I uttered the expression, “Kids today…” this week -- and I said it with a snarl and an elaborate eye roll, turning myself into a total cliché.
Here’s the thing: in making such precise and delineated separations between what being a kid usedto mean and what it has become, there’s no chance in hell that, for just a moment, you’re not going to feel old. I never fixate on age—except when I’m standing for ten puzzled minutes in the eye cream aisle at CVS, squinting at products I can’t differentiate between based on their glossy pink packaging, knowing I desperately need each and every one of them, if only because the commercial blocks that appear on a Clockwork Orange-style loop every evening on Bravo insist that I do. (I DVR everything and I fast-forward through those suckers, but the messages manage to sink straight in every time. Whoever tells you advertising doesn’t work is trying to sell you something.)
But concealed laugh lines aside, there’s no denying that I am of one generation and, as a teacher of high school seniors, I spend my days surrounded by an altogether different generation. I’ve straddled the two worlds for a while, but recently the kids have seriously started to annoy me.
“I’m going to need you to take two supersized steps back, Jackson, because I kind of hate having conversations with people whose breath I can feel on my face.”
“I realize that nothing has exploded onscreen in the last few minutes, Stephanie, but maybe you can harness your concentration and invest in the characters anyway. Don’t worry; that guy will have his entire head blown off soon.”
“If you don’t stop texting while I’m teaching about antiheroes, I will kill you.”
The above statements? I made all of them this week – and it’s only Thursday.
I don’t want to generalize. I’m aware that one classification can never adequately describe an entire generation. And in that generation there are some brilliant, fascinating members. I get to teach the ones who startle you with their insight, too – and those moments are pure silver magic.
The other moments, though? They’re becoming more prevalent. The moments occur with the kids who make you question your patience, who make you actually congratulate yourself on your sanity, who make you ponder what it would take to finally snap and murder someone, along with the inevitable questions of where you would bury the body and which of your shoes would offer the best traction for digging shallow graves. I’m thinking wedges would be the way to go.
What brings forth the fury? Allow me to explain:
Kids today are lazy, but it’s next-level lazy. I’ll be honest: if the art of procrastination had come equipped with a cape when I was a teenager, I would have been anointed a superhero who was given my very own invisible jet as a prize for waiting until the last millisecond to accomplish anything. But once I finally did get off my ass, I did what needed to be done. I never turned in schoolwork with an answer like, “Bc he’s mad chill.” I got that response on a homework assignment last month. An eighteen year old who can drive and vote turned that response in for a grade. I took a deep breath, circled it, scrawled next to his answer, “You’ve got to be kidding that you think this qualifies as a response to my question,” realized instantly that my response was longer than his, failed him for the assignment, and moved on with my day. Well, first I took a picture of his homework with my reaction to it and texted it to the guy that I like so that he could have a good laugh and maybe react to his sympathy for me by giving me a massage or playing with my hair for a while, which is actually kind of better than a massage anyway unless the massage involves lotion.
But I digress. Back to the kids.
Kids today need constant stimulation. I realize that I am not pointing out anything stunning, but I see that truth come to life every single day, and it is frightening to witness in close-up. I teach Film. I just did a unit on 1940s Film Noir, the Production Code, and how L.A. Confidential can be seen through the neo-noir lens. We watched the film and my students loved it – like, applauded-when-it-was-over loved it. But during moments onscreen that were quiet or cerebral or if the camera settled for more than, say, fifteen seconds on a mid-shot, there were a bunch of kids I lost. A gunshot-filled montage helped re-snare them, but I was disappointed every time that so many only respond to the loud, to the overt…to the most obvious.
What bothers me most doesn’t piss off everybody. A teacher friend of mine could instead write a diatribe in iambic pentameter about the filthy language that spews from the mouths of kids today like they are the reincarnations of Regan spewing green bile in The Exorcist. I rarely notice the profanity; after a while, it all kind of sails by, but I do notice that while many kids today might have been born without an attention span or the ability to find an alternate word for “motherfucker,” some were instead gifted with the evolutionary prowess of what’s got to be a 2nd vocal chord. Kids today are LOUD.
Here’s some more:
Kids today don’t like Rebel Without a Cause. They think Jim is too wimpy, Plato is too whiny, and that Judy looks 30.
Kids today can sleep anywhere.
Kids today like to be spoken to directly, but are surprised when an adult does so.
Kids today have had sex with more people than I have.
Kids today can watch Twin Peaks on a phone, while I used to count down hours until the new episode aired on ABC. That said, most are too busy watching Are You the One? on MTV to ever meet the Log Lady.
Kids today share way too much way too publicly without considering whether their of-the-moment sentiment should be recorded for evermore.
But the thing is, they're kids. Who they are today might change by tomorrow. And I get to watch them as they continue to morph into who they will become, and, more often than not, I feel lucky to bear witness.
And on days I feel less than lucky, I comfort myself knowing that, should I one day bludgeon a kid for incessant texting while he should be riveted to my lecture on possession film iconography, if there's one teacher on the jury, I'll walk.