A Teenager’s Adult

I saw this sign for the first time in my 6th grade health class:
Teenagers!  
Tired of being harassed by your parents?
Act now!  
Move out, get a job, and pay your own bills
 while you still know everything!
 
What a stupid sign.
The fact that some twenty-plus years later I still remember where I first saw that sign indicates  just how stupid it is.
I don’t think I know everything, I remember thinking.  But I get that it’s supposed to be funny because teenagers supposedly think they know everything.  I’m not a teenager yet, but when I am I’ll still know I don’t know everything.  Nobody knows everything. What a stupid sign.
 
Its stupidity compounded, of course, by the fact that it was attached to a teacher’s desk who was supposed to be creating relationships with the very students he was insulting.  Even at age eleven, I didn’t miss that little irony.
6th Grade Health Teacher!
Tired of teaching teenagers?
Act now!
Quit, go back to school, and get a job
Where someone appreciates your sense of humor!
 
In what world would it be ok for an employee of a company to have a similar sign hanging from his desk?
Clients!
Tired of using our services?
Act now!
Cut your contract, take your business, and go find someone better
While you still think you can!
 

Coming from one of its most avid users, there are (shockingly) places where sarcasm doesn’t belong.

This blog post, however, is not one of those.

So this one’s for you, kids.  I’m going to bat for the teenagers.  You listen to me good, and should you have any overly uptight, rule-following, killjoy adults in your lives have them sit their little booties down.

We need to chat.

Why Teenagers Know Everything, 
 And Adults Would Do Well To Learn From Them

Above all, my dear teenagers, you are fun.

Ever had to sit through an adult meeting?  Let me give you a piece of advice.

Don’t.

They’re boring as crap.

Here’s what adults do in meetings:  sit, nod, pretend to pay attention, take notes, play on their phones, then use the snotty excuse that since they’re “responsible adults” they have the right to play on their phones, because adults would never do such a thing if it weren’t urgently important.  They’re lying.  Half of them are on facebook.  The other half are checking their email, because they’re bored.  Just like you would be doing (and sometimes are) in your classes if teachers weren’t so nazi strict on anti-cell phone use.  The real truth?  Half the adults you know would die if they had to sit through a seven hour school day without access to their crackberries, iphones, tablets or devices of choice.  You, teenagers, aren’t that weak.  You make your own fun.  Half of you figure out how to work your devices in the most subtle of treasonous ways (under your desk, while pretending to pull a folder out of your backpack, in a hoodie pocket or acting like you’re just “entering homework due dates”) but the best of you…the best of you don’t need internet.  Life is fun regardless.  You draw random genitalia on desks, notebooks, and sometimes your homework.  You listen carefully for any sexual double entendre, then snicker when your teacher innocently states that an invading army came and went.  The following picture would make half of you pee yourself with unbridled, joyous laughter:

Weather_Warm_Front.JPG

Of course, the other (more innocent) half of you would be completely lost, which would result in silent confusion, whispered clarifications, and awkward three-minutes-too-late giggles.  Which would only exacerbate the original instigators, thus leaving me with absolutely no control of my classroom…but that’d be ok, because I would be trying to cover my own hilarity at a weatherman penis by tsk-tsking you while simultaneously hoping no one sees my shoulders shaking from the humor.

Life is fun.  You know that.  It’s why you try and crawl out my classroom windows.  It’s why you show up to class 10 minutes late with grass stains and a frisbee and tell me some long and involved story about being captured by elves and unable to escape “…so sorry I’m late, Teach!”

You have hit that perfect balance between carefree childhood and boring responsible adulthood that gives you the best of both worlds.  And I’d rather spend a day in your world – who am I kidding – I’d rather spend my whole career in your world, than an hour in an adult meeting where people chuckle at a “joke” about data.  Give me your entendre-filled responses with a sneaky grin, your silent-reading-is-a-full-contact-sport take on life. You sit all day, seven hours a day and study academics.  Often, in dry and uninteresting classrooms. (Despite my choice of a profession, I’m not going to pretend that all teachers are rock stars.  Or that all teachers are all rock stars, every day.) You sit through lessons on Biology, Geography, Language and Literature, some of which interests you and a large portion of which probably doesn’t.  But you still get through it.

And you laugh.  And build artistic sculptures out of the file folders, stapler and three-hole punch on my desk.  Which always makes me smile.  Even as I grumble taking it apart for the thirtieth time to try and find my scissors buried somewhere underneath.  Kudos to you.  I wish more people appreciated your creativity with office supplies, although when they don’t that doesn’t seem to be a major concern for you.  You see right through their pompous, condescending adult snobbery.  And, to my delight, you then call those pompous adults on their nonsense.  Because in addition to being fun, my dear teenagers, you see everything.

And you have no filter.

Now don’t get too egotistical on me, teenagers.  You might see everything, but that doesn’t mean you know everything.  No one really knows everything, but that’s ok.  Who really cares what the square root of 743 is?  Or what it’s actually like to pass through a black hole?  Knowledge isn’t everything.  But perspective can be.

And nobody in this world has perspective like a teenager’s.  You’ve just got to trust that there are adults out there who want to see it.

“Jen,” I ask.  “Why did you refuse to do everything I asked you to in class today?”
“This class sucks.”
“Really?  Why does this class suck?”
“Because.”
“Because why?”
“Because you tell me what to do.”
“I tell you what to do.  And you hate being told what to do.”
“Yeah.”
“Sucks to be at the mercy of someone else…”
“Yeah.  Authority sucks.”
“Authority sucks?  Lemme guess…you don’t think anybody’s better than you, so nobody should be able to tell you what to do.”
“Yeah.  I have a problem with authority.”

Yeah, Jen?  So do I.  Especially when I think “authority” consists of a bunch of idiots.  And teenagers don’t tolerate idiots.  So good for you.  I’ve seen you call out more idiots than I care to count.  Oh, my dear teens, you are brutal when you want to be.  But always, ever, only brutally honest.

“You’ve got to behave in Mr. Smith’s class, John.”
“Why?”
“Because he’s you’re teacher.”
“Yeah, but he doesn’t like kids, so why should I do anything he says?”

You’re right.  But my job and my responsibilities demand that I give a long explanation as to why you still need to behave for him.  So I will.  And afterwards, I’ll feel a little disappointed in myself for having towed the party line.  Because you’re right.  Mr. Smith doesn’t like kids.  You see that.  You see everything.

And those of us that know you, know you speak the truth.  Too much of the truth, sometimes for our reserved politically correct tastes.  It’s hard, once you get past the teen years, to shake that veil of propriety and call it like it is.  But I’d like to be a little more like you, teens. Maybe a little less rough around the edges, admittedly, but more like you.

I’d like to call a teacher out when he/she sucked it up big time.   Because even in college, grad school, and after, teachers still totally suck it up.

I’d like to cry at lunch over a simple misunderstanding, yell at my parents when they make me mad, or drop everything for my friends when they need me, even if that means skipping class and getting in trouble for it later.  You see people as they are, and you react as you are.

No sugar coating, euphemisms, or toning-down necessary, thank you very much.

Which is why, teenagers, it means so much to those of us who know you know everything when you throw us a bone.  We’ve hit the age of self-mastery, of responsibility, of boring repression.  Even those of us on the spunkier end of the spectrum will admit we don’t live quite like we did as teens.  And even on our best days, we can learn from you.

Silly string is fun.
Propriety is not.

Friends are everything.
Idiots are not.

Call it like you see it.
Why pretend otherwise?

When I want the truth screw my adult friends.

When I want the truth, teenagers, I will always come to you.  Because you give it to me straight.  Painfully straight, yes, but without the oily veil of fake kindness.  And, once I get over the sting of that truth, I will always be grateful to you.

“Tell me, guys.  Was yesterday a really bad class?”
“You want the truth?
“Yes.”
“You won’t get mad?”
“No.”
“Even if it’s not appropriate?”
“No…I don’t think so.”
“You were kind of a bitch.”

Yeah.  That’s what I thought.  And of course you picked up on it.  And though I might have to give you the obligatory chat about curbing your language, I get it.  I totally get it.

I was a bitch.

But the fact that you considered it worth your time to tell me that will give me some faith in myself.  Because teenagers choose their adults carefully.  And it’s always an honor to be a teenager’s adult.

So thanks for your faith in me, teenagers.  You’ve taught me a lot.

And the greatest gift in my life will be if you let me continue being your adult.

So tell the idiots to shove it and go build a tower out of office supplies.

I, in the meantime, will be waiting with the elves and a frisbee for the next round of fun.

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2 Responses to A Teenager’s Adult

  1. LibraLabRat says:

    Tonight may be a "Guinness and write a remora like blog post to latch onto my Yoda like teacher mentor from the Interwebz" night. Today someone turned the SUCK knob up to 11 and ripped it off. Then stabbed me in the eye with it.

  2. Absolutely brilliant 😀 One of my favorite blog posts of all time.

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