of some comments overheard by teenagers out late in the big city over this weekend, and how these comments may bode well for our future
Or perhaps not, but they are interesting in many ways none-the-less.
At least for me, and so I'll write about them.
This Saturday night I was at one of my usual haunts, the 3rd Coast, a fantastic local cafe/winebar, where I spend and have spent far too much of my life. As I usually do, I was seated in the non-smoking section, this time on a couchlike bench that runs along the north wall, I was taking the table in the corner.
While I was happily eating my Cobb Salad and catching up on my reading, a group of four teenagers sat down next to me. I say teenagers because they talked about recent SAT tests, all seemed to still live at home, and talked about upcoming Physics tests and the like, but in other ways they did not seem much like teenagers that I remember myself being.
For one, they were out far later than I usually was (they arrived at the cafe around 12:30am), and they were talking about dinner, and work, and parties, and groups of friends who were going out to clubs - as a teenager I don't remember anyone going out to clubs (but perhaps I didn't hang out the with "cool crowd").
There were three woman and one man, with one of the woman and the man clearly being a couple (she later laid her head in his lap and napped for a while). The other two woman were dressed rather provacatively - but did also look young, but also not so young - that rather hard to tell age - I suspect that they were seniors so likely were 18 so I guess I shouldn't feel guilty about looking - but I do and don't - its odd.
Anyway, that's not the point, the point is some snippets of their conversation that occured seemingly completely naturally.
First, they talked about two friends of theirs, Amy and Erin, who were both females (I think), and who they described as not being as much fun to be around since they started dating - with the implication that two woman dating was perfectly normal. Which I do think is in keeping with the media of this generation - shows like "Undressed" on MTV depicted every combination of relationship as equal and interesting - but hearing it in person was pretty cool.
(I later realized that perhaps "Erin" was Aaron - a man, but I'm not sure)
In any case, they were also talking about a larger group of their friends who might be joining then, and later on in the evening they indeed did join them, taking a couple of tables in the center of the cafe. This larger table was planning on going to some Gay bars later that evening.
Perhaps this is an entirely urban phenomenon, and perhaps these teenagers are not typical examples of all American teenagers, but I suspect they are more typical than many would believe. They were more sexually aware than I recall being (just 11 short years ago), they were very open about people of different orientations, and they were a very diverse group - with many from various ethnic backgrounds.
But perhaps just as cool, they were also clearly very smart - though they complained about upcoming physics tests - it was the woman who were complaining. And they had a very involved discussion about their favorite Greek gods, with an involved discussion about Hestia the goddess of the hearth.
This along with other aspects of their conversations, their observations about work and interviewing, and their parents, and how they each had a cell phone, and used it to communicate with each other and their parents, all are signs for me of optimism for the future.
These were smart, interesting people, exploring their world, but seemingly well grounded and more "actuallized?" or something than I recall being at a similar age (though I should also remember that at the age they were all probably at, I was in my second year of college - so perhaps the comparisions are not too different).
I have observed many times before that there is a difference between children of the city, as these teens were, and children of the suburbs. City teens are more independant than their suburban counterparts, and perhaps it is the comfort of being able to go out but still walk home, combined with the safety and ease of city busses and Els, but teens I have met who grow up in cities seem in general more responsible than their suburban counterparts.
Clearly these teens were trusted by their parents to stay out later than I was as a teen (my curfew was midnight I think most of the time, though I rarely tested it) - but they were also comfortable being in contact with their parents, in one case calling her father to tell him their plans and coordinate being picked up - but with no sense of discomfort or concern in the course of that conversation - just a sense of normality and calm about it all.