Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Long Adolescence

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

There are many things that separate the life of a youth in New Zealand from one in Sub-Saharan Africa. Food is one of them, and another is something called childhood.In the third world, as soon as you are physically able to do something useful you are made to go out and do something useful to keep the family going, which you do until you are physically unable again and your children look after you.

In New Zealand, things are different. To get from birth to the responsibilities of adulthood takes many years of training and numerous stages from infant and toddler to pre-teen, teenager and adolescent. What is even more impressive is that these stages are fluid. To the alert sociologist a disturbing trend is underway. Like Eric Hobsbawm’s Long Nineteenth Century, we now have the Long Adolescence.

The cause of this is music. On Wednesday, I happened across Apathy Jack in a music store and we got to talking, unsurprisingly enough, about music. Jack noted that his 23 year old flatmate is still 16. He comes home, does not talk to anyone, goes straight to his room, slams the door, and turns on Linkin Park at full volume whilst doing not-cleaning. After reassuring Jack that he is not alone, I got the funny feeling that we had been through this before, if not in reverese than in mirror image.

Almost ten years ago a band called the Spice Girls were produced and teenage girls loved them. They got all their posters and dressed like their favourite band member, and this behaviour spread down the ages like wildfire. Younger ten year old sisters copied their elders, who then spread the insidious sugary manufactured pop meme down still further to those as young as eight. Parents viewed this with a little disdain, it is one thing for your sixteen year old daughter to start wearing short skirts and the like, quite another if she is only half that age. Once the Spice Girls broke up, Britney Spears and others kept the flame alive. The worry was that young girls were maturing, if that is the right word, too early. Losing the magic of childhood and entering the turmoil of adolescence far earlier than their forebears. Boys, presumably, were still stuffing Lego up their nose as usual, but their turn was to come.

Almost six years ago nu-metal became popular, and teenage boys loved it. Here was thirty year old Fred Durst feeling their pain, hating the world with a sound odious to anything with a cochlea. Instead of moving its way down the ages, or of converting those already over eighteen, nu-metal has gripped those aged twelve to sixteen in the late 1990’s and held them there in its god-awful embrace. Parents suffered twice. Their daughters matured too early and their sons stopped, and what is worse, have often stayed at home or decided to flat with others, which is a curious tactic for those who shun human interaction. One can only hope that these two phenomena have passed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your description of the [still]teenage boy, who technically isn't is, quite close to being an exact description of one of my flatmates. It's disturbing.