I was a nightmare teenager. I drank to excess. I smoked. I took drugs. I went missing. I shoplifted. I dated men who would nowadays be tarred with nasty names for associating with underage girls. I was less of a nightmare than my sisters though, who were both worse than me. Our peers were the same, we all rebelled against society, against the norms, against authority. We saw and went through a lot of bigotry, including arrests based on the colour of skin, on the clothes worn, on mere age. There were few jobs, no minimum wage and no future. There were wars, protests, fear of the Bomb. It was a difficult time but we almost revelled in the difficulty and angst, our excuse to rave, destroy property and upset “them”.
I wasn’t looking forward to my own kids’ teenage years, let me tell you.
I just read an article that has given me pause for thought. It appears that teens nowadays have the lowest rate of smoking, drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs for many years. They are, it seems, rebelling against the very stereotype of teenagers.
I look at my kids and their friends. My daughter tells me that many of them smoke, drink, take drugs. But also, many more of them don’t. Many of them hang out online, have in jokes, references to things that purposefully go over their parents’ heads, who have a whole culture completely unknown to The Olds. They have friends from all over the world thanks to the Internet, who open their eyes to all cultures and make everything the norm. They are almost unshockable over the harsh realities of life and sexuality. They are, on the whole, incredibly liberal with their affections and outlook. They have no inbuilt bigotry based on sexuality and colour. They do have the usual disdain for the parental generation but theirs is based on disapproval of our unhealthy habits and “isms” – sexism, racism, ageism.
Yeah. My teenager disapproves of ME.
It’s disconcerting, let me tell you. They make me second guess myself and the choices I made. Did I think things through, back then, did I make those choices or did I just do what was expected of me and rebel and party and make life so much more difficult than it needed to be? Were we, as teenagers, truly rebelling, or was it any excuse to live life the easy way?
The teenagers of today seem capable of teaching the older generations as much, if not more, than we can teach them. That’s a peculiar position to be in, let me tell you.