High School (Not) High (Enough)

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a banquet at my kids’ school, and it really opened my eyes to why I used to smoke so much pot in high school: it’s because high school kids are fucking annoying as hell.

Don’t believe me? I’ll give you some examples.

At this banquet, there were 20 tables. Each table sat 8 people. It wasn’t going to be a very big event. When my family of 4 arrived, there was only a total of 8 kids there. Did they all sit at the same table? Of course not, and I wouldn’t expect them to. Let ‘em spread out. My family sat around one half of a table that was in the middle of the room, and left the other half of the table open for another family of 4 (or fewer, whatever).

Here’s where my first example begins: as the other students started arriving, the sitting students would scream their names, as if they hadn’t seen them for like, THREE WHOLE HOURS. And one by one, these kids were invited to “The Cool Table” at the front of the crowd, leaving the rest of the peasants to feel collectively excluded. I didn’t even know that shit still existed.

And can I just sidetrack for a second, about the fact that MY table WASN’T The Cool Table?! I mean, my family is fucking hysterically funny, and we have THE BEST dinner time conversations. If our table isn’t The Cool Table, then I don’t want to be cool, I guess, and it’s my choice, not because they said I wasn’t.

Back to the examples of my nightmares personified. The Cool Table started filling up, until there were like 450 kids at this table. What I want to know is, how is it The Cool Table, if everyone is sitting at it? Wouldn’t that just be A Table? As for the handful of parents and other students who weren’t screamed at invited to sit with all those hip turds, I’m sure they all loved hearing the sound of screeching banshees in their dreams last night too.

The Cool Kids started taking the chairs from the other tables, while those people were up at the buffet, WHICH WAS AMAZING. The buffet, I mean, not the stealing of chairs. That was pretty annoying, because they took 6 of the chairs from our table while we were gone, and we had to steal them from other jerks from Less-Cool-But-Still-Pretty-Cool tables. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I have principles, and I was not about to eat a whole plate of delicious meatballs while standing up. Those kids thought I wouldn’t be that lazy, but they obviously underestimated me.

The banquet presentation began, and just in case you were wondering, no it did not shut them up. On the contrary, there was a slideshow, so every time one of their faces was on screen for even a half-second, they would erupt in a roar of laughter and screams. This went on for 10 long minutes. It was a nice slideshow, and I’m sure they were just excited. But, I’ll go back to my earlier statement about having to cope with that excitement, with the help of my bff, Mary Jane.

Now, I know what you’re saying: “Well, my kids don’t do that stuff.” And I would say to you: shutup and stop lying to yourself. Just because your kids aren’t doing these particular things, doesn’t mean they aren’t acting like little shitheads when you’re not around, and they’re allowed to be “cool.” Believe me, they’re doing just that. And they’re good at it. No matter how great you think your kid is, I guarantee there is someone whose nerves they love to work on. Maybe it’s you. Who knows.

Some people like to say, “When you were their age, you did that too,” and to some extent, they’d be right, but I wasn’t even remotely excited about anything my peers were doing in the 90s, so they’re also kinda wrong. I mean, I remember being annoying, but everyone is. Everyone is annoying, including your kid, remember? But there’s a difference between being annoying, and being an experience that everyone has to live through. Perhaps it has something to do with how big the person’s platform is, how many people they reach with what they’re doing and saying. In that vein, we can rest a lot of the blame on social media, and the constant flow of positive reinforcement kids/teens (and adults too!) receive from their peers online. They adopt the position that they have gained unconditional acceptance among others, and that the virtual flow of adoration is going to be relatively similar in their real-life interactions.

So maybe yours is not screaming at the top of their lungs, to welcome a peer to the table in the most extravagant way possible. Maybe they’re the peer that is being showered with those feelings, making them believe they are extra special, just like everyone else who walked in. Maybe yours is wildly unpopular, and would die to feel the acceptance that others so freely give away. Maybe yours is like me, and realizes that, after you graduate high school, shit changes. Prom King and Homecoming Queen don’t translate well on a resume, and certainly not when it comes to keeping yourself alive.

My high school experience was full of days that I swore I had wished away hard enough, but didn’t. Every day was a struggle, in and out of school, and graduation day seemed like an eternity in the future, to the point where I couldn’t even decide what that would look like. I just knew high school was not what I thought life would be like, so I tried to laugh through as much of the bullshit as I could, which was a lot, it turns out. And as soon as I graduated, life got real.

I was back at the starting line, with everyone else, even the popular kids, and the century was turning. The next generation was already being born, and technology was changing the way we perceived each other (and life). The internet taught us how to parent, and we took those tips (sometimes from people who weren’t parents, and had no education on the topic) and we ran with them. We kept checking back, to make sure we were doing what everyone else was doing, and NOT doing what everyone else thought was wrong. It changes all the time. One day spaghetti is the best thing for kids, and the next day, it causes brain death. We could no longer afford to make the mistake of not being in-the-know.

Spaghetti doesn’t cause brain death, so if you’re not one of my regular readers… I exaggerate sometimes. Go ahead and feed your kids spaghetti. Or don’t, I mean, I’m not your kid’s parent, so that’s just some advice you can take or leave. I feel like they won’t die without spaghetti, but I’m no doctor.

Innovations in social media and personality shaping, as well as unrealistic hyper-active parenting woes, as well as the deadly sharpening of peer scrutiny and judgment, have all created a monster. Kids are being held to impossible standards, not by parents (though that’s another topic I could go on about) but by their peers. They feel the need to change. They feel the need to chase perfection. They feel the need to fit a mold. They feel the need to replicate what others admire. It’s just an image, based on the heavily edited photos and videos they see online and on television and in magazines, and we know this, but girls and guys alike are all susceptible to it. It isn’t just the ladies who are feeling the pressure. It’s everywhere, and if they aren’t adhering to the latest tweet or post from a major influencer (which is a fucking job now), they can expect to be rejected everywhere in their physical life.

That’s something I find annoying, and new. I didn’t have to deal with social media, so maybe that’s why I think things are so much worse now. Remember, I thought high schoolers were annoying before; there is nothing new about this. The part I find new, is the immediate broadcast of every feeling and reaction people have, before they have the opportunity to process the emotion. A minor tiff between friends can easily escalate to someone’s entire life being ruined, because social media allows us to share our feelings (about a person or event) amongst a wide net of people. The bigger the audience, the more people to share in that view, and the faster that immediate reaction turns into a group opinion. I’m not sure how I would have made it through high school, if I had to deal with social media. Knowing my own self, and my own mental health, I can honestly say I may have been one of those cases that didn’t make it out alive. It’s a scary thing to realize, especially when it’s mapped against my own daughter’s experience in this modern world.

Neither of my kids have social media, mostly for the reason that I don’t want them to be subject to the cruel judgment that is obviously the result of others’ insecurities. When they’re grown, they’ll have the choice to jump on the Social Media Bandwagon of Doom, but that will be then, and this is now, and I won’t allow it to work its corrosive magic on my offspring’s sweet minds. It’s not helpful. If my kids wanted insecurities projected onto them, they’ve satisfied that interest fully, by tormenting each other every single day. Getting into unfair biases on looks, body fat, talent, taste, and opinion, is something they can do without, for now. As I said, that’s a choice they’ll make for themselves, and hopefully once they see how fucked-up it is, they’ll just live in the real world and call it fucked-up enough.

I am fully aware that I am subjecting myself to criticism every day, and that I am also still vulnerable to unfair attacks, but it never occurred to me to care what others think, so until I’ve caused harm to someone, I’m not likely to apologize. Yes, this post is about Parenting and Pot, in the same sentiment, but I’d much rather be judged for making investments in my kids’ health and well-being while under the influence of cannabis, than to be that person who has nothing better to do than look for shit like that on the internet. I’m not beating my kids. They’re fed, they’re clean, they’re up-to-date on their education and current events. They don’t swear in my face, they don’t get physically violent, but they know not to be pushed around. They are accountable for their whereabouts, they aren’t partying (yet), they care about safety, and they are open about it. They care about humans as a species instead of a group of smaller sub-sets to be classified. They show love every day, as well as respect. And, super important, they see how plastic their generation is. They know how fake it is, and how much manipulation and hypnosis goes into growing up in the age of social media.

Not saying my kids are better than yours. They’re annoying too. But they’re well-adjusted enough to know they don’t want to be applauded into a room by attention-starved kids, who are really just priming the pump for reciprocated adulation. And that’s something I can feel good about, even without the influence of Mary Jane.

 

-jg

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