Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

You're the Kids In America (Whoa!)

I'm here to explain, children.

It isn't as difficult a job as you might imagine, but many of your parents claim they are unable to convey to you some of the realities of the world. I refer here not to complex human scourges such as war, famine, poverty or disease nor to long-debated philosophical or scientific mysteries like the origin or meaning of life. Your parents have all these things figured out; they seem flummoxed instead by matters of a far less grand nature.


This has been an FAQ, if you will, of parenting long before the days of YouTube and IPODs and in many instances, the question is quite valid. Often, however, there is something pernicious at work when parents utter this query. For instance, in the Pacific Northwest there is a dog grooming outlet with the crass but amusing name "High Maintenance Bitch." This sparked outrage among some citizens and was punctuated with the familiar rallying cry among so-called concerned parents: "How do I explain this to my children?"

Well, that's where I come in. The term "high maintenance" can apply to many situations but in modern slang it often refers to individuals who have expensive tastes and therefore pose a financial strain to said person's spouse or significant other. You kids probably know this already, as it is relatively nascent lingo. When you witness a young woman walk past you with heavy makeup, expensive clothing and jewelry and a general aura of swankiness, you may say to yourself, "Bet she's high maintenance." Furthermore, the term "bitch" refers to a female dog, but has also been used for centuries as an insulting or degrading term for human females. More recently, new definitions and applications for the word have surfaced, including describing individuals of either sex who are crybabies and even as a sort of backhanded compliment to women, among many others. So the name of the aforementioned dog grooming outlet has a kind of double meaning, referring both to a female canine who might need her hair brushed and washed and as a kind of mocking reference to the previously described human female with pricey accessories. Get it? See, this explanation business isn't so difficult after all.

But, young men and women of this nation, there's more to explain. It's about your parents. You see, when they utter the desperate cry of "how do I explain this to my children" following the death of a loved one, it's quite understandable. Doing so because of a pet grooming shop or, as was recently the case in Florida, in response to Eve Ensler's popular play "The Vagina Monologues" can only reveal up to three things about the people you call Mom and Dad:

1. They're stupid. This means they really don't know how to explain relatively trivial affairs like what a vagina is.

2. They're manipulators. This means they're willing to exploit you, their kids, to advance their own social or political agendas.

3. Maybe it's both. This means they're too stupid to explain things but just smart enough to use you as a cover for their real interest, which is telling everyone else how they should live.

Since I don't know most of your parents personally, I can't definitively say which of the three applies to them. But I would be cautious if I were you. They're your parents and it's best if you love them, respect them, or at least pretend you do, and listen to them to the extent it's possible. Even so, they're going to say some things to you and about you that are either untrue, overgeneralized or misleading.

First, a lot of you are fat and you play too many video games or spend too much time on the Internet. All of this is factual, but it is also misleading. Video games and MySpace are not the end of the world, but anything can be overdone, so try to get more exercise.

Second, a lot of you listen to terrible music. There is truth in this, but it's not universal and many complaints of this nature fail to take into account that your parents, and their parents before them, also listened to some really awful music. If you're skeptical or just want the point driven home, check out Tiffany or Nelson from the 80s, Emerson, Lake and Palmer or the Osmonds from the 70s, Tommy Roe or Freddy and the Dreamers from the 60s, and Pat Boone or Fabian from the 50s. Be certain to have a trash bin or paper bag handy if you decide to listen to any of these artists.

Third, a lot of parents tend to claim that dreadful things never happened when they were your age and the problem must lie in your generation's failures. Do not listen to this. Every single generation considers its successors inferior to themselves. To be sure, there are many examples of the quality of life in the past being preferable to the present. Some things really were better in the old days. But other things weren't. For every aspect of existence that was finer in the past, there is at least one that was far worse.

Now, kids, I hope you take my explanation to heart and begin to understand. And if you can't do that, don't worry; your parents and grandparents don't get it, either.


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