The kids aren’t alright

Posted by Ed 21 days ago 

How do you shield a teen from the grisly realities of the pornified world?
We think of the teenage years as a time of adventure, of making mistakes, of taking up space. We think of the teenage years the way they are for boys. But for girls, it can be a time of retreat.
The catcalls and the pinching and the men who stand too close or follow you — all these things that teach you public space is not something you can use, but something you have become.
No wonder teenage girls shrink away to their bedrooms, away from that scrutiny. And one of the places where you learn what it means to be public is at school.

School was where I overheard the boys discussing the relative merits of the anointed hot girls outside class (I say “overheard”, but they filled the corridor with their bodies and the air with their newly-deepened voices, so there was no discretion involved at all, and anyway, boys will be boys).

School was where I learned to dread the comments which let me know where my slow-to-change body sat in that hierarchy (because boys will be boys). School was where I envied the girls set above me and dreaded the kind of attention they received (because boys will be boys). And school was where I eventually learned to shrink my body defensively when I sensed someone behind me — because boys will be boys.

I don’t know how much this was the thing that drove my own bedroom retreat (it’s never one thing, is it? But it so often is this thing among many). But for whatever reason, I became a committed school-avoider, and I spent my school-avoiding years reading about people having an even crappier time of being a teenager than I was.

That meant those twin bibles of angst, The Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar; and I don’t know whether I noticed at the time, but it makes a lot of sense to me now that Holden Caulfield’s breakdown involves wandering New York, while Esther Greenwood secretes herself in a crawlspace under her house to overdose — the tiniest chamber it is possible to fold herself into. 

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