Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Wretch (Adam)

Quotations are from this article.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am the scariest being alive: a normal teenager.

That is, I must be the scariest creature alive. Were I not, I could imagine no reason for so many people to try and explain why I make bad decisions, to say that an adult who is overly cruel and immature is "acting like a teenager", or to explain repeatedly why my generation--that is, the generation on the cusp of inheriting the Earth--behaves so horribly.

Do you not believe me?
"What was he thinking?" It's the familiar cry of bewildered parents trying to understand why their teenagers act the way they do.
Do you see how absolutely terrifying I am? When one speaks of me (when one dares), one need not even give evidence or examples. One need only say how awful all the world knows teenagers to be, and go on with what someone needs to be convinced of. One need not be told how awful I am--every creature on this Earth knows me well enough to know me horrible.
The old have always complained about the young, of course. But this new explanation based on developmental timing elegantly accounts for the paradoxes of our particular crop of adolescents.

There do seem to be many young adults who are enormously smart and knowledgeable but directionless, who are enthusiastic and exuberant but unable to commit to a particular kind of work or a particular love until well into their 20s or 30s. And there is the graver case of children who are faced with the uncompromising reality of the drive for sex, power and respect, without the expertise and impulse control it takes to ward off unwanted pregnancy or violence.
But it is not even my kind! It is me, only me, that is so horrible, so devastating in my mistakes, so awful in my effects. The only hope I may hold in my heart is that I may become better as I gain wisdom. And perhaps, maybe, that I might spare the next generation the destructive environment that made me as I am.
The good news, in short, is that we don't have to just accept the developmental patterns of adolescent brains. We can actually shape and change them.
*clear throat* Hi. Speaking as myself from here on in. Oh, and Mary Shelley referred to Frankenstein's monster as Adam in her personal notes, for those of you who are curious about the header of this post.

The article's title was the first thing to bother me. "What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind?" First of all, the 'with' in the title should be lowercase, since 'with' is a preposition. Second, imagine that title referring to any other group. "What's Wrong with the Black Mind?" "What's Wrong with the Female Mind?" "What's Wrong with the Homosexual Mind?" Yet people can say "What's Wrong with the Teenage Mind?"--on the internet or in public--without fear of reprimand. With hardly any fear of disagreement.

Thoughts have inertia. People tend to keep thinking what they have been thinking unless something radical hits--for a long time, a person who performed a good deed might be met with, "Oh, that's very white of you." The person wouldn't be a good African, s/he would be an African who was 'acting white.'

Therefore, if everyone agrees with a thought, that is probably a good thought to examine. In Heart of Darkness, the Europeans knew that the Africans were beyond fully civilizing, but could still be helped. Buried deep in this idea is another: "Africans aren't people." Oh, they may stand on two feet; they make speak; we may be able to teach them things, but they are not, at heart, one of us. So it is with teenagers. Oh, there may be good ones, of course, but a good teenager is one who is "mature", who acts like an adult. And an adult who fails this test of maturity is "acting like a teenager."

What is buried in that thought? "Teenagers can't help it." Yet this is not a reason to forgive us. It is an excuse to be suspicious of us, to try to figure out what's wrong with us. I'll be as honest as I can in text:


Okay? I'm forming as a person. I get flak for being weak--I'm a girl. I get flak for being confused--I'm bisexual. I get flak for being fat--and no, I'm not. I don't need flak for figuring myself out because everyone is.

And if you're not, you're not just dying. You're dead. You just haven't started rotting yet.

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