So, the Kids are Alright?

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – March 3, 2005

…says who?

For starters, the kids themselves. Take for instance high-schooler and online XPress reader, D’Janau Morales. He argues that kids aren’t all bad as Shotgun portrayed them to be in “Tough Ass to Crack” (February 17) and cautions against generalizing about “kids today,” speaking out against my observations of foul-mouthed, overly sexualized youth.

“I can name a hundred or more kids just in my school doing something positive for the community,” he writes. “I’m so sick and tired of being stereotyped because I’m in high school and automatically am part of ‘those kids.'”

I like hearing youth speak up and defend their image. Last May 1, a guy named Felan Parker wrote the Ottawa Citizen to defend his peers against the paper’s portrayal of teenagers and “rainbow parties.” (A rainbow party is where guys get a selection of lipstick markings on their dicks from the many teenage girls who blow them.)

Like Parker, I too took issue with the choice of image that introduced the article – a provocative pre-teen girl with wet lips sucking on a lollipop. The picture and article sensationalized the issue without offering any solutions. Yet, feeling old and cynical, I kept quiet – until Parker spoke up about the same things. Then I wrote the paper to congratulate his efforts to clear the air and educate me along the way.

Enlightenment aside, I continue to support the position of people like online reader Erika Pipe who insists that youth today are indisputably more sexually demonstrative than ever before: “The only thing the kids in my Grade 5 class talked about was if they had been kissed yet.” She didn’t think about sex until her teens. She wasn’t the only one.

During my teen years, we didn’t have rainbow parties; we had Two Minutes in the Closet at parties. While they weren’t as explicit as rainbow parties, they carried all the mystery that could taunt and spook young, square kids like me.

My non-participation at those parties underlined my sexual inadequacy, and that took a while to get over. Young dudes had crushes on me, but that freaked me out. If we were boyfriend-girlfriend, I reckoned, we’d have to go to one of those parties and do stuff in the closet for two minutes and I didn’t know how. I’m telling you, if only someone in my peer group – or a ‘tuned-in’ parent – could have convinced me that the game was full of shit, then I likely wouldn’t have been so afraid of getting a boyfriend.

But would it have been a blessing to be more exposed to sex then, as are the youth of today? Or, would it have served only to intimidate the 1980s youth’s mind and mentality rather than to stimulate it? You could argue that access to sex via the Internet and teen magazines helps youth prepare for their (sex) lives, but as young people become knowledgeable at earlier and earlier ages, can they handle that knowledge? Are kids equipped “upstairs” to handle what they see in music videos and on TV?

Back in my day, a young girl’s main competition was Samantha Fox and Siouxsie from the Banshees. The former made you worry that your tits were too small, but the latter encouraged you to be artsy more than slutty.

Sort of like Hillary Duff versus Avril Lavigne?

“Same shit, different day,” online reader James Harbinson observes alongside Aaron Brown, who says that the generic teenager is “immature, insecure and full of shit.” But while it’s easy to say that “generic” is the mold of the typical teenager, and we shouldn’t take them too seriously, the context in which we’re living now is more complex than ever before.

Natalie Knight highlighted the more aggressive nature of our communities today: “Our streets are not safe anymore, no matter what time of day it is.” Nowadays, wrote Conrad Lévesque, kids are purse-snatching, mugging, swarming and terrifying other young and old folks. Clearly, not all teen cool-cat ways are benign.

To dismiss menacing kids as troublemakers, we risk overlooking that breed Steve Landry speaks of – those who “only use rough language to try to get respect and keep people at their distance as they go home to suburbs to finish their homework without any parental contact.”

Suddenly, being tough seems so sad. You only think the kids are alright.


Women With Something To Say, a celebration of dance and poetry presented by the Sanctuary Series on March 4 and 5 at 8 p.m. at All Saints Anglican Church, 317 Chapel Street (at Laurier Avenue). The Sanctuary Series is an artist- and volunteer-run performance series that supports established and emerging artists. Tickets: $15, $12 for seniors and students.


In celebration of International Women’s Day, The Carleton University Pauline Jewett Institute Of Women’s Studies presents a free lecture on March 8 by Dr. Saraswati Raju: Tensions And Resistances: Neoliberalism And Women In India. Carleton University, Dunton Tower, Room 2017 at 2:30 p.m.


The Sitar School of Toronto will feature performances by Anwar Khurshid and his students from Toronto and Ottawa, with guest dancers from Upasana Dance School on March 5 at 8 p.m. at the University of Ottawa, 610 Cumberland Street (at Laurier), Perez Building, Frieman Hall. Tickets: $15, $10 for students.


Check out Danny Michel-produced Leeroy Stagger (+3 bands) at Zaphod Beeblebrox’s third anniversary of Heard Before the Herd on Monday, March 7, 8 p.m., free.

– Sylvie Hill