I think about you all the time. Sometimes with anger—because, let’s face it, you tend to be very loud and inappropriately expressive on the subway—but more often with affection, because I know how hard this time is for you, and you are cute and don’t know what the hell you are doing, like yearlings whose legs are still wobbly.
I’m 33, so I’m right at that adult crossroads where my attitude towards teens can go one of two ways:
1. I become one of those old cranks who think everyone younger than them is an entitled, bratty wuss with a lot of outlandish tech toys.
2. I become one of those simpering adults who are like, “I know what you’re going through—it’sso hard to be a youngster,” and I put my hand on your shoulder and you’re like, “What are you, my guidance counselor? Get off me.”
To figure out which of these two competing outcomes I’m destined for, I thought I would make a case for each of them, Debate Club–style.
Path Number One: Being a Teenager Is Way Easier Now
You all have phones that your parents can’t hop on. My dad used to get on our landline at home and interrupt phone calls with my friends by saying, “Is this really something you can’t talk about tomorrow at school?” And I would want to die.
You have access to your heroes. When I was 15 I used to cry myself to sleep with how much I was in love with Dana Carvey and how I would never, ever get to meet or talk to him. Now, Dana Carvey would be on Twitter and I could send him Vines all day of me doing the Church Lady and we’d probably be collaborating on a pilot.
Your bodies develop so much faster now. Thanks to genetic modification and hormone injections, the meat that’s around now is basically making you all into Marvel Comics mutants. You get your periods at what, like eight? You have double-D boobs at nine? How cool is that? I started menstruating in ninth grade. I spent all of eighth grade faking that I had my period, down to sticking Kotex in my underwear in case anyone needed proof.
Computers. You can do your homework on your computer and bring your computer to school and it’s not even that heavy in your backpack. When I was growing up, there was only one kid whose dad was rumored to own a laptop computer, and everyone thought that meant he was a pedophile. As a teen, I was forced to handwrite essays. In cursive, guys. Do you even know what cursive is? It’s this pretentious, fancy handwriting so annoying it makes you want to curse. Actually, do you even know what handwriting is?
Path Number Two: Being a Teenager Now Is Bullshit
You cannot escape your teenage years. I was disgusting as a teenager. My hair was greasy, I smelled weird, I wore stretchy boot-cut jeans two sizes too small, and I had terrible cystic acne that frequently gave me whiteheads. Whiteheads on brown skin. I was a monster. But according to the Internet, I never really existed until I was 22. I am so lucky.
Everyone has to be everything. I was a pretty good student and had a couple of decent extracurricular activities, but I was by no means the best in my class, or even near the top. But I was still accepted into an Ivy League college. Now it feels like you need to be a straight-A student, speak an obscure language, and also have spent a year living with brown bears or something to get into college. In the 90s you just had to be a pretty good kid and do O.K. on a standardized test.
You have to manage all your online personas. I would die if I were 15 and had to fill out a Facebook profile PLUS a Twitter bio PLUS update an Instagram to make myself appear cool and beguiling. And that’s all on top of doing homework and chores and stuff. Also, I am a perfectionist and have an obsessive personality—and it was like 10 times worse when I was a teenager—so I basically would have never completed high school if social media had existed.
Live TV is basically gone. When I was a kid you would go home and everyone would be watching the same episode of The X-Files or Friends, and the next day in school you’d all gab about how scared you were or how much you wanted to lose your virginity to David Schwimmer. Now no one watches any scripted television the actual time it’s on, and it doesn’t matter anyway because TV’s basically all singing competitions.
I guess it is harder now. I don’t envy you guys. Don’t put anything you do on YouTube until you are 21.