Thursday, May 12, 2005

Advice for Gen Y 

I have great sympathy for those of you who are in high school right now. I was lucky enough to escape by graduating in 1987, before the days of zero tolerance bullshit or administrators who showed no common sense. Okay, that last part isn't true. They were just far less likely to suspend someone for some trivial, minor, stupid offense. In my day, if we were caught passing a note in class, the worst that could happen would be the teacher reading it out loud. (Right after we'd walked three miles, barefoot in the snow... er, no, wait. After we'd driven two miles in our used clunker of a car.)

It must be difficult trying to get an actual education out of our schools, which seem to have become nothing but junior penal institutions. Ironic too, that the same baby boomers who became hippies and were burning their schools down in the 60s are the ones mostly behind all this crap now.

We are destined to turn into our parents. Or maybe not. I've managed to escape that fate -- but then, I don't have kids. Take solace in that fact when you think your parents are making your life hell. You made them what they are by sheer virtue of being born.

That said, though, there are some things you should know that will help you get through however long you'll still be stuck in high school.
  1. The teachers hate the principal as much as you do. See, in the real world, the vast majority of people who become teachers do so because they couldn't hack it anywhere else. That's not true of all of them, of course. But for a lot of them, especially if they're over forty, it means they've given up on their dreams and are just drawing a paycheck. And yes, they're just as dorky and weird as you think they are.

    Now, where do they get school administrators from? The teachers who aren't the best but who excel at politicking and ass-kissing. In other words, the principals are all too incompetent to be teachers, and they got their jobs by doing serious brown-nosing. End result, they are deathly afraid of being pointed out as the total asshat that they really are, so they become petty tyrants.

    I point this out by way of saying, "Never point this out." Just take solace in the fact that they're losers and you'll be leaving in less than four years. And, if you're ever in trouble with the principal, your best defense is to feign the utmost respect and a little fear. They get off on that. It'll stroke their ego, and you won't become a headline on CNN. "Student expelled for wearing green sneakers."

  2. Choose your battles. Now, I'd be the first person to say that school dress codes are ridiculous. Clothes only become disruptive when the school makes a big deal about them. Short of wearing nothing but a hoodie and a jock, you're not likely to disturb anyone but the grown-ups. Your friends have seen it, probably worn it, don't really give a crap. Likewise, none of you or your friends can be shocked by any possible combination of hair color and piercing. But -- it scares the adults, who don't understand it, and so they make their stupid rules. Because, when a principal says, "That manner of dress is disruptive," it really means that the divorced, 52 year-old math teacher gets a hardon every time some girl wears saggies and a cut-off top into class, or the MILF social studies teacher will jump on the skater stud who's showing eight inches of boxer briefs.

    Ah, now you know why there have been so many cases of that sort of thing lately, don't you?

    That said, while dress codes are stupid and oppressive, it really isn't worth fighting them. It will cause you more trouble than it's worth, and you're not going to be stuck in the high school prison for that long. Better to make it through with a clean record and get into the college of your choice, where you can damn well dress (or undress) as you wish. (About ten years back, there was a student up at Berkeley who became known as The Nude Dude. Yes, he wore nothing but flip flops to class all the time. His only concession to fashion was wrapping a bandanna around his junk on cold days.) (And for those of you who are interested, no, he really shouldn't have been. But isn't that always how it works?)

    Anyway... if it's a true matter of school stupidity -- like they try to bust you for saving your girlfriend's life by sharing your asthma inhaler with her (a true case) -- then fight your ass off for your rights, and make sure your parents join the battle. But if it's just a matter of having to leave your Korn hat at home or ditching the nipple rings for PE, do it. Winning in the former case will help people down the line. Winning in the latter will mean nothing, because fashions will be totally different and subject to different rules long after you've gone.

  3. To the girls: no, he doesn't love you. He really only wants to get into your pants. Or, more specifically, he just wants to stick it in you and get off so that he can tell all his guy friends that he did it. With you. In details that will become more elaborate and less truthful with each telling. If he loves you, he'll wait. When you're done waiting, if he loves you, he'll wear a condom without claiming it's like taking a shower in a rain coat. (Never wear more than one condom, guys. It doesn't provide more protection, but it does up the chances of both of them ripping.)

    Anyway, girls, if you don't love him either but just want to get laid, fine. Just make sure he uses a condom, don't forget that oral sex can also transmit STDs, and be clear from the beginning that it's just sex, and it doesn't mean you're doing anything more than hooking up. In that case, have fun with it, don't play mind games, and be sure to tell him that if you hear about anyone else talking about what the two of you did, you'll tell all your girl friends that he's got a teeny dick and couldn't get it up anyway.

  4. To the guys: by this point in your life, you know exactly what turns you on. I'm talking now to the guys who know, deep inside, that what turns them on is other guys. If your favorite part of PE is the locker room and showers, if your nuts start to tingle when you're talking to another guy, if you'd rather hang out with one or two particular male friends instead of hitting the parties to try to meet girls... and on, and on... in short, if your crotch is telling you that you're gay, don't deny it and don't fight it. There's nothing wrong with it. It's the way you're made. And if you're getting mixed signals, if you can't decide whether you want a girlfriend or a boyfriend, go with both. You're bisexual. Don't deny it, don't fight it, etc. And if your dick is telling you that you love pussy, you're straight. Don't fight it, and don't deny other guys their right to not be.

    In other words, don't try to deny or hide who you know you are. If you know you're gay, resist the urge to be the first one to call somebody faggot or to tell some blatantly homophobic joke that isn't really funny, just to show everyone else you're not that way. If you know you're gay, don't constantly talk about getting pussy and loving boobies and on and on. If you don't feel like you can be honest with other people in your life right now, at least be honest with yourself. And if you happen to have any openly gay relatives, like aunts or uncles, talk to them. Tell them you aren't ready for anyone else to know, but that you need to tell someone about it. Believe me, they won't narc you out. They were you once and, having grown up in a different time, they were probably conflicted and in the closet a lot longer and had no one to tell when they were still in high school.

  5. Corny as it sounds, spend time with your parents now. Talk to them, tell them what you feel and think -- not as a criticism of them, but as sharing yourself. Ask them about their childhood, get as many family stories as you can. Inevitably, you will wonder where you came from one day, and it's those connections to your grandparents that will be a big help. Besides, if you make your parents grandparents some day, all those stories are the perfect revenge for every time your parents told a hot date all about that cute but embarrassing thing you did in fourth grade. And if your parents aren't around that long, you'll have gotten to know them as people. Pretty soon, they actually will start to treat you like an adult. Bond with them now and it will happen faster.

  6. Don't let corporate America co-opt you. When the adults pick up on your slang, change it -- the second "get 'er done" became a marketing slogan is when it should have died in the language. Likewise, as soon as the clothes you like start to pop up at the Gap, change your style. Invent your style. Stay a step ahead of the attempt by corporations to bottle and resell you. Seek out indie bands that aren't on a mass media company label. See movies that aren't hyped to death on every bus and billboard in town. Support your own and the corporate whores will follow. Because, although you don't know it, from now until you're 25, you are the most valuable asset to corporate America. And you increase your value by not buying their lies, by not selling out your identity for the sake of their version of teen rebellion, which is just mass-market conformity. Keep making it up as you go along, and evolve constantly.

    That's what the adults do, after all. We're only making it up as we go along. It's just that so many of us stop evolving. You can win the game if you continue to grow.
And that's my advice for the moment, an early graduation present for the seniors, useful info for the rest. Maybe, come fall, I'll offer my advice for college students. Meantime, the rest of you, get cracking. You're the ones who are going to have to clean up the mess the baby boomers have made of the world. God knows, they haven't left us Gen X-ers much to work with.

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