The Homogenized Main Line Teenager
I was sitting at a red light close to a Main Line high school that was letting out for the day recently, and I had an opportunity to observe the crowds of kids crossing the street. There in the hoard I spotted something that stood out: one white teenage girl with long dreadlocks. And that was pretty much it for deviation. I was gripped by a chilling thought. What kind of place is this that kids have stopped rebelling with their appearance? Where are the physically identifiable cliques? John Hughes, where are you?[SIGNUP]
In spite of the fact that it feels like last week, I realize I went to high school a long time ago. We had all the cliques though. There were Jocks, Preps, Nerds, and Punks (who were further broken down into sub-cliques of Goths, Skinheads, New Wavers and Mods). We had every variety of clique you could imagine, including Reggae-loving Lesbians. There was something for everyone. But unlike the kids I now see around my suburban neighborhood, all our cliques were obvious. You could tell what people were into by the way they dressed. Punks looked like, well, punks. They came with the requisite 14-hole Doc Martens and the color of the laces had meaning. These people took a lot of time to dye and spike that hair and roll those jeans just so. All that effort was for a purpose. They stated their style and knew where they belonged in the crowd — the smoking section, obviously. And the Preppies wore penny loafers, Polo and Lacoste and collected on the benches in the main foyer. This was a world I understood. I have to say something I never thought I’d ever be old enough to say: I just don’t get these kids today.
Cliques still exist, of course. There are plenty of Jocks, Mean Girls and Nerds, and I’m sure these kids are getting up to things that would curl my hair. But I see my neighbors’ kids, my babysitters, and random teens at the mall, and I have no idea where they fit in socially or what they stand for. These kids all look pretty much the same — so normal. Most of the girls are in baggy sweatshirts and pajama pants or tank tops and low-rise jeans. And flip flops, of course. A little eyeliner is the maximum effort extended to makeup as far as I can tell. The boys seem to all have the same cute, side-swept Bieberesque hair. That’s about as dangerous as it gets. And it seems like these kids are more worried about their pre-season, homework, GPAs and SAT prep than expressing their individuality. It’s the age of the homogenized teenager. They’re virtually Stepford Teens. What have we done? These kids seem so savvy, wise and apparently are either so well adjusted or indulged that they appear to have nothing to rebel against. Instead of lamenting their “No Future,” the future seems to be all they think about. And they’re all ambitious kids with plans to succeed. I have to travel to places like piercing parlors on South Street to find kids that look familiar to me. And they don’t have a clue what they want to be when they grow up. Just like the good old days.
I have to admit I was secretly looking forward to the go-around I’d have someday with my daughter when she decided to dye her hair purple. Hair rebellion I get. I would have protested, while hiding a smile of pride at her independent stand. I need not anticipate this though because I can already tell it’s not coming. Once in a while when we go places we’ll see someone with green or blue highlights, and I’ll point them out to see her reaction. She bristles, wrinkles her nose up and says, “I’ll never do that!” And she probably won’t. She has freakishly good taste and common sense. She, too, is as homogenized as everyone else she knows. It breaks my heart. Thank goodness I can always flip on The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink for a fix. R.I.P. John Hughes. I’m glad you aren’t here to see this.