Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Smells like tween spirit

posted by Rod Dreher

polo.jpg You know what male teen-and-tweenagerhood smelled like in the 1980s? Polo by Ralph Lauren. It was widely believed by us male types to render girls sexually powerless before our fragrant selves. It was also an aromatic class marker, in the sense that the A-class males wore Polo. Do boys still wear Polo? Does anybody?
All that came back today when I read this NYT piece about how marketers are making a mint playing off tween insecurity to sell them Axe and other starter scents for men. Check this out:

Lyn Mikel Brown, a psychologist at Colby College and an author of a new book, “Packaging Boyhood,” said the products gave boys the mere illusion of choice. In fact, she said, they often preach an extreme, singular definition of masculinity — at a time developmentally when boys are grappling uneasily with identity.
“These are just one of many products that cultivate anxiety in boys at younger and younger ages about what it means to man up,” Ms. Brown said, “to be the kind of boy they’re told girls will want and other boys will respect. They’re playing with the failure to be that kind of guy, to be heterosexual even.”

More:

“Boys are paying attention to personal brands more than ever because it’s too easy to be criticized virally by a girl,” said Pat Fiore, a market consultant for body image products in Morristown, N.J. “The peer pressure is starting from the girls, who are discussing how much someone smells or what they look like, and it’s being recorded in real time by e-mail and texting.”
These girls are also becoming sexualized at earlier ages, applying lip gloss and wearing racier clothes. Boys, a bewildered developmental step or three behind, feel additional pressure to catch up.

Finally:

Kristen Gilbert, an assistant principal at Waterville Junior High School, in Waterville, Me., who has impounded her share of spray cans, wrote in an e-mail message that when she asked a young student why he wore the product, he replied, “I have to have it, Ms. G., because I don’t have the money to dress the right way. This is all I can afford.”
The boy added that the body spray was his “best chance to get a girl.”

I can’t imagine the pressure on tweens and teens these days, exploited by marketers — and each other. I remember my teenage years as mostly miserable and saturated by insecurity and self-loathing. If I’d had to deal with the girls in my eighth grade class texting among themselves that I smelled bad because I wore the wrong scent, or no scent at all, I’d have never wanted to leave the house. From the point of view of a 13 or 14 year old boy, no one is as powerful as a 13 or 14 year old girl — or as cruel.
You readers who have raised boys and girls through these years, how did you help them through the meanness? How did you prevent them from being nasty to others?



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Elizabeth Anne

posted January 31, 2010 at 6:11 pm


If it makes you feel better, Rod, no one is more powerful or cruel to a 13 year old girl than, well, a 13 year old girl. *shudders*
No input, yet: my little girl is all of four months old. But I’ll be watching this one closely.



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tracy

posted January 31, 2010 at 6:21 pm


“English Leather” was my chick magnet cologne of choice in 1970….but that didn’t work either. I later convinced my 13 yr old self that the horn rim glasses negated the opiate-like effects of my cologne, so I got contacts. That didn’t work either. Girls are so weird…..hey we miss you in big D.



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Lasorda

posted January 31, 2010 at 6:56 pm


I wear Polo between Labor Day and Easter. In he balmier months, Green Irish Tweed by Creed. Have at it Dreher. Give me my lumps.



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jmg3rd@gmail.com

posted January 31, 2010 at 7:24 pm


“From the point of view of a 13 or 14 year old boy, no one is as powerful as a 13 or 14 year old girl — or as cruel.”
Amen! You know that’s right! 7th grade is the purgatory of manhood. After that, all of life got more pleasant.



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Rod Dreher

posted January 31, 2010 at 7:30 pm


No lumps coming from me. Polo is a nice scent; I just burned out on it in high school. I’m intrigued by the Green Irish Tweed scent. Eight years ago I bought a bottle of Creed’s Bois du Portugal, which I soon discovered I didn’t really like. But it was so expensive that I couldn’t bear to part with the bottle. I smelled it the other day, as we were packing for the move, and the scent had hardly deteriorated at all. That’s quality. By contrast, the Canali that I usually wear, a bottle of which Julie bought me for Christmas 2008, has now deteriorated to the point where it smells “off,” and therefore unwearable. The bottle is only about a third used up.



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Kev

posted January 31, 2010 at 7:34 pm


We just have to hope that our children learn to realise what is right and have a circle of friends to reinforce this.
Parents can tell children how they can be the target of large corporations and be literally groomed as consumers for a life time of loyal consumption. Our children can become immensely media savvy and spot when they are a target and therefore make buying and other decisions that suit who they are and what they want to be.
My daughter is a Justin Bieber fan (she’s 12 years old and is therefore the target for this product) and I said to her that its amazing how much he sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks. I thought I was being funny but it turns out that her 12 year old boyfriend said exactly the same thing. My daughter thinks I’m cool but that won’t last because she’s 13 next year! My point here is that we have to understand the kind of pressure they are under from their perspective in order to help them ie understand what it maybe like to grow up today.
For boys in particular, the goalposts are shifting. The pressure to have products which are unattainable legally but which if obtained could allow them to get girls is great. Some elements of rap and gang culture appear to be based on this difficulty. However Girls today also have an attitude, and if it’s not bling then it’s the size of a boys manhood that can be a boys major asset. Rhianna (Good girl gone bad) makes this point in her last album. (In my day, I got hold of that Charles Atlas contraption the name of which escapes me. I didn’t want the sand kicked in my face!) If girls are not texting about this, I imagine that increasingly boys are thinking about it. How can parents deal with the problem that body image maybe defined by standards and ideals shown in increasingly visible and available pornography. This includes when daughters start to wish for breast implants. Self esteem can run deep and beyond the discussion on scent, although I appreciate that this could actually be a metaphor! Sorry if this is all a bit Freudian but I do think that we can’t assume that our children will not access and be influenced by this stuff.
We have to be honest and loving with our children and hope that just as they recognise the love, vulnerability and strengths of those close to them, they can apply it those that they meet. In other words, learn to have some emotional intelligence.
I think that this requires boundaries and intelligences and a feeling for respect for others and is a combination which not all patients can give, and even then may not be lucky enough for their children to receive as intended. It’s a battle but likely to be the most rewarding we could ever face.
The discussion is more Twee than Tween.



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Your Name

posted January 31, 2010 at 7:58 pm


The dark and wounded side of me says “Alright, vengence for my own teenage years”, when I experienced the cruelty of boys – those who called me “Dog”, those who poked their pencils at my breasts for laughs, or who thought it was sport to ridicule a homely girl. Those remarks carried as much pain as the stab of a knife, and they didn’t heal – EVER. A little “Now you know what it’s like to be judged by your surface” feels satisfying – at first. But the more you mull it over, the more you just feel sick about a new avenue for cruelty. One more sign of a decaying culture. And yes, I know, girls can be just as vicious. They just do it in a different way than boys.
I worry about the decreasing numbers of people going to church, in this respect. Church is a once a week reminder to be compassionate, a once a week reminder to walk in someone else’s shoes, a weekly reminder to “Do unto others…”. It was a frightening world when the church had more influence, but now, as the message gets stamped out, little by little – what will it be like down the road?



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me

posted January 31, 2010 at 8:06 pm


We homeschooled our boys, so they are clueless. My oldest went off to high school this year and while he is very comfortable with himself and has embraced the values we have taught him (sometimes harder than we would like even!), the other kids don’t know quite what to make of him. Due to an odd set of circumstances, he started the year at one school and had to move to another last month. At both schools, the other kids asked him the same set of questions, “do you have a girlfriend?” no. “Who would you like to be your girlfriend?” no one. “Are you gay?” I don’t think so.
OTOH, the kid would wear a filthy burlap sack to school and go a month with out washing his hair if I let him, so a bit more concern about appearances wouldn’t be the worst thing for him! For his part, he tends to think that the other kids are idiots who are too concerned about dumb things and haven’t been properly socialized. He’s learning to keep this opinion to himself, though.



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Hector

posted January 31, 2010 at 8:23 pm


JMG3rd,
Comparing seventh grade to purgatory is a disservice to purgatory. At least the pain and suffering in purgatory are going to be for a good reason. Honestly, the capacity of teenagers to be monstrously cruel to one another, for absolutely no reason, is enough to make you believe in Original Sin if you hadn’t before.



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Erin Manning

posted January 31, 2010 at 8:33 pm


Homeschoolers here too, and my girls are 14, 13 and 11.
Homeschooling is no panacea, but it does remove the one thing that I think is so devastating about the school experience: the social pressure which to me goes beyond healthy peer pressure and becomes a sort of “pack” pressure. Do what the “pack” expects, and survive with minor scarring; run against the “pack’s” wishes, and be lucky if the resulting lacerations don’t leave wounds that persist long into adulthood.
That said, though, unless you’re going to be the sort of homeschooler who lives as much off the grid and away from the culture as possible, you still have to grapple with cultural access questions and rules for behavior. Do you allow makeup, for instance? At what age, and how much? How do you set limits which allow for some natural interest in such things without being harmful?
Each family will come to its own conclusions about these things. But the key here is that you can’t wait until your child is twelve or thirteen to start setting the rules and expect them to be followed. The groundwork is happening when they are two and three, and learning what words like “No,” “not now,” “that’s not very nice,” etc. mean. Something I’ve learned so far as a parent is that discipline is founded on trust; even my toddlers had to learn once upon a time that Mom made rules not to circumscribe their lives, but to protect them and help them grow in a good, healthy, safe way.
That trust is even more crucial when the minefield of the teenage years is entered, and when the trust needs to go both ways. One thing I say to my girls a lot these days is, “I trust you.” They know what that means in all its implications.
So far, things continue to go very well, but I know how critical these next few years will be. So one very small thing I’m doing is making time to take a walk with each of my three girls once a week. My first question when we head out the door is, “So, what’s on your mind today?” They really like being able to talk without having to worry that anyone besides Mom is listening; they like having my undivided attention; and I know we’re establishing an important communication link that I hope will persist even when they’re too old for a weekly walk with Mom.
Do these things–homeschooling, discipline and trust, communication–mean they’re never mean to each other or thoughtless in their social interactions? No, but it does mean that they’re genuinely sorry when they are, because that’s not the kind of person they’re trying to become. Thus far that seems pretty good to me, and I’m hopeful about venturing forward into their teenage years with them.



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James

posted January 31, 2010 at 8:53 pm


Hector, I have to agree.



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dangermom

posted January 31, 2010 at 8:56 pm


All I have to say is–I loved Polo! Not that I actually knew any boys who wore it, sigh. I didn’t think anyone wore it anymore, but a couple of months ago I was in a hardware story and a guy walked by who was definitely wearing it. Took me right back!



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Leah

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:16 pm


I had a stepson who would load up on that Axe stuff while he was in Middle School. We had to confiscate it. I have an extreme sensitivity to the chemicals in about 95% of commercial scented products–including the Glad Air Freshener they spray at my toddler’s nursery school. AXE, Glade, Calvin Klein, Chanel–it’s all the same to me. Intolerable. I couldn’t work in a Middle School, I’m sure. Considering all the students that have asthma and allergies, I think these products should be banned–from church too. Sometimes I can barely breathe.
The funny thing is, marketing has convinced our young men and womanthat body spray is how you get the members of the opposite sex, when, in fact, the healthy scents emanating from clean young bodies work their own magic, as the science behind sexual desire & attraction would attest.
I try to stop my boys from being cruel to girls by being there for them, by making sure I have earned their love–so that no displaced anger towards me is directed to the culture at large. My father’s similar presence, love and guidance in my life is probably what stopped me from being cruel to young men.



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Leah

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:21 pm


By the way, my sensitivity to chemicals doesn’t mean that I don’t like to smell nice. I still have a real desire to adorn myself and be attractive. I can sympathize with people’s efforts to feel attractive and distinctive, but one has to be smart about it. The best thing I’ve found is adding a little Aveda Jasmine Absolute oil to my unscented body lotion. It seems to enhance my own scent, rather than obliterate it in a chemical bath.



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mdavid

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:23 pm


Every once in a while I hear of things like this that I simply can’t believe are even on the radar. Women wearing perfume is a big enough scam as it is, but a woman’s vanity being what it is, what do you expect. But men wearing it? It’s the absolute scam.
Needless to say: I never wore perfume (or whatever one wants to call it to make it sound more masculine) and none of my friends did (or do) either to my knowledge. And I wouldn’t have cared how many of my friends did wear it; I would have told them there is simply an absolute limit to how much I’m willing to stoop to in order to get laid, and wearing scent certainly crosses the line. What next, crawling on the ground and begging? I guess if I could get a sworn affidavit from her that I get her for week, I might consider it. But back in the real world, I can’t see women (or men, actually) being that interested in it anyway. What’s next, men are going to start wearing blush?



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Jon

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:25 pm


Re: the other kids asked him the same set of questions, “do you have a girlfriend?” no. “Who would you like to be your girlfriend?” no one. “Are you gay?” I don’t think so.
This, and your son’s inattention to his wardrobe, leads me to wonder if you have raised him (inadvertantly perhaps) to become a monk.
Re: At least the pain and suffering in purgatory are going to be for a good reason.
Fortunately the teen years do end (even if they seem to last a geologic age when one is living them). You could wave a winning Lotto ticket under my face and I would not be 14 again for it. If you threw in the Elixir of Immortality you still couldn’t get me to repeat 13.



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Don Altabello

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:34 pm


A little more concern ought to be paid to what certain products/images can do to a child’s sense of self/soul etc… rather than just his or her health (e.g. in the case of cigarettes).
Uniforms and prohibitions on texting and body sprays, lip gloss etc… would be a great start. I remember the junior high years. Not pleasant at all…in fact, right down miserable. The only thing I had was the sport I participated in (and that had no affiliation or connection to school). Looking back on it, every last day of 6-8 grade just sucked.



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Chuck Bloom

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:35 pm


I thought Aramis was the scent of the ’90s and my bottle, gotten in 1994, remains half empty. Does it ferment like fine wine? Or just stink as it gets older?
By the way, the “Axe” of the early 1970s HAD to be Hai Karate while English Leather and its cousin, British Sterling, always reminded me of Dad at Christmas because it was the only thing we knew to get him – whtether he liked it or not (most of all, NOT).
Some of us were Aqua Velva men in our late ’50s yoot. Splash it one for a buck a bottle. Hmmmm, good times for wannabe Fonzarellis.



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Peter

posted January 31, 2010 at 9:57 pm


Women wearing perfume is a big enough scam as it is, but a woman’s vanity being what it is, what do you expect.
No wonder girls are so cruel, knowing how society views them as just vain and stupid females. If early teen girls are cruel, it many be because it is they know the power will permanently shift against them in a year and soon they will begin to literally starve themselves to death in order to please boys and then men who view them as sexual objects.



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Hector

posted January 31, 2010 at 11:23 pm


Jon,
Well, yes, but my understanding is the purpose of purgatory is _in itself_ remedial and medicinal- the purpose of the pain is to purify us of the damage our sins have done to our natures. The social stress in middle school has an end, yes, but it isn’t good in and of itself, and it doesn’t make anyone better off for having to endure it. In that way its not like purgatory.
MDavid,
That’s odd…I’m no one’s idea of a stylish metrosexual (more the opposite) but I do like scent, myself (cologne but also scented soaps and scented lotion and thinks like that). But tastes vary, I suppose.
Erin,
Best of luck with your daughters!



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Cecelia

posted February 1, 2010 at 1:20 am


Yeah I still love the scent of Polo – but the Irish Green Tweed is nice too.
You can talk all you want to your kids about the marketing scam that is going on here – do they really want to endure all this pressure so they can make some company rich? Some kids will respond – if they can find a group of high school friends who agree. But it is sad to see the price of non conformity – I know teens who refuse to do the drugs,drinking sex routine and literally have no social life. I have seen good looking teen boys who were decent kids get zero attention from girls until they got the “right” kind of car – after which they were flooded with attention. I have also seen girls who were not pretty enough or skinny enough literally shrink into themselves cause no boys paid them attention. Teen peer pressure has been around for a very long time – there is nothing new about it – but it seems to me what is new is how expensive it is to fit in. I don’t think the emphasis on pricey products among teens will stop until the society begins to reject that sort of point of view. One would think that given the price kids pay for all this – that there would be a big incentive for adults to deal with this – but of course – adults are often just as guilty of buying pricey stuff to make themselves feel better about themselves and impress their peers. Hard to blame kids for apeing the behavior of adults.
I do think uniforms in school would help – they can be a great equalizer. The ironic thing is that it seems like the best way to protect your kids from this lunacy is to encourage them to be non conformists – but then you have the problem of your teen going too far with the non conformity. I think Erin has described something really important – establish a pattern of talking with your child one on one and do it when they are still young. This gives you a chance to give them a perspective which helps them resist some of this nonsense. Don’t wait til they are teens already to do this- it is too late then. I also think encouraging your child to be involved in some sort of activity they really enjoy gives them a peer group they will fit in with even if they have problems at school. For my girls that was horses – kept them busy and gave them a bunch of friends outside of high school who cared not a whit about fashion or scent.



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me

posted February 1, 2010 at 1:26 am


Jon
January 31, 2010 9:25 PM
Re: the other kids asked him the same set of questions, “do you have a girlfriend?” no. “Who would you like to be your girlfriend?” no one. “Are you gay?” I don’t think so.
This, and your son’s inattention to his wardrobe, leads me to wonder if you have raised him (inadvertantly perhaps) to become a monk.
me: If you know of a monastery that will take 14 year old boys I’d be more than happy to send him!
But seriously, a few decades ago a 14 year old boy who was more interested in baseball than girls or personal appearance was considered completely normal. Physically, he’s just barely started puberty. The 14 year old boy actively looking to date is really a cultural thing.
One of the things we did with our boys was start talking with them about sex, dating and the like really, really early. Like early elementary school early. Since we knew the culture was going to start making its pitch for hyper-sexualization removed from normal relationships really early and loudly, we figured we better start pitching the alternative view of sex just as early and loudly. One of the things I have always pointed out to my boys is how silly teen dating generally is. I would tell them that when you date as a teen, there are 3 possible outcomes: 1. Neither of you becomes particularly attached to the other so you hang out until you’re sick of each other and then move on. This is unlikely because it goes against our nature as social creatures who naturally become attached to those around us. And if sex gets brought into it, forget about both of you remaining emotionally not attached. If you are lucky, you won’t get attached, but you’ll probably leave a hurt girl behind. Which if you are a decent human being you’ll at least feel kinda bad about. 2. You become very attached, perhaps even sexually involved and then get sick of each other, break up and have to go through a difficult grieving/healing process. 3. You become attached, stay together and get married. So, teen dating generally results in either pain or marriage. Neither of which is particularly desirable to most healthy teenaged boys. Ergo, my son who has had teen dating presented to him in this way since he was about 8 or 9 has decided that he’d just as soon not date for the time being.



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me

posted February 1, 2010 at 1:40 am


One last thing; I am seeing with my son as well as with a couple of other families I know, that a very strong, healthy attachment to one’s family can really help a kid who wants to stand against the tide of teen pressure. For my son and for kids in some of the other families I know, going to school is socially very much like my husband going to work. It’s not primarily a social deal. They go because they have to in order to get the work done. If they find some people there who they enjoy being with, that’s a bonus. If they find a real friend or two while there, that’s a blessing. But both school and work are kind of like interruptions to the real life, sense of belonging and deep relationships which are taking place at home. Work and school are important and necessary, but not the purpose of their lives. Family is. If the things that really matter to you aren’t taking place at school, it’s much easier to blow off peer pressure and cruelty as ridiculous behavior by people who deserve pity more than anything else.



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Lord Karth

posted February 1, 2010 at 2:40 am


I recall being a social outcast from much, much earlier days–early elementary school, in fact—due to being taller, clumsier and considered much smarter than average by my classmates. I skipped a grade early on, and was being considered for skipping another, which disrupted the social “networks” that are established early on in modern American schools. The end result was that I was completely outside the social system by the time I was 8 or so, and I do mean COMPLETELY. (Ever been booed by an entire school at a school play ? It happened to me in 5th grade. Christ’s own truth, and I’ll swear to it on a witness stand under oath. Not a whole heck of a lot of fun.) My middle-school and high-school years were simply an extension of what I had to put up with since third grade. So by the time I was 13, it wasn’t so much of a much.
Let’s just say that I was not unhappy at the prospect of high school graduation.
Looking back on it, that path forced me to learn how to think independently. If the social system did not want me, then, conversely, I did not have to play by its rules, any more than I wished to. It took me a bit to decide how much I wished to. I could have become a serious troublemaker once I grew into my body and out of my clumsiness; when I got into fights in middle school I tended to cause my opponents serious damage, as in “going-to-the-hospital”.
As it happens, I was lucky in one sense. My grandfather was a teacher, and he had a rather wide variety of books in his house. One Thanksgiving I was up in his room and found a rather largish book with a picture of a caveman’s stone axe on it. It was a 1950s-vintage college world-history book. I picked it up, started reading it (my grandfather didn’t mind, and it was going to be a while till dinner), and didn’t come down until I was halfway through Sumer and Egypt. He let me take the book home. For a long time after that, I carted that book (and lots like it) just about everywhere. If nothing else, the books took my mind off the fact that I was eating lunch by myself.
That having been said, I think the problem can be broken down into three major parts:
First, the factory-like organization of modern schools forces children literally into “developmental herds” based on chronological age, and then isolates those groups from each other. This generates a social pressure-cooker environment that emphasizes a lowest-common-denominator conformity. It also allows those at the top of the age group in question an effective means of enforcing that conformity, either through physical force or ostracism. In a mixed-age environment, or in an environment that allows different groups to interact, an older child or adult can intervene on behalf of a weaker member of a particular group—reducing the effectiveness of the immediate cohort’s “top dog”.
Second, the typical American child is surrounded—“marinated” might be a more accurate word–in a visual-media culture that emphasizes materialism/consumerism, athletic achievement and extreme sexuality as behavioral norms. This is what is reinforced in the herds, and this is what tends to stay with an individual once he is released from that herd into the wider world.
Third, families have, in many instances, lost much of their ability to influence a child’s development. Expanded work and financial pressures have removed much of the physical presence of parents from childrens’ lives (the much-lamented “latchkey child” phenomenon first commented on in the 1970s). We see this resulting in a much-higher (and, worse yet, more accepted and “normalized”) number of children in day care. The pressure-cooker and marination starts earlier in 2010, for more children, than it did in, say, 1960 or even 1980.
Divorce and non-marital cohabitation further reduce this influence, particularly in urban areas that have lost what few functional families that might have served as countervailing influences to the “popular” culture. This does not merely render children more vulnerable to influences of school and media, but, in effect, puts the school in the position of being considered the lifeline for many such children !
Is it any wonder that so many children are shallow, media-obsessed and ignorant ? The present social (and, let’s face it, political) environment practically mandates such outcomes. Children do, after all, generally learn what they live.
How does the parent in 2010 prevent, or at least minimize this sort of outcome ? Simple enough, at least conceptually:
a) By remaining present in their child’s life as much as possible, thus providing the emotional/relational “safe harbor” from the pressure-cooker;
b) By providing access to social environments (Scouts, church/religious ed., etc.) that are organized differently than the school (multi-aged, for preference) and contain different people than those the child sees every day in school, and
c) By reducing or eliminating exposure to “popular” culture in the home. Turn the TV set off. Better yet, take your child outside and actually DO something with him or her.
In other words, by being a cultural (and probably political) subversive.
Fight the Power, mes amis !
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Bob

posted February 1, 2010 at 9:12 am


Cologne = b*tch bait



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WhollyRoamin

posted February 1, 2010 at 9:15 am


I am 30 years old and a happily married man. But my head still spins around and I have to hide a secret little smile whenever I smell “Vanilla Fields” perfume. It’s the happy little memory of the girl I dated when I was half my age. It is the scent of the first girl I ever kissed and the scent I wanted to be around every moment of the day.
Those days have come and gone, but the memory and the scent remains.



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RDF

posted February 1, 2010 at 10:14 am


Is it really that different? Remember Slam Books? It seemed like those made the rounds, even though they were not distriubted electronically. In the 80′s, music was very sexualized, prompting Tipper Gore’s dilletante project to promote governement-sanctioned censorship. Doesn’t everyone, once they get into their 40′s, believe the next generation is more debached & immoral than the previous?



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Crustacean

posted February 1, 2010 at 10:25 am


In addition to heartily concurring with everything that Lord Karth says above — following on from his personal history, which sounds not unlike mine — I would note also that all of this is merely the inevitable outcome of the Nietzschean social-state with which left-liberals have worked assiduously for generations to replace a Judeo-Christian social state … I would note also that all of this is merely the inevitable outcome of a decades-long left-liberal project to (mis)educate each rising generation of children more and more into the idea that they are merely *bodies* possessed of *wills* and *desires* as opposed to being *human beings* — *children of God* — possessed of *souls* and *virtues.*
In the Nietzschean social state that left-liberals desire, we are merely bodies with wills and desires — pieces of intelligent meat whose only consolation for that wholly absurd existential plight is getting our rocks off before we die, with no prospect of a life after this one.
Given that conception, and given the utter dominance of left-liberals in both the popular culture and school system, perhaps it is entirely appropriate that one of the lessons reinforced for little girls at school is the popular-cultural lesson that if their breasts are not large enough — if their bodies are not desirable enough to other wills housed in other envelopes of intelligent meat — then they are worthless.
And it is likewise entirely appropriate that one the lessons reinforced for little boys at school is the popular-cultural lesson that if their penises are not large enough — if their bodies are not desirable enough to other wills housed in other envelopes of intelligent meant — then they are worthless.
And, finally, it is entirely appropriate that one of the lessons reinforced for both little boys and little girls at school is the popular cultural lesson that if they don’t smell the right way — either actually or metaphorically — then they are worthless.
The lesson could be summed up thusly: “Rihanna’s breasts are larger than yours; Chris Brown’s penis is larger than yours; Barack Obama is smarter than you; you stink … and there is nothing that that slave-moralizing Jewish carpenter you may have heard about at home is going to do to save you, since neither you nor Rihanna nor Chris Brown nor Barack Obama have any sins — as opposed to strengths and weaknesses, signs of health and signs of sickness — and since, in any event, while he was crucified, his crucifixion did nothing for you, since he was not resurrected, and you were neither redeemed nor offered any prospect at all of a life any better than the one that you are living now, let alone an eternal life better than the one you are living now.”



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Max Schadenfreude

posted February 1, 2010 at 10:41 am


In 1973 I had never even seen a trailer park, but I made up for it by wearing Brut to my freshman year in High School.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 1, 2010 at 10:51 am


Crusty: I would note also that all of this is merely the inevitable outcome of the Nietzschean social-state with which left-liberals have worked assiduously for generations to replace a Judeo-Christian social state … I would note also that all of this is merely the inevitable outcome of a decades-long left-liberal project to (mis)educate each rising generation of children more and more into the idea that they are merely *bodies* possessed of *wills* and *desires* as opposed to being *human beings* — *children of God* — possessed of *souls* and *virtues.*
Oh, come on. I mean, I agree with you to a certain extent, in that the loss of a social conviction that a particular concept of virtue exists and is necessary to inculcate in young people removes socially constructed barriers to this kind of barbaric behavior. What was C.S. Lewis’s great line? “We breed men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.” Something like that. However, I wouldn’t blame it on left-liberals entirely. They are simply bringing the morality of the marketplace, which is embraced uncritically by many (but not all) conservatives, into the social/personal realm.
Anyway, it surely wasn’t the case that before 1960, teenagers were uniformly kind and helpful to each other. Anybody remember “Lord of the Flies”? I can’t imagine that any sort of cultural conservative worth his salt has to be reminded that this kind of cruelty is in our very natures, and that civilization, as we understand it, exists to restrain this aspect of our nature.
I think the more interesting aspect of all this is how technology defeats civilization. By which I mean mass media, marketing, and the texting phenomenon overruns measures that might be taken to counter the anti-social character of all this. You can’t blame technology on left-liberals, or right-conservatives.



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Upstate Crunchy

posted February 1, 2010 at 10:52 am


“From the point of view of a 13 or 14 year old boy, no one is as powerful as a 13 or 14 year old girl — or as cruel.” — Few things are more true or insightful as this.



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caroline w

posted February 1, 2010 at 10:59 am


I suspect this will not come as a newsflash to this audience: the most important thing is to segregate your children. Very counter-cultural and un-pc yada yada. The best thing you can do to minimize the damage to your children’s soul that this culture will do is to ensure, as best as possible, that you surround them with other children from families who share your values. Of course nothing’s foolproof. But compared with the horror stories I hear from public school teachers–who sent their children to Catholic school with mine– at least they have a good shot at an innocent childhood, at least the odds are on your side that your first grader won’t be watching Saw III at a friend’s house.
As for cologne type stuff: Yes we had some of those issues, of course…(my two are now in college.) Fortunately we were naturally restrained by financial limitations. We simply couldn’t afford to keep up with all the indulgences many of the wealthier families could…so it was always a matter of keeping things in perspective, rather than, say, totally eliminating it, which would have had made my son in particular want those things all the more. In eighth grade, for example, all my son wanted were jeans from Abercrombie. (I never shop at a mall.) I went there, but couldn’t bring myself to plunk down eighty bucks on jeans w holes already in them. So: we gave our son a check for $80 — and told him, if you want jeans from Abercrombie, you’ll have to do it yourself. In other words: if those things are really important, they may indulge themselves within reason, but we are very consistent in our message that we a) don’t provide them; and b) don’t place any importance on them as parents. BTW, he couldn’t bring himself to spend his entire birthday check on jeans from abercrombie, either.



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Hector

posted February 1, 2010 at 11:13 am


Interesting comments.
I knew a girl in college (we went on a few dates- still friends though she’s happily married now with a one year old) who grew up in a very interesting family. They belonged to a very liberal Christian denomination, and had moved out to the countryside and had a little organic farm and a small business. Anyway, when she and her siblings were growing up her family had always bought them clothing and shoes from the thrift store, partly for financial reasons but also because they wanted to teach them non-consumerist values. They were made fun of, a lot, in school, but today that family is one of the closest and most loving that I know- and I should mention that that girl is one of the most shining and inspiring examples of Christian charity that I know.
Sometimes, I guess, it’s simply best to live your own life according to your values, to tell the world to go its own way, and to teach your children to do the same. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it works amazingly well. And it isn’t an approach, contra Crustacean, that’s limited to people either of the Left or of the Right.



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hlvanburen

posted February 1, 2010 at 11:14 am


“I would note also that all of this is merely the inevitable outcome of the Nietzschean social-state with which left-liberals have worked assiduously for generations to replace a Judeo-Christian social state … I would note also that all of this is merely the inevitable outcome of a decades-long left-liberal project to (mis)educate each rising generation of children more and more into the idea that they are merely *bodies* possessed of *wills* and *desires* as opposed to being *human beings* — *children of God* — possessed of *souls* and *virtues.*”
Ah yes, it was the left-liberals that decided that the goal of the “greatest” generation was to give their children more than they had. It was the left-liberals that initiated the growth of the suburbs with its ranch-style homes with two car garages.
And it was the left-liberals that initiated that wonderful phenomenon known as “church hopping”, where the parents decide that the neighborhood church may not be the best place to raise little Joe or Jill, but that new church some 30 minutes away in West Suburbia, the one with that neat young minister and the great youth program (segregated by ages, no less) is just the place to go.
Of course it was the left-liberals who decided that a simple NIV bible was not enough, but that you needed the Teen Study Bible, the Extreme Teen Study Bible, the Metal Study Bible, the Skater Study Bible, the 3l33t Study Bibl3, and all the other wonders of Zondervan publishing. And those nasty left-liberals put all sorts of different study notes in these Bibles, so that the latest-greatest notes in The Ryrie Study Bible Metal 3l33t “Guide Your Life” Rainbow Reference System (offered in KJV, NIV, NLT, NIrV, NASB, NASB Update, NRSV, RSV, The Message, and of course NKJV) is just the thing every young Christian needs to replace their natty old Scofield Study Split Leather Genuine Cowhide Spine pink with red flames “I’m On Fire For God” Grey Scale Reference System offered in over 30 versions.
Oh, and those nasty left-liberals of course brought us the WWJD bracelets and all that followed (cups, hats, shirts, mints, piggy banks, collapsable cups with pill holders, Bible covers, beaded necklaces, erasers, pencils, pencil cases) so that the young Christian in school can show his/her allegiance to the Lord with the latest style.
Yes, Crusty…it’s all the fault of those left-liberals that our dear, beloved Christian children are every bit as materialistic and brand conscious as their heathen counterparts in those nasty public schools. Thank you for enlightening us.



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Peter

posted February 1, 2010 at 11:19 am


Caroline, you say people should segregate your kids, yet your segregation didn’t seem to inocculate your kids from the influence of other kids and media. So is segregation really the answer?



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hlvanburen

posted February 1, 2010 at 11:34 am


“I suspect this will not come as a newsflash to this audience: the most important thing is to segregate your children. Very counter-cultural and un-pc yada yada. The best thing you can do to minimize the damage to your children’s soul that this culture will do is to ensure, as best as possible, that you surround them with other children from families who share your values.”
Yep…and to facilitate that you have many wonderful tools. For example, most towns offer a Christian service and retail directory, so that you are purchasing your goods and services only from folks who share your beliefs.
http://www.cbaonline.org/nm/Membership-SuppliersBenefits.htm
And there are a host of Christian-themed games that your family can enjoy, from PC based games, to Wii, to even the old-fashioned board games.
gamers4jesus.org/
For your movie resource you can select a variety of Christian movies from several sources.
http://www.christianmovies.com/
And of you don’t want to go out into the nasty mall and visit your Zondervan book store, you can order from the safety of your own home a variety of online sources.
http://www.crossings.com/
http://www.zondervan.com/
And, yes, there are even remote control salt shakers and lights, so you can be the salt and light of the world without having to leave the safety of your home, commune, or secure underground bunker.
tinyurl.com/yaezrzp
tinyurl.com/y9shjzl
/sarcasm
Honestly, what many of these complaints sound like are tacit admissions that the teachings you are trying to pass on to your children simply are not taking, and therefore may well be defective. Of course, to the extent that you have not adopted them in your own lives, perhaps in selected cases the kids are seeing you preach something you do not live, and are responding to that hypocrisy in typical teen fashion.
It’s wonderful to talk about the necessity of community and of making sure your children have friends “of the right kind” to hang with, but when so many Christians drive a half hour to attend their mega church, how realistic is it to expect kids to be able to socialize with children who may live that far or farther from them?
In this area I have a lot of respect for the homeschoolers, both Christian and otherwise, who go out of their way to establish social networks to support themselves and their children. But from my observations over the years these folks are very few and very far between.
It seems that most Christians who complain about the greedy materialism of this generation are quite content to drive across town to their Hobby Lobby, Zondervan, or other Christian retailer to get the latest, greatest thing, and don’t realize that they are feeding exactly the same monster.
If you want a child who eschews the evils of this society, make sure you are modeling that behavior in a positive manner. It’s called sacrifice, and it is something that we as Americans seem to be incapable of doing. When parents sacrifice and live by the same standards they are preaching to their kids, the kids notice and respond.



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Crustacean

posted February 1, 2010 at 11:35 am


Rod,
Question: Where have I ever suggested that the Nietzschean left-liberal project I describe only began in the 1960′s or that human falleness has only ever manifested itself in terms of the Nietzschean left-liberal project I describe?
Answer: Nowhere but in your imagination and perhaps in the imagination of a few others reading this.
I agree with you that cultural leftism and economic liberalism are two of the coziest bedfellows one will ever find.
Question: Where have I ever suggested otherwise?
Answer: Again, nowhere but in your imagination and perhaps in the imaginations of a few others reading this. A recognition of how compatible cultural leftism and economic liberalism are is some — but not all — of what’s contained in my use of the shorthand term “left-liberal.”
I agree with you that there are plenty of self-described conservatives, members of the conservative movement, members of the Republican party, etc, etc who participate in the left-liberalism I describe.
Question: Again, where have I ever suggested otherwise?
Answer: Once, more nowhere but in your imagination and perhaps in the imaginations of a few others reading this.
Questions: In any event, how does recognizing that there are plenty of self-described conservatives, members of the conservative movement, members of the Republican party, etc, etc undermine my case in any way? And how does such recognition constitute any kind of ad hominem rhetorical “gotcha” game against me?
Answers: Such recognition doesn’t undermine my case in any way. And it doesn’t constitute any kind of ad hominem rhetorical “gotcha” game against me, since (unlike you) I’ve never described myself as *a* conservative (as opposed to sometimes taking a conservative position relative to certain questions), I’ve never been a member of the conservative movement, and I’ve never been a member of the Republican party.
Addendum: I might also add — only because you’ve “accused” me of being so, as if it were a crime — that I am not now and have never identified as an Evangelical and that I am not now and have never been anything like a regular viewer or particular fan of Glenn Beck.
Thinking Jason Peters is sometimes (like me) a pompous, self-righteous *sshole snob and that he was one in the case of his nasty assault on Evangelicals at FRP does not make me an Evangelical myself.
And thinking that Glenn Beck is nothing like the kind of fool or the kind of threat to all that is decent and good that you took him to be a while back does not make me a regular viewer or particular fan myself, having only seen the show a handful of times and never having found it to be my cup of tea.
Finally, in closing, let me say in my “defense” — though I don’t think I’m obliged to offer any more or any less apology for what I have to say than anyone else here — that saying that every possible ideological demographic is equally to blame for this or that social ill is every bit as “partisan” a position to take as it is to assert that some particular ideological demographics are more or less to blame in relation to one another for this or that social ill. There isn’t any position one can take outside of the existence we share. If having a position at all makes one “partisan,” then we are all “partisan” and no one more so or less than anyone else.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 1, 2010 at 11:45 am


Good grief, man, calm the freak down! You are making this difficult to discuss. All I’m telling you is that your ideological framework for analyzing the problem strikes me as insufficient. You are very quick to take personal offense, as well as give it. Just stop, or find another board to post on. You’re a smart person, with a lot to contribute to these discussions, but you really have to find a more civil way of expressing yourself. Talking is more important than fighting, at least in this forum.



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Franklin Evans

posted February 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm


Shorter Crustacean: I have the most accurate conclusion, the best logical and factual support for the conclusion, and the moment anyone challenges or criticizes either the support or the conclusion, it must be a personal attack.
It goes beyond tone, civility or anything else along that line, Crustacean. It comes down to the explicit decision you make before composing your text for a post, as (usually strongly) indicated by your wording, phrasing, and leap to the personal in dialogue: You do not intend to engage in discussion, you just want to make your position known.
You can take this post as sarcastic, and be totally wrong. You can take it as a personal attack, and be totally wrong. You can take it as an attempt to censor or silence you, and be totally wrong. My primary expression of curmugdeonly intolerance is that people insist that I do their thinking for them, so I leave you to work out my actual intentions here, and perhaps ask me about them instead of leaping to assumptions. A close second on my intolerance list is people who hold both sides of the conversation, and smugly chastise others for not agreeing with the thoughts and words being put into their minds and mouths.
And yes, I firmly believe in the two-way street. Experience has taught me that it is possible to correct others, have them respectfully accept correction, and see an immediate improvement in the quality of the dialogue.



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hlvanburen

posted February 1, 2010 at 12:45 pm


[A republished version of hlv's earlier remark follows -- Rod.]
I dislike critics of our materialistic ways only to the extent that they complain about the this problem of our society while insisting on having their microbrewery beer, their imported cheese, or their newest haute cuisine “foodie” dish from the comfort of the veranda of their 12,000 square feet McMansion, with their Hummer and Lexis parked in their four car garage.
Other than that, I am fine with their statements, and often find myself in agreement with them. We are too materialistic, and we are training our children by our example. We are, as a society, becoming more and more rude (and Internet anonymity on bulletin boards such as this is one major contributor to that), and are thus passing this down to our children. And it is helpful to remember that for every rapper who wishes to record some violent, sexist song, and for every teen that wishes to listen to such a song, there are several businesspeople, conservative and liberal, quite happy to make a profit by connecting misogynistic rapper with impressionable teen.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm


Sorry, hlvanburen, I just unpublished your most recent comment, which was a reply to Crusty’s last broadside at you. I took yours down because I took his down.
Crusty, look: you cannot come on this board and call people names, as you did to hlvanburen. That’s not how it works here. You’ve been around here long enough to know that. One final time, I’m going to ask you to knock it off.



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Franklin Evans

posted February 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm


My simplified logic, from my personal POV*:
About to be or newly-adolescent boys are embarked on the most difficult phase towards self: Defining oneself in terms of those others whose regard they most value. Girls are at the top of that list (well, from my memory, the first two or three on the list).
So, why should they enhance their personal body odor? Is there some objective analysis that proves that the use of cologne (or whatever) has a direct effect on girls?
The answer I see is bordering on the “it’s obvious, stupid” view, and IMO deservedly so: Boys want girls to notice them, and they will not stop to ask for proof (beyond the mere mention of success no matter how unlikely it must seem), and will very often blame some other thing or aspect of themselves for that failure… and go out and buy some more.
That, for me, is the only fact needed here. People profit from it. They, themselves, only care about making the sale, and will never hesitate to lie (whether directly or by omission) in order to make the sale.
And, in fairness to my own gender, girls are just as hooked (line and sinker) with cosmetics and clothing. Shall we examine that next?
* I remember being that boy. My “solution” was to just not try to compete. Turned out rather well, in hindsight, the girls I dated shared my values concerning the insanity of meeting the impossible standards of others.



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Crustacean

posted February 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm


Rod,
I don’t mind you taking down my reply to hlvanburen if you’re going to take down his or her response to said reply. That seem sporting enough and, after all, it’s your blog.
That said, it doesn’t seem right to take down my reply to you, which merely said that I *am* calm and that I’m *not* emotionally exercised at all, and which then went on to concede that I may be as deficient in making my tone and position clear as some others are deficient in taking my tone and my position for what they are intended to be.
I even suggested that you and I meet each other half-way.
That seems cricket to me and I think the reply ought to stay up, if only to allow me the chance to demonstrate that I’m not the monster that a few folks here seem to want to make me out to be, as opposed to being merely a pearl encased in some soft and mushy stuff, encased in a crusty shell — just like everyone else here and anywhere else anyone might ever go.



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Your Name

posted February 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm


Our son will likely make the switch from learning at home to attendance at the local public school beginning in 8th grade this fall, due to a combination of things (job/money/time/health insurance/learning style . . .).
It’s not the best time to make the switch, but we have to believe we’ve prepared him fairly well, starting with TV avoidance, interest in his own activities, and family support. Like commenter “me” above, he’s indifferent to his hair and his clothing choices, and can’t wait for Scout camp this summer where he hears you can go all week without showering. (We will help him make socially-acceptable hygiene choices when he’s at school, but I don’t care if he wears the same clothes repeatedly, as long as they’re clean enough.)
I think boys usually fare better in the middle school intrasex wars than girls (although he’s not athletic, which is the badge of honor around here). And if they aren’t driven by pleasing the girls so soon, so much the better.
Aroma is so personal–Bella “smells so good” to Edward (like bacon?). Personally, I like the clean, soap smell above all.



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hlvanburen

posted February 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm


“Sorry, hlvanburen, I just unpublished your most recent comment, which was a reply to Crusty’s last broadside at you. I took yours down because I took his down.”
Understood. Later on I’ll see if I can restate the thought in such a way that does not malign soft-shelled arthropods so directly.



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Your Name

posted February 1, 2010 at 8:16 pm


I’m 43 and began wearing Polo cologne again after a 20-year hiatus. The after shave balm hasn’t changed, but I swear that the spray cologne doesn’t smell the same. It’s less sweet and less smoky.
I wore Polo to keep up with the rich kids who were in the same honors classes that I was. I mowed lawns all summer to make an annual pilgrimage to The Polo Shop in Highland Park, Texas, and blow every last nickel I had on (really wonderful, well-made, nice, 100% natural- fiber, overpriced) clothing. The goal was to set foot on campus the first cold day wearing ALL of the Ralph Lauren finery: a polo shirt, an oxford shirt, a windbreaker or blazer, a scarf, a crew neck sweater, belt, khakis, key fob, and socks. (My friend’s dad was a neurosurgeon, so he got the Polo crest sewn to his blazer with the most skillful, invisible stitching imaginable. The richest kid got the $75 cashmere socks one year for Christmas!) Naturally, there was a liberal dousing for us young Republicans with Polo cologne, deodorant, shampoo, and conditioner…gosh how I miss having hair if for no other reason than that. Thank goodness I still have my armpits.
Know what? I still have a glorious 25-year-old plaid Polo button-down shirt that I wear a few times a year, and am always complimented by friends when I do. At $50 on the sale table, I’d say I got my money’s worth. Legend has it that the day I have to throw away my beloved shirt is the day I will meet my Maker.
Chaps was for dorks.



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C walker

posted February 2, 2010 at 12:46 am


Teens have always been cruel–boys to girls and girls to boys and girls to girls and so on–because at that age they are obsessed with status. I’m not a behavioral scientist but I guess it has something to do with developmental issues. Anyone who says that this is some new modern phenomenon hasn’t read Laura Ingalls’ books; when she was 15 she was obsessed with her appearance, jealous of girls with better clothes, very concerned with her standing among her peers… familiar?
It is parents’ job to civilize these barbarians by teaching them real values over materialistic ones. And there is one way we parents could take a stand on the new digital bullying: deny or severely restrict access to electronic communication. Kids couldn’t text terrible things about one another if they didn’t have cell phones. Girls wouldn’t send catty e-mails about their classmates if they had limited internet time and knew their moms could read all the e-mails. Denied these media, kids would still be cruel, but the breadth and width of that cruelty would be limited. Slam books were mean and girls wrote nasty notes to one another in the 1980′s, but there was a natural limit on how many people had access to those words. Today, one kid texts some unkind comments and the genie can’t be kept in the bottle.
My daughter is 13 and in 8th grade in a traditional Catholic school. She is one of the only kids in her class without a cell phone, and we let her set up her own e-mail address just last month (I monitor). She pines for a phone and lets us know that we are raising her like a freak. But despite her very real angst, I know her lack has kept her out of several catty situations, preventing her from hurting others and being hurt herself at this vulnerable age.



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Anonymous

posted February 3, 2010 at 3:13 am


Hector and Jon,
You’ve absolutely nailed the 10- to 14-year-old experience. Well said.
I’m sure this has always been a difficult period to endure since the caveman days, but surely it can’t have been quite this bad prior to the last few generations?
Anyone?



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