07 PM on June 21, 2005


It is actually assumed that her death was an accidental overdose when she mixed a prescription drug and alcohol.

So she was an idiot then? My hear doesn't bleed for idiots nor for people who wallow in their own victimhood. I hope her son isn't too affected by all this.
posted by jackiemcghee at 2:47 AM on June 22, 2005


Could you all get off the judgment train now, please?

The lady hiked a lift on that train way back. When you're on it, you're on it.
posted by TimothyMason at 2:54 AM on June 22, 2005


It is actually assumed that her death was an accidental overdose when she mixed a prescription drug and alcohol.

Lemme get this straight. It is suggested that she's a bad parent for abandoning her child, and the "no-no-wait-a-minute" counterargument is that she actually didn't kill herself, but instead may have accidentally drank herself to death.

That makes her a much better parent how?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:09 AM on June 22, 2005


At the risk of being unpopular, I'd like to suggest that the purpose of this post isn't (as some of you apparently believe) to determine exactly how bad a mother and hypocritical a cultural critic this woman was and then condemn her apporpriately. This sort of behaviour is part of the larger problem she was talking about, and that bitch ph.d. spoke about in her post. People tend to assume, for whatever reason, that the lives and decisions of young women are the rightful subject of society for criticism and judgment; no other demographic is treated with such moral ruthlessness or lack of respect when they are perceived to have erred in some way. Would all of you please lay off her? The news that she died is not an opportunity to start attempting to determine how bad a mother she really was. It's really appalling.
posted by clockzero at 10:12 AM on June 22, 2005


There are several generations of teen mothers in my family. As Larkin wrote: "Man hands on misery to man/It deepens like a coastal shelf." I find advocacy of teen parenthood as "just another choice" delusional and, in the end, unhelpful.

All of that said, it speaks incredibly well of Alli that she managed to inspire so many of the people she met in such a short life. RIP.
posted by Cassford at 10:16 AM on June 22, 2005


I'm reminded of some bit of TV, some documentary where they focused on a Teenage girl who had a kid, talking, and she was holding her baby. The message was "don't fuck, or you'll end up like me."

And then they had this raft of teenage mothers walking in, holding their babies, none of them looked happy, all sullen it was as if they were saying "Repent your wicked ways or end up like us, embittered and embabied!" It just struck me as weird.

Maybe it was weird, but is that such a bad message to send? I mean you add religious overtones to it with talk of repentence, but is there anyone here who actually thinks getting preggers at 15 is a good idea?

On the one hand, if a couple has an unplanned pregnancy, no matter what their age, they have a lot to deal with and they have to make the best of their situation. On the other hand, it's probably not a great idea to lionize teens who get pregnant as society's heros.

At the high school our kids attend, they have a "Miss NCHS" award, given to a girl who is supposed to exemplify the character of the girls at the school. When this year's Miss NCHS came up pregnant, I was surprised she wasn't asked to step down. I think she abdicated her role as a positive model of behavior when she got pregnant.
posted by Doohickie at 8:09 PM on June 22, 2005


The news that she died is not an opportunity to start attempting to determine how bad a mother she really was. It's really appalling.

I disagree. She appears to have used her situation as a podium, and the consequential discussions that ensue are just another part of the dialogue. There are plenty of things about her life that could be contritely criticized (her cliche sexuality, hair style, adolescent self-importance, irresponsible lifestyle -- hell, the fact that most of the photos of her that her friends put up seem to be missing a very important 7 year-old), but these would fall on dead ears at this point. But the circumstances surrounding her death appear to be at least one convincing data point against her cause.

The discussion doesn't end just because one of the speakers is silenced.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:01 PM on June 22, 2005


Civil_Disobedient writes "But the circumstances surrounding her death appear to be at least one convincing data point against her cause."

I've been quiet but I think I might enter here.

So you're saying that in order for a message from one's work to have credence, the messenger must be pure as the driven snow?

To me, and you'll note that I didn't put "suicide" in the wording of the FPP, one of the central ideas contained in this whole set of circumstances was that we all live complicated lives, that we all make mistakes, that we all hurt someone somewhere along the line, but that it's still possible to contribute in a positive manner. There is no black and white.

We are not privy to the real circumstances surrounding Allison's death. Her girlfriend wrote in a passionate manner that left/leaves me unsure. There are many different possible scenarios involving drugs and alcohol leading to a person's death and I venture to suggest that most are probably accidental. So I'm not going to suggest that you shouldn't voice your opinion, but that we don't have a coroner's report and perhaps even then, we may not really know what exactly happened.
The central message from Allison is that teens should be supported and not vilified. That message IMHO doesn't change or shouldn't be diminished just because she wasn't as completely morally upstanding as any of us might otherwise wish. Her pregnancy at an early age lead her to write down her thoughts and as we've seen above and as you noted from the links, those words and Allison's subsequent work with teens helped an awful lot of people through difficulties.

Far be it from me to tell you what or how to think. But it seems to me that there's a positive legacy here from which hope and inspiration derive, irrespective of the messenger's final circumstances and the future for her son notwithstanding.
posted by peacay at 12:17 AM on June 23, 2005


.
posted by peacay at 12:19 AM on June 23, 2005


The central message from Allison is that teens should be supported and not vilified. That message IMHO doesn't change or shouldn't be diminished just because she wasn't as completely morally upstanding as any of us might otherwise wish.

Just so you know, I completely agree. My only concern is that the message may get confused/distorted into suggesting that teen pregnancy is something that should be lauded. People make mistakes and bad choices all the time, and it is unfortunate that others use their bad fortune to moralize about what rotten people they are, when they could spend the same amount of energy in a more positive, constructive way.

But the message is two-part. First is the recognition that this is not a good life decision, but despite that, we as a society are willing to try and help, or at least not make it any worse.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:19 AM on June 23, 2005


Well, I think saying that both sides of the argument have come to the agreement that it is not a good life decision isn't entirely true.

I think a lot of one side's argument is that any negative consequences of the decision are the result of faulty parts of society, which should be changed so that it would be a neutral decision. I'm not saying that I agree, but I don't think you've characterized their argument the way that they are really thinking about it.
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:37 AM on June 23, 2005


Civil_Disobedient writes "But the message is two-part. First is the recognition that this is not a good life decision, but despite that, we as a society are willing to try and help, or at least not make it any worse."

I tend to think that in the (probable) absence of adequate education on birth control, a teen preganancy (well at least pre-18 say) is unlikely to have been a 'life decision'. But I particularly like the 2nd quote from Allison in the FPP -- her message being that the pregnant girl should be supported and educated as to her choices -- and yes of course, let those with personal relationships such as parents, advise what they think is the best course of action.

But in the end, as with the question as it relates to all women of reproductive age, it's their body, their decision and it's that right that Allison was championing. That and the fact that these young women are not 'garbage' as Allison was made to feel during her ordeal. Whether that's to keep it, adopt it out or have a termination. The essence of pro-choice.

I'm not sure how to change society's view of all this. Teenagers have sex. My understanding is that there's more emphasis on abstinence in the States than education/access to birth control methods -- teen pregnancies are going to happen. But I certainly appreciate your response.
posted by peacay at 9:38 AM on June 23, 2005


.
posted by sadie01221975 at 5:32 PM on June 23, 2005


In case anyone comes to this thread later, I wanted to link to this which states that Allison Crews died of a seizure as a side effect of Wellbutrin, not suicide.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:37 PM on July 17, 2005


Thanks a lot hydropsyche. Obviously it doesn't answer all questions but this hearsay* points to at least a better picture for her son to recall in the future.


*By this I just mean that it's a website and not the coroner's official report.

And BitchPhD's take:
"Not suicide.

So all the assholes I saw out there in the blogosphere talking smack about how suicide proved that she wasn't such a great mom after all? I hope you are really fucking ashamed of yourselves for insulting the memory of a dead woman, and insulting the memory of her orphaned son's mother.

Go join Rick Santorum in the "shithead" pile, you judgmental bigots. Maybe you can climb out someday if you learn not to be so fucking sanctimonious about other people's lives that you know nothing about."
posted by peacay at 7:59 AM on July 18, 2005


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