After a week of teaching theatre workshops with high school kids I have begun to see myself in a new way. There is nothing like spending some time with a teenager to make you realize how old you really are. In fact, after this week, I feel as far away from â€˜teenager’ as can be.
Here are some central points I observed that seemed to be present in the teenagers I met. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a broad spectrum of teen behavior that I no longer share.
I do not seek to wear the shortest skirt I can find.
Note: This trait is shared by some adults as well.
There was a time when I thought youth was about exploiting what you got. As a result, I wore as revealing garb as I could sneak past my mother. Luckily, my cheerleading skirt came with a stamp of approval from my school. The kids I hung with this week were constantly fighting their school dress code. The skirts were short…sometimes a little too short. Boy, I am getting old. Where is that cheerleading skirt anyway?
I can make eye contact.
No matter how smart, eloquent and well-bred the teenager, they all seem to have trouble making eye contact. The lack of eye contact makes it hard to feel like you have â€˜made a difference’ (ridiculous expectation or no). I did get one particular boy to look me in the eyes. I chose that moment to offer him some constructive criticism on his technique in the theatre game we were playing. I don’t think he looked at me in the face for the remainder of my time there. I guess breaking a child’s spirit qualifies as â€˜making a difference’.
I do not laugh at everything.
This is actually connected to another point I should make.
I do not think everything relates to sex.
I believe this is the actual cause behind most of the laughing. I was guilty of saying â€˜lets do it’, using the word â€˜titillating’ (which someone asked me to define) and saying â€˜let’s play with each other’ all which caused a rash of giggles. Despite these ill-phrased comments, even when I wasn’t aware of a sexual reference, laughter seemed to emanate from these teens. I can only imagine that buried beneath my seemingly innocuous comments there lay some latent innuendo. These kids must know more about sex than I do.
I don’t feel the need to give long-winded excuses for work not done.
I distinctly remember doing thisâ€¦a lot. Realizing that people couldn’t care less for excuses is the biggest time saver of being an adult. I save myself the time and energy of coming up with all those yarns. I also don’t sign up for shit that I don’t want to do which is something I used to do at length. Also connected with this is the ever popularâ€¦
I do not spend more time trying to get out of a task- then the actual task itself would take.
This trait defies explanation yet it is prevalent. If I can get philosophical for a moment: I can only assume these two phenomena are related to the young adults’ inability to know the impermanence of time. They must feel, as I did, that they have all the time in the world. The revelation that they will not be young forever would surely influence them to not waste precious time, say, making up stupid excuses, or wasting time getting out of things. Maybe they must learn this lesson the hard way. For instance, they will suddenly be in the presence of high school students and not only will they not be a student, they will be THE TEACHER. They will start defining themselves as what they no longer resemble: like â€˜teenagers’. They will feel the weight of time every day as it shows up physically, as a wrinkle on their face, as cellulite on their ass and as bitterness in their disposition. It is not that they will wish to be young again, but rather, that they will be nostalgic for freedom from the yoke of time…the endless, ticking time bomb that reminds them every day that it is an extremely real possibility they will not achieve everything they desire. That the hopes and wishes they still cultivate even, say, in their thirties may be a factor of their very mistaken self assessment that they are still, in fact, young and therefore capable of anything and oh, yah, also immortal. It will crush them.
I am not exclusively self-referential.
Or maybe I amâ€¦re: this post.