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for December 1, 2004

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Act Your Age
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Let's have a look at ourselves. We're smart, we're interesting and our socks often match. We're old enough to know better and sometimes do it anyway, whatever it is. We've led fascinating, occasionally scandalous lives and hope nobody has the negatives. What are we to make of this?
Children are not just dumb little adults with dumb taste in music and clothing. We know this because we vaguely remember being five, eight, twelve and sixteen; memory being the tricky business we realize it is when we've left our driver's license in our other Gucci bag, we tend to dismiss or discount the bits we dislike. For instance, if you think - really think - about yourself, your behavior and how truly stupid you were, you'd know children probably shouldn't be tried as adults until the hormone drip quits right around age thirty. Teenagers are not adults, whether they look like hookers or sound like physics professors. Adults are not children, no matter how much Oil of Delay gets slathered on or how little commitment they can tolerate.
The truth is: an age of majority is just a construct, an idea. Some people never grow up, but we're not really interested in them, here. We're talking about people who at a certain age, whatever it was, decided that not only weren't they kids anymore, but that no one else gets to have a childhood either.
The irony of this situation is these are the same blabbermouths squawking about how children are our future and should be protected while voting down inconveniently expensive school budgets that would help guide the little dears on their way to productive and unindicted adulthood. In the story, the school principal abruptly ended a dance when kids did what kids do at dance parties and - this may come as a shock - school dances: they shook their nubile groove thangs. We as disinterested fellow adults have to ask ourselves two questions:
What were those kids supposed to be doing, if not dancing at a dance?
Can there be any question this principal was a teenage geek?
There's a fine line between prudence and absurdity, dumb fashion and a fire hazard. Personally, Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love thinks some hip-hop attire would actually look better en flambé than on a healthy, young frame, but that's a question of taste; some garments have become exercises in symbolic representation, as when shirts are so brief as to suggest the idea of a shirt, rather than a covering for the torso, preferably in natural fabrics. It is perfectly okay for a school to demand students conceal scant undergarments or forego revealing outerwear, which sounds like common sense to us because our moms were frugal enough to bang into our thick skulls the difference between school clothes and play clothes.
For one thing, no one - no how - should play intramural dodgeball in a thong. No, no, this should never be, and we can be sure that at some point, there'll be a war crimes trial in The Hague over this vital issue.
The one troubling aspect of this story is that after a dance, chaperones found underwear and condoms on the floor. If we want to push our paranoia and vague conviction that teenagers have more fun and better sex than us adults, let's consider the most ridiculous solution to the problem of keeping clothes on and hands off: electronic chastity belts. If a hand slides where we think it shouldn't, whaddya say the whole school hears that charming car alarm peel at a thunderous 150 dBs?
Seriously, there is a strange thing we should note here. Parents: your teenagers are thinking about, experimenting with or having sex. It's perfectly natural, as their bodies mature and their brains marinate in a spicy hormone cocktail. You're going to have to get over it and discuss it with them like they're smart enough to know that the one thing that'd really and completely wreck their plans for the future would be a teen pregnancy. If they're not that smart, pretend. It's uncomfortable, and maybe your parents neglected to mention the seriousness of the consequences, but so? You were stupid, and they still talked to you.
What we're seeing from parents and institutions is a degree of fright and geekiness we would be better off without where our children are concerned, and if we're smart we'll recognize it's become a mortifyingly brief jog from "FOOD FIGHT!" to "Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!" Wise up, parents and educators. Remember that kids really need to be kids, stupidity and all, and you can't protect them from everything. If you can, you shouldn't or they won't have any bumps and bruises to learn from.
Try to remember that you were once a wild kid with a bad haircut in a shag-lined van, driving around in the middle of the night, blasting bad music and hoping the girl from around the corner would let you slide a hand up her training bra, and you know what? You were an average American kid. Maybe you even got lucky, and that would still make you an average American kid. If you used condoms, you were even pretty smart. Good for you!
Let's have a look at ourselves, and hope we like what we see. We should get out and shake our groove thangs once in a while, if only to remind ourselves there's nothing inherently suspect or evil about dancing, and that dancing feels great. Let's resist the urge to litigate if our kids get into ordinary trouble, doing ordinary kid things and acting like kids, and we must insist our school systems stop acting like prissy spinsters and hysterical uncles when kids act like kids. Maybe then our kids will resist the urge to do truly dangerous things behind our backs.

©2004 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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