Friday, January 8, 2010

Teenagers and Black Panther Moments

Little kids are hard. They produce horrific smells, require near-constant wiping, get random untreatable fever viruses (instead of strep), and have to be supervised all the damn time or they will burn down your house. But littles are unambiguous. They need you to love, feed, care and protect them or they will perish. Also, they adorable and snuggly. Teenagers are a different story. They are hard and they are complicated. They're also oblivious to the havoc they wreak on everyone around them. But one thing about them is easy: laughing at their self-important drama. Some quick examples:
  • "I can't do the dishes right now. [pause] This is an emergency! Seriously. Jenny and Tom just broke up. Dude! They have been together FOR TWO MONTHS."
  • "Nothing will ever be right AGAIN. Because the browser on my on my phone is BROKEN."
  • "What do you mean 'do I know what time it is'? I've been playing HALO for like 13 hours. So, I am awesome. At HALO. That's what time it is."
  • "You hate me and you never want me to be happy! I met him on the internet, SO WHAT?! Omigawd. He is NOT a sex offender. He is a TATTOO ARTIST. What is your PROBLEM?!"
Their total lack of perspective and tenuous grasp of reality make them fodder for people like me and Kate. And in all seriousness, it may be the only way to deal with them. Otherwise they make you crazy. Not like maybe you should consider medication, or taking up smoking, or getting weekly massages crazy. More like 'help me not wait by the front door with a hatchet if this child is 20 minutes past curfew again' crazy.

And of course, it's because you love them so much that your heart physically pains you, your anxiety level is causing early hypertension, and you are shocked/horrified/shamed that they are capable of being such frigging kumquats. But. They. Are. So we must pour another glass and make jokes at their expense. It's how we roll. We must get through the wasteland of adolescence until they return to us as adults.

How do I know these things? Other than having been a truly horrible adolescent myself? Well, I don't have much teenager street cred, I admit. I have only had one and I only had her for a year. My sister, Lucy, moved in with us last year to finish up high school. She'd had a bad couple of years and decided that living with her "normal" family - me and the Cap'n - might help her get back on track. Heh heh heh - she thought we were the normal ones. (See guest post on Radical Parenting for the back story).

Teenagers, particularly on certain subjects, are shameless know-it-all pains in the ass. On things that they really know nothing about. They are earnestly self-important and know everything. They are the arbiters of all things cool (and you need not bother to have an opinion). [The SAW movies are cool? Really? No. No, they're not.] And these characteristics make them delicious targets for SNARK. Let me give you two examples of how easy teenagers can make it to mock them ruthlessly. And of course, as this is Lydia, I have included at least one example of how I am also a jackass.

First, politics. During the last presidential election, I was informed that no one my age could have any idea of the "real significance" of Barack Obama. Regardless of one's political views or vote in the last election, I think everyone got the historic significance of Obama's place on the ballot. Yet, you see, my advanced age (mid 30's) deprived me of the perspective required to really get it. To be able to put the election in proper social, historical, or cultural context. I was annoyed. But mostly amused. Before I could comment, the channel was switched. We landed on the news, which was reporting voting irregularities in Philadelphia. Specifically, that Black Panthers were at polling stations with the intent to intimidate voters.

Lucy suddenly looked confused. Then she said: "Black Panthers? Like... in cages? Or... on leashes?" And her thought bubble showed Elmer Fudd throwing a huge t-bone across a polling station for the panther to pounce on and Elmer then scrambling across the room to vote for John McCain.

It's ok. You can laugh. I did. Like I said, they make it EASY. We now refer to these episodes as "Black Panther Moments" - followed by a panther snarl. These moments can be identified by someone acting all superior, quickly followed by them saying or doing something irretrievably stupid. They are not to be confused with "Blonde Moments" - which is essentially just stupidity in action. Or "Mommy-Brain" - which is when exhaustion and sleep-deprivation yield ridiculously absurd statements. Like the time I told the Cap'n I was going to kick him in the labia. Yes. Labia. He was like "Excuse me? You're going to do WHAT? All right... Then I will simply kick you in your prostate."

Unfortunately, Lucy was in the room when I said that and I think she may still be laughing. Also, she now uses the phrase "kick you in the labia" with disturbing frequency. She has added her own nuances, as well. Like, "I'm gonna square up and ..." Or "Hold on! Let me go put on my steel toed boots and ..."

Here's another example: Music. I used to drive teenagers around in the Big White Tampon - lots of them -multiple times per day. And every single one thought they were entitled to take control of my iPod upon entering the vehicle. And then comment on what was on it with the attitude of a French chef reviewing the cheeses of Wisconsin. "Non. Non. Mon Dieu - NON! Hmmmm... Non." You get the idea.

My iPod has over 4,000 songs on it. I love it and it is my precious and I never said you could look at it, let alone pick it up and describe to me its deficiencies. Just because you "file share" (i.e. illegally download) mp3's like its your job and therefore have access to the new Lil' Wayne album before it comes out does not make you an expert on music. It makes you guilty of criminal internet piracy. And that techno 'band' you had the temerity to claim is better than Radiohead? It's not a band. It is two dudes from Latvia with a laptop.

And that *new* song you claim to love and can't believe I already have on my iPod? It's called 'Total Eclipse of the Heart', jackass. It's about as new as I am. Oh, and then another one chimes in, snarking that everyone knows that song is like super old, like eighties old and its like, a Bonnie Raitt song. At the time I wondered why the teenager in question didn't call it a Bonnie Franklin song?

Black Panther moment. Rrrrrawr.

There are a million other examples. Like how Taco Bell is preferable to anything they can get at home for free. I mean, seriously, they eat Taco Bell with the ferocity of a starving Soviet dissident just released from the gulag. But they wouldn't get that either. The drive thru window at the Border should come equipped with a Panther.
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