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by cathyjwilson
JANUARY 20, 2012 11:24AM

Teen Mom 2: Coal mining, child support, and self-doubt

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Where to begin this week with Teen Mom -- coal mining? Child support? Jenelle's ability to somehow convince everyone in her life that her often delusional perspective makes total sense? Let's take these topics on, inverted pyramid-style. 

Teen pregnancy, class, and coal mining 

I never thought I'd see the day when two of the topics that really interest me -- teen pregnancy and coal mining -- would intersect, but this episode made subtle mention of them. Leah briefly mentions that her husband, Corey, is taking a coal mining certification test. Later, Corey makes a quick remark about spending his days working in a coal mine. 

Leah and Corey live in Elkview, West Virginia, a city surrounded by coal mines that sit just an hour and a half from Raleigh, West Virginia, where the Upper Big Branch mine disaster killed 29 coal miners in 2010. When mining companies are lax about following -- or in some cases blatantly ignore -- safety regulations because they want to maximize profit, coal miners are put in extreme danger.

The job already puts coal miners at increased risk for health problems such as black lung, not to mention the higher rates of heart, lung, and kidney disease found in those who live in mining communities.

I wonder how much of Corey's decision was based on his own socioeconomic standing. The Charleston area's unemployment rate has steadily been decreasing, dropping from 7.6 percent in June 2011 to 6.4 percent in November 2011, but Corey is also limited in his job search because he has a high school education and needs a full-time, decent-paying job because he has a family to support -- and coal mining jobs have an average starting salary of $60,000 per year. That's quite a luring paycheck for someone with a family and no college education. 

With 17.8 percent of West Virginians living below the poverty level -- higher than the national average of 14.3 percent -- residents are already at a disadvantage class-wise. The percentage of people with a high school diploma is 3 percent below the national average, with the percentage of people with a bachelor's degree 10.4 percent lower than the national average. Born into this socioeconomic scenario, teens like Corey and Leah would have to work harder than many to move above these statistics. Add two children into the mix, and Corey likely sees coal mining as one of his only options -- which is an unfortunate predicament considering how dangerous it is.  

It's this cycle that keeps low-income people in coal mines, putting their health and safety at higher risk than higher income people who can afford a college education that won't leave them in the coal mines (they'll have equally or more lucrative career options with less danger to their health and safety). I know Leah gets some type of compensation for the show, so I'd be interested to know how that all works and to hear his motivation for choosing this job. 

Jo and child support

This argument is a he-said, she-said battle. Kailyn says that Jo isn't around when Isaac visits him, and that Jo wants to split Isaac's expenses right down the middle -- something she thinks is unfair given their unequal incomes and the fact that Jo still lives at home with his parents. Jo thinks that Kailyn is trying to get Jo to support her -- claiming that she wants to live off him and the government, refusing to get a better job because she wants to work with her boyfriend. 

I'm not sure what the arrangement was, but Kailyn isn't in the wrong to formally ask for child support. They've had trouble in the past coming to verbal agreements when it comes to custody and had to go to court for that, and Kailyn seems to be struggling even with nonprofit assistance with her housing. Jo isn't supporting Kailyn, but providing her with money to feed, clothe, shelter, and provide for Isaac -- costs they should be splitting down the middle anyway. 

And does anyone else take issue with Jo just devolving to call Kailyn a bitch whenever he isn't getting his way? She's a bitch, a piece of shit, etc., always being called these things in front of their son -- it just makes me cringe.

Jenelle's running mouth  

As an aside, does anyone else notice that Jenelle speaks so assuredly that everyone around her just nods their head, agreeing that her logic makes sense, when really she is just spouting bullshit? I think I've heard her say that she needs to "get established" and "establish herself" about 974 times ever since her episode of 16 and Pregnant, and I still have no idea what it means. 

It's very peculiar, literally watching someone deceive themselves on camera -- watching a teenager talk pretty maturely as if she knows everything about the world but then lives as that immature, still-learning young person who only seems like she actually knows what she's talking about. Having the knowledge -- yes, I need to go to school and get a job and stay away from my deadbeat boyfriend -- to create a formula for success, but completely not listening to her own advice. 

I think I find it fascinating because I have a tendency to try and find assurance in my own decisions by talking to other people, explaining my thought process and the reasons why I did something in an effort to really convince myself -- rather than them  -- that my decisions were the right ones. I think people especially do this when they know deep down they're making poor decisions, but they want to display a confident exterior so people won't question or challenge these poor decisions. 

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