Recently I stumbled upon a popular novel intended for teens and once again felt like I have spent my high school years on a different planet. According to many modern novels and TV shows life of a teenager is composed of alcohol poisonings, giving in to peer pressure to have unprotected sex under the influence of illegal drugs, unending sequence of cigarette breaks near dumpsters, neon hair dies, piercings done in unsanitary conditions, talking back to all adults, etc, etc, etc.
I went to an ordinary public school in GTA, I had friend, went to school dances and proms, participated in extracurricular activities and clubs and had many hobbies (dancing, drawing, playing guitar, etc).
But somehow I was never asked, coerced or talked into smoking, drinking or doing drugs. I never felt the need to ‘show off’ by being rude to anyone. Although I remember my classmates telling me that they have seen so-and-so smoking or drinking either near the school or at a school dance, I have never witnessed anything like that myself.
I can’t even remember taking interest in such gossips, probably because – as my dance coach once said – I was always ‘on my own wavelength.’ If I wanted to learn about sex – I read Marquis De Sad. If I wanted to see something surreal – I watched Ukrainian art-house movies. I was ok with acting crazy at concerts and proms without the help of alcohol and I can’t remember ever being shy to talk to someone. Hence, alcohol, drugs and ‘peer pressure’ were mostly off my radar.
According to the popular media, I was supposed to be a friendless bullied outcast with low self-esteem and super strict parents. That was not the case either. I can’t recall any situations when my mom told me that I cannot do something that I have requested. I talked to people that I wanted to talk to and never felt pressure from any of my peers.
Maybe I have lived in a cave or on Mars, maybe I was totally preoccupied with my own thoughts, but when popular media is telling me – now an educator of teens myself – that youth is ‘supposed to’ rebel, smoke, drink and catch STI’s I am having a hard time subscribing to that view.
On the other hand – when I am faced with teens who really suffer from problems portrayed in popular media and literature I feel helpless because I do not have any ‘insider’ information or experience with these issues.
Hence, my questions are:
To what extent modern literature and media are ‘correct’ in their portrayal of teens?
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like an alien?