Friday, February 24, 2012

Syrian War Hurts Everyone


You've probably already heard about American journalist Marie Colvin being killed in Syria, so I'll make this brief and to the point. To call Colvin remarkable would be a gross understatement. She devoted her life to covering wars, believing she could make a difference by exposing the violence and injustice suffered worldwide. Even when Assad ordered to "kill any journalist who set foot in Syria", she stayed to finish one last story. She lost her eye due from a nasty incident with a hand gernade in Sri Lanka back in 2001. She refused to use a prosthetic. I think it suits her.
So why am I writing about a fifty six year old journalist when my blog says "teen" at the top? Because this affects everyone. Don't forget Hamza Ali al-Kahteeb (13) and Tamer Mohammed al-Sharei (15), killed in tortured and killed because of their involvement in anti-regime protests. Several months ago. Don't believe any of that crap about how they're only attacking terrorists. Colvin was stationed in the city of Homs, full of civilians with no military threat. Only a small group of journalists dedicated to publicizing the facts. Her last report focused on a two year old baby killed in the bombings.
Adults have the responsibility to make the world a good place for the children. We as teenagers have the responsibility to stand up, make a change in the world in the world for ourselves, and improve it for future generations.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Problem with Popularity

Even back in elementary school, all the books and movies I saw seemed to be about popularity. Apparently all schools had this rigidly structured populatrity pyramid where everybody knew their place. All schools except for mine. I thought it was because we spent most of our time in relatively small groups. When you only have thirty people, it's hard to create several cliques organized in ranks or coolness. I thought that I'd see popularity once I hit middle school.
In popular culture, the qualifications for popularity seemed pretty designated, at least for girls. Let's use Sharpay Evans of High School Musical as an example.
Sharpay Evans
Blonde, check. Pretty, more or less. Rich, check. Involved in school activities, check. Relatively stupid and mean, check. Height? She's only five foot three. (That's how Ashley Tisdale can play a high school girl at age twenty-one.) Excellent fashion sense? Check. Exists in the real world?
Sure, there will always be blonde girls, rich girls, and mean girls, but we don't worship them.  I'd go as far to say there is no popularity system. When I couldn't find one in middle school, I asked an older friend if they exist in high school. After all, they have cheerleaders and football teams and basketball teams and drill teams.
She said no. "There are your friends, the people you know, and the people you don't know."
So it's more of a target than a pyramid.
Of course there will always be people with bigger circles of friends, people who seem to be on everybody's "people you know" list. Then there are the people who are just well liked.
But they don't usually follow the Sharpay stereotype list. Cheerleaders have their targets just like everybody else, except their inner circles will contain a lot of fellow cheerleaders. As for the rich brats (as well as the median income brats) not too many people want to hang around them.
So what are the real  "popular" ones like?
They look just like everybody else, well enough groomed, and they don't usually stumble into fashion disasters. They don't have to be immaculate when it comes to clothing. I knew one such girl who showed up to school on an average day in pajamas. It's wasn't weird, it was just her. What draws attention is their persona-how they carry themselves, what they say, and more importantly, how and when they say it. They're always casually confident. They have a certain undescribable something, a knack for getting things right. Anything they say sounds intelligent, funny, or simply appropriate for the situation. When somebody else says the same thing, it may seem stupid or just normal.
You can replicate it to some degree, the key is to be confident. But it either comes naturally or not at all. No amount of lip gloss or popularity books can supplement.

Note to Betty Cornell: Teenage is one word.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Boring Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day.
Or Singles' Awareness Day (S.A.D.) if you believe it's a government conspiracy to force us to spend money.
In elementary school, Valentine's was fun. The parent volunteers would bring in soda and heart shaped sugar cookies we'd eat on pink napkins. Everybody would bring a box decorated to look like a football field or a pink giraffe and we'd distribute thiry or so cards, each one with a piece of candy I'd eat over the next few weeks. Or the next few hours. We'd play love themed games with more candy as a prize and match up names of famous cartoon couples-Minnie and Mickey, Cinderella and Prince Charming.
Then I got into middle school and everything crumbled.
A few boys came dressed up, but none of them were people who wouldn't do it on a regular day.  Some girls were walking around with roses or fluffy teddy bears. Teachers wrote out Happy Valentine's Day on the board. And the number one topic of conversation was whether or not we'd have a dance.
Last year we got a new principal. He had been assistant principal at the rival of the high school we feed into. He had no idea how things worked at our school. He decided dances were "distracting" and "disruptive". Meaning people have to retake a few quizzes because we held the dances durnig seventh and eighth period.
We did get one dance before Christmas, but not because of the rather important holiday. It cost us $12,000. The students, not the taxpayers. Basically the deal was if we raised $12,000 dollars for Sub for Santa, he'd book a DJ. We raised over $16,000 the year before. Fox news came to the conclusion assembly with cameras. Which would be pretty cool if they hadn't gotten our school's name wrong and somehow managed to turn it into a cancer awareness story.
But this time, we had no dance. Everybody was hoping and speculating and wishing until ten minutes into seventh period, when my biology teacher announced we'd spend the rest of class watching a video about the Galapagos islands.
No dance. No celebration. No precious little memories of Valentines to carry with us into middle age. Instead, we watching iguanas crawl across lava rock. Not that I have anything against iguanas, but middle school is boring enough. To they have to suck out the meager joy we siphon from a national holiday?
Here's what I never quite understood. Most drivers are adults. Adults vote on officials to make decisions on how to pave roads. Adults serve in the military. Adults vote on a president to make important military decisions. Adults drink and smoke and chew tabacco. Adults vote on laws to regulate drug use.
Teenagers go to middle school. Adults choose how to run them.

Don't ask how all these lines got here. I really don't know. My computer is acting odd.

Friday, February 10, 2012

We're Not all Delinquets, You Know

It's 8:30 on a Friday night. Somewhere, people are throwing wild parties with wine and marijuana and all the stuff.
As for me, I'm sitting on the couch with three boys. My parents are gone for the next few hours. We're seizing the day by eating ice cream and watching-get this-rated PG cartoons.
Oh, and the boys are my brothers. I'm babysitting while my parents are out on a date. That's probably something important I should mention.
That's my average Friday night. If I'm not mistaken, it's probably not extremely different from what all my friends are doing.
What? But...but...what about all the stories about teenagers who get addicted to marijuana and heroin and the like? What about the graffiti coating the undersides of bridges? What about that girl in Missouri who killed a nine year old just to see how it felt? What about Colombine and those other teenagers who set off bombs in schools?
They're idiots. Sad, messed up idiots. But not all teenagers are idiots, and not all idiots are teenagers.
I'm pretty darn sure most drug addicts, felons, etc., are adults. Look up the statistics if you have nothing better to do.
So why is that the word teenager is practically synonymous with delinquet for anybody who isn't heavily involved with young people?
Simple. Stories about Eliza watching cartoons with her obnoxious yet likeable brothers don't make headlines. News is supposed to be gory and gruesome and gritty. When a seventeen year old boy gets drunk and holds up a convenience store, it's news. Same if that messed up guy is an adult.
But adults spend most of their time with other adults. The adults they know are dentists, architects, graphic designers, lawyers, and maybe the odd felon. If you aren't a parent or teacher or church youth group adviser, these news reports are almost all you hear about teenagers.
That's not all. My mom showed me an article about risky teen behavior. Here's a section.
"As Tara Parker-Pope notes of teens this week in New York Times Magizine, "the current generation is, well, a bit boring when it comes to bad behavior. Among the evidence is data showing that they're less likely to smoke marijuana than their parents were and less likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and take drugs than their folks 30 years ago."
Teens are "far less likely to have sex or get pregnant" than their parent's generation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions. Despite depictions of teens on TV shows that would indicate otherwise, "This is more media hype around the kids who are raising heck*," Dr. John Santelli, president-elect for the Society for Adolesent Health and Medicine, told her. "There are lots of kids who are pretty responsible."
That means either
1: Teenagers today are smarter
2: All those anti-bad behavior programs are actually working
3: We have cell phones. There's no need for your old fashioned forms of entertainment.

*Not the word he used, but my mom reads this. And she's picky.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dear Anonymous

Anonymous said...
Where did you get the Shakespeare quote? Is it even real??
It's called the wonderful world of the internet. I was searching for quotes about teenagers (see previous post As An Old Dead Guy Said...) and stumbled upon it.
And I repeat:
'Shakespeare once said, "I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest, for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the anciently, stealing, fighting. I will now go forth to write something poetic and complicated youth four hundred years from now will be forced to read in school."
At least, he said the first part.'
The part that actually sounds like Shakespeare with a quill. Not the part the sounds like Eliza typing up a post between homework assignments.

And no, my hair does not look like that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What's a Teenager?

What exactly do you have to do in order to qualify as a teenager? In English speaking countries, most people would say, "Turn thirteen," because it's the first number with the "-teen" suffix. At my friends' thirteenth birthday parties, I've heard their parents say, "Great. Now she's going to be all sassy and rebellious with me." As if it's an overnight transformation. As if we're funny little caterpillars who go to sleep one night and wake up ugly moths the next.
From experience, I'd say it's much more a mental transformation than physical or numerical. I'd did a science fair project on the power of suggestion a few weeks I go. I showed kids, teenagers, and adults pictures of various faces and then asked them to write down all the ones they remembered. While they did this, I'd mention two faces-a clown and an asian guy with a scar-that weren't actually on the paper. Most of the kids believed me and wrote down the descriptions. The teenagers argued, but wrote them down so I'd shut up. The adults didn't fall for it.
When we're little, we innoccently believe anything we're told. Then we grow up. We teach ourselves to think. We consider the idea that we're not just misinformed and disobedient, we're right. We try to argue, try to win, and when we can't, we submit and settle for thinking rebelious thoughts.
Then there's a day when we don't give in, because we're sick of it and we know how to win now.
That's called maturity.
Shakespeare once said, "I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest, for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the anciently, stealing, fighting. I will now go forth to write something poetic and complicated youth four hundred years from now will be forced to read in school."
At least, he said the first part.
If everybody did sleep away the "in the between" years, we'd have a world run by ten year olds. Tall ten year olds with facial hair, but still ten year olds.
A world of caterpillars, soaring above the milkweed plants, but never appreciating them.
Most people may see the teenage years as the Dark Ages. I'd say they're the Renaissance.