Feb 09 2009
I am writing this on a new computer. I finally broke down, and bought something that didn’t use vacuum tubes. In truth, my other one finally gasped its final breath. I don’t want to say it was a tad slow, but I found it quicker to walk to the library and look up the information I needed in an encyclopedia, than to boot up the poor thing and enter cyber space.
My new computer has all its keys, too. My other one beginning to resemble the grin of Leon Spinks. I only mention this because, my son Ryan saw it and asked, “Is that new?”
When I said indeed it was, he said, “Snaps.” Then turned on his heels and started to walk away.
“Snaps?” “What the heck does that mean?”
He said, “You know… snaps.” Then he shook his head and walked away.
I have to admit, I was more than a little confused. Then I remembered a similar conversation I had with my father years ago. When I was Ryan’s age, my father said something to me, and my reply was, “Groovy.”
My father said, “Groovy?”
I said, “Yeah, groovy.”
My dad looked me in the eye, smirked and said, “There ain’t no groovy in this house boy, understand?”
I think what bothered me more than not being hip enough to understand today’s slang, was the fact that I know today’s culture is having an uncertain effect on my children. I not only hear it in their language, but I also see it their choice of music, clothing, and now, in Ryan’s case, his hair.
Like my parents, and their parents, what we see outside of our own upbringing disturbs us. I talk to a lot of parents after my shows and a common theme is that they are all happy that they don’t have to grow up in today’s teen culture. The pressure to conform is even greater than it was when they were teens. Or is it? Is it even possible to not remember being 15?
I was a walking hormone and a total teenage clod when I mustered up the courage to ask Ellen Collidge to the homecoming dance. Her reply? “Why would I go to the biggest dance of my life, with you?” Honestly, I had no answer.
“So that would be a no?” I asked sheepishly. Then I felt a zit sprout on the end of my chin. In an attempt to save face I replied rather feebly, “Groovy.” I pretended it didn’t bother me, but the fact that I remember it 34 years later says differently.
No, 15 is 15. I don’t care if it is the 21st century or the 1st century. Insecurity and self-doubt drive us to want to fit in. Remember how the kids that didn’t fit in were treated?
When you look behind the bad skin, the baggy pants, the hip lingo and the false bravado, what do you see? I see a bruised ego. And just beyond that, a little child who only wants to be well thought of, only wants to make a difference, only wants to love and be loved by their family, especially their parents. The rest is all window dressing.
So I try to look past the wild hair, the pierced body parts and the skull and crossbones tattoos and into their hearts. And then I see this kindness, and that trumps all that other stuff and puts tears of love and empathy into my eyes.
And that moves me, and moves in my heart and makes me want to reach out to my son and say, “Snapes”, just to hear him laugh at me and say, “Not ‘snapes.’ ‘Snaps.’ You’re such a loser, Dad.” And here I thought I was the “cat’s meow.”
Some things never change.
I know I’m not alone here. What about you and your kids? What kinds of strange things do they do to fit in?
Do you sometimes struggle to see the little angel buried in all that teenage malaise (or mayonnaise)?
I’d really love to know. If you’d like to tell me, please click on the Comments link above.