Archive for April, 2015

The Teenage Phenomenon

Posted: April 1, 2015 in Non-fiction
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When you think of the “modern teenager”, not a lot of positive images come to mind. Things like juvenile delinquency, self-harm, smoking, alcohol, drug use, and distrust and disrespect for authority. Now think of an “average teenage girl”. Shallow, covered in makeup, and caring way more about clothes than any kind of intellectual topic. Just the fact that shows like “16 and Pregnant” and “Jersey Shore” exist says something about the perceived average teenager. The sad part is that stereotypes are based in reality. Even sadder is that often, it doesn’t stop at twenty.

I’m by no means saying that all teenagers are like this – that’d be pretty hypocritical of me, wouldn’t it? – but the truly average teenager displays at least a couple of these traits. I think the problem stems from teenagers being physically mature and really ready to take care of themselves, but not given even an opportunity to take on the responsibility of adulthood. The teenage phenomenon is when people are in a state of being responsible to no one, sometimes including themselves, where they care mostly about their social life and their own pleasure. This is currently a normal part of life, but it hasn’t always been, and it can be dangerous when people remain in that state for too long. When adults who are still in that state influence actual teens, then you get in serious trouble.

The whole idea of a teenager in its current form, a person between childhood and adulthood, is a concept less than a century old. My great-grandmother was married by the time she was my age, and my grandmother was supporting herself by teaching primary school. Historically, people were children until they were adults. From before the middle ages right up until the Victorian era, people could be, and often were, married off or otherwise forced to grow up well before they were fifteen. After WWI, people in general were wealthier than they were before, allowing the freedom to wait until later to become adults (but as mentioned before, many still made the transition to adulthood early.) This was accompanied by less strict ideas of how one should behave. As people remained on their parents’ dime with more freedom and no strings to hold them down, they paid less attention to what they should be doing, and more attention to what felt good. Thus, the teenage phenomenon was born. Still, most people settled down relatively quickly, and nice, tidy, nuclear families were still the norm. People went through the teenage phase and then swiftly grew up. The sixties saw a shift, though, with hippies and the whole idea of “free love”.  It wasn’t so completely abnormal any more to be adolescent for a long time. Through the seventies, eighties, nineties, and early two thousands, it became more and more acceptable to remain in the teenage state for a long time.

Here is where the teenage phenomenon can get dangerous. A person who remains in that state of no-strings-attached fun times can get into major trouble when they chase after more and more “fun”. When a person is only responsible to his or her self, they can hop from relationship to relationship or go through a string of marry-divorce-repeat and it doesn’t mean anything. That’s destroying the sanctity of marriage as much as gay marriage is, for sure. This is dangerous in several ways: teens find a way to get into trouble on their own, adults still experiencing the teenage phenomenon get into even bigger trouble, and the largest group of adult teens (celebrities) influence actual teens to be just like them.

Let’s say, on another angle, there’s a certain girl who is physically mature at 14. In medieval times, she would have gotten married and that would have been it. Nowadays, she is expected to wait ten more years before getting married. She doesn’t want to wait that long, and others stuck in the teen phase tell her it’s perfectly OK not to. So she goes ahead and gets a boyfriend and ends up pregnant at sixteen. Whoah, big mistake, right? Going to ruin her life, right? Back not so long ago, within the last half century, she would have married the boyfriend and started a family and lived a happy enough life. My point in saying all this is that as the expected teenage years stretch out, you get people ready to make adult decisions but not allowed to take the responsibility and deal with the consequences. They make the decisions any way, and the consequences are handled quite a bit by other people. They expect that pattern to continue even until they really should be dealing with it themselves.

A lot of teenagers go through the teenage phenomenon, and they make mistakes, learn lessons, and grow out of it. But, could the amount of mistakes made be reduced with a bit more responsibility? If that girl actually had to stay with the first guy she had sex with, would she reconsider the tiny dress? If that guy had to earn enough money to eat, would he have smoked that first cigarette? We may never know.

Thanks for reading!
~Another Jesus Freak

Author’s note: This post has been in draft form since April 8, 2013. I was 16 at the time of writing. It was never published because I wasn’t sure if what I was saying was truth or just what I was feeling. After rediscovering it and reading it over I have decided to publish it unedited, because it’s the truth the way I see it, just as much as anything else on this blog.