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Becoming Goops

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The Goop Directory is a small pack of poems about kids who act like monsters. They flick matches like mini-Drew Barrymore firestarters, spit hurricanes of food because they talk while eating, and stomp through puddles often enough to suggest they want trench foot. They lack propriety.

And I warn you this: The population of Goops is rising.

Exhibit A:
Yesterday I was browsing in a store. A tweenybopper in bright pink and orange clothes, which looked like Hannah Montana's rejects, brushed me, knocking hair products off a shelf behind us. I looked at her. Then at the floor. Then the girl took off down the aisle on her original path. For a while she talked to a woman, ostensibly her mom, before pivoting around to come back. She paused briefly, huffed like a mule, and tromped over the fallen items, as if some slob had left them there as an obstacle for her to get around. Then she disappeared. The mom clopped over, and though I felt sure she'd seen the kid knock the packages off the shelf, she didn't pause to pretend pick them up. But I can understand. Hair products are slippery. They weigh a lot, I guess. Backbones are fragile, too. Especially when you lack one.

Exhibit B:
I recently hosted a graduate student from California, where I'm told people dress more fashionably than those in the Midwest. Apparently, they also get dressed more often. On her last day in Missouri, this graduate student divulged to me an observation that had been nagging her all week: "I've seen so many people in gym clothes," she said, "but they don't look like they're coming from the gym. I judge them. I can't help it." Sometimes I notice the same thing. Last week I was reading an article online about Syrian kids having their toenails hammered out because they were fighting for freedom, for instance, when something caught my eye across a classroom conference table. My thoughts jerked onto a tangent like this: "Those poor Syrian kids, I just can' -- Hold on a second. Is that... is that guy wearing pajamas?" Takes a lot of courage not to say this out loud. But I suppose it takes more to sit at a conference table in PJs. I judged him. I couldn't help it either. Full disclosure: I didn't want to help it.

Exhibit C:
The hair-product incident could have been worse. If the tweenybopper had poked her head around the corner and let out a thunderously giggling, "L-O-L!" for instance, I might have steamed a little. I've squashed flies for being less annoying. I'll be the first to stand up and defend your right to say "lay" when you mean "lie" and "that" when you should say "who" or "whom." Speech can't be perfect. God knows how long I took forcing these words into a coherent blog. But for the love of everything you hold dear: Please speak English. Speak any language. Speak anything longer than three letters. Speak anything more sophisticated than a LOLcat caption. Speak Swahili, if in Swahili you can form a thought more communicative than "L-O-L." Because unless you're sending distress signals with a blanket and fire, three letters do not suffice. "LOLOLOL" communicates about as much as "BZZZZZ." At least try to distinguish yourself from an annoying fly.

So one of two things is happening. Either a noticeable portion of the next generation is growing into Goops, or -- far less disconcerting to you -- I'm personally growing into the grumpy old lady who from a porch bangs her cane and shouts, "Turn down that noise!" I don't know which. They equally frighten me.

Maybe we should just go ahead and become the Goops. This might be a fair price for the techno-world we're buying. Maybe we're supposed to trade formal clothes, grammar, and the ability to bend down and pick something up for technical skills, just like most of our ancestors traded chicken coops for cellophaned grocery meat.

But I hope not. As much as I enjoy putting my pajama-ed legs up and Googling "viruhl chicken video," I like fresh chicken in a fancy restaurant slightly more.