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JJ Keith

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An Open Letter to High School and College Students

Posted: 06/07/2012 3:40 pm

Sup, Kids Today.

I am a mom, but I'm not your mom, so don't think of me as a parental figure. I'm just trying to figure some stuff out before my own children, both of whom are very young (the worst thing they can think to do online is watch one-click episodes of Dora the Explorer), get to be your age. Also, I should mention that we're technically the same generation, though I am a very old Millennial. At 32, by most definitions, I barely qualify.

I generally think you're all very nice and I appreciate the way you all brought mom jeans back in style right around the time I had a second baby so I can tuck my FUPA under a high waistband while still looking on trend. Thank you for that. I've come to know many of you -- my teenage cousins, former students from back when I was an instructor at USC for a few years, my friends' older children -- and I generally think you're all pretty awesome. I like the way you have invented a language of acronyms, reinvigorated nerd culture, and popularized The Hunger Games. Also, way to lower the teen pregnancy rate. Birth control, FTW! Good job, Kids Today.

I don't think the Internet is rotting your brains. I'm not here to bag on Twitter or Foursquare, or reminisce about "my day," back when we had to choose between talking on the phone or using the internet. The only thing I miss about the 90s is thinking that carbs were good for you. (Seriously, the bitch diet of 1997 was to eat nothing but bread. Funny the way it didn't work.) Don't listen to anyone who says you're missing out because you don't write longhand letters any more. If Abraham Lincoln could have texted and emailed, he would have, beautifully. RIP, cursive. Welcome, sarcastic hashtagging.

I sometimes struggle to not be too hard on you. There were moments at my old teaching job when I'd see a girl riding a bike around campus in a skirt without underwear and I'd worry about you, Kids Today. But alas, when I really press myself on the matter, I realize that I'm being a touch hypocritical, that perhaps my lady parts saw the light of day at some point in the distant past and it's likely that some college instructor circa 1998 looked at me with the same mixture of pity and horror that I directed at that girl. So go forth, Kids Today, show your lady parts if you must. Do not regard my wincing.

But I have learned some things about you, things that I don't understand, things that I'm hoping you might be able to clarify. This isn't about the fake epidemic of getting drunk off hand sanitizer or the mostly-fake scourge of "butt chugging." Knowing that these things exist is already too much for me. And funny joke, whoever created the urban legend of rainbow parties. The genius was in making up something as revolting as it is titillating. Good game, or in your parlance, GG.

I'm just going to come out and ask it: What's with taking all those nude pictures of yourself and sending them to people? Who among you is left who can run for office? Now, I know not all of you do it, but an awful lot do. And for sure it is not the exclusive purview of you, Kids Today. A certain former U.S. Representative with a painfully on the nose name comes to mind. But the whole ritual puzzles me.

I've asked many of you to explain all this pic swapping to me. See, I was worried that you were doing it so that prospective mates could pre-approve you for copulation, but I hear that it has more to do with trust, flirtation and vulnerability... I mean, I kind of get it, but I don't know why you wouldn't just wait until you can see each other naked in person. I mean, unless this is about preserving purity or something? But I don't think it is. Whatever. I'm glad to hear that many of you have figured out that you can photograph whatever you want as long as you keep your faces out of frame. GG, Kids Today. But one last question for the Girls Today. When you send a picture of your exposed body to a guy, he is either going to jack off to it or he isn't. Which is winning?

Also, I hear that drinking has changed since I was in high school and college. Back in the '90s, I had a routine: 1. Drink a whole lot of something gross like Natty Ice or Goldschlager. 2. Do something stupid. 3. Throw up. 4. Pass out. It was neither healthy nor decent, but it was a life. Sometimes I had fun. Sometimes I didn't.

But now I understand that some of you (not all! I know!) drink until you throw up and then drink some more. And that for many of you, puking several times is simply part of the ritual of drinking. Though I'm impressed that you've managed to escalate something as time-honored as collegiate binge drinking, I fail to see how vomiting can be fun. From where I sit, it looks like some of you don't know how to pace yourselves and that used to be a party foul. Why the change in the rules? It seems kind of... wasteful, and not in a cool, profligate way.

I know. You don't have to explain yourselves to me. I see how you look at me when I go into Urban Outfitters to buy my mom jeans. But if I can leave you with a parting note, Kids Today, there's something I'd like you to know and it's not terribly nice. I think you're all great, but I don't envy you. I'm glad that I get to be old now. Yes, it was fun to get hammered and hook-up with randoms (do you still use those terms?), but these days I have legitimately paid-for HBO and get to wince-watch Girls knowing that I don't have to do that again. Someday you'll get to be old too and hopefully you'll have lots of young people in your life to inform you of the new trend of ear bongs, injectable weed and whatever my children's generation comes up with, jeebus help us all.

Affectionately yours,

JJ

P.S. I will willingly vote for a candidate with dubious pics in his or her past. I don't really think it's indicative of some unforgivable turpitude, so please don't let that stop you from running for office.


This letter originally appeared on Thought Catalog.

 
 
 

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