Toronto
3 min

Electric youth fry me

The soundtrack of the youth of today is much more harrowing and tell-tale

YOU WOULD. I never dared be so combative with TAs when I was in school. Credit: Xtra files

Oh, the youth of today! What are we going to do about the youth of today?



One thing we can do is refer to them as “the youth of today,” as if they were an indivisible unit, like a bushel of hay, or a brain tumour. But is that enough?



Short of implementing a dog-years policy on human beings, whereby 10-year-olds are actually 70 and go straight from grade school into low-income seniors’ homes, how are we going to stem the tide of this awful wave of brassy, hyper-articulate, no-nonsense teenagers? Why do I suddenly feel like a brain-damaged never-was because I don’t have cystic acne and sparse pubes?



My fear of the current crop of 18 to 22 year olds was an inarticulate, ill-defined thing, until I, Greg Kearney, nearly 29, went out for drinkies at Get Ready For Drinkies with my old (31) friend Julie, last week. We have both battled indecisiveness since birth; simply getting ready for drinkies involved several weeks of mutual hand-wringing, pro/con lists and tear-stained flowcharts.



Typically, over drinkies, Julie and I speak of gentle things: past topics have run from, “Remember when we saw that pigeon?” to “If only we were both named Minnie.” But on this night Julie was ablaze. She’s doing a stint as a tutorial assistant, and the brusque teeners in her first year film studies tutorial have been raking her over the coals.



“I was telling them about the lack of objective truth and unreliability of documentary, and my cheeks were rosy with discovery and enthusiasm. They began pelting me with heavy, hardcover texts by Foucault and chanting in one voice: ‘We know all about it, hack! You know what else is unreliable? Your intellect, old woman! You’re a TA, alright – tits ‘n’ ass, of which you have neither! Go to hell! Go to hell!'”



I would never have dared be so combative with my TAs when I was in school, even if they were glaringly incompetent – which they sometimes were. Once, during a tutorial for Introduction To Sad, Dead Gays, our TA told us that Tennessee Williams was a kind of porridge, and that Jean Genet was most famous for inventing the clip-on earring. And we simply nodded and note-took, because we were young and reverent, and our TA was older and carried a severed head in his briefcase. We knew our place!



Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for challenging authority. If a certain, long-haired generation of young ‘uns didn’t “fight the power” in the late 1960s, why… we wouldn’t have an overabundance of sports utility vehicles and the majesty that is Carlysimon.com, would we? Some things are definitely worth fighting for.



But the youth of today! They have no need to challenge authority, at least not in any callow, Homeric sense – they’ve arrived, en masse, at a state of horrible, calcified stateliness without having to jump through the pesky, flaming hoops of vanquished idealism, identity crisis or countless ectopic pregnancies. Dead-eyed and long-legged, the youth of today resemble nothing so much as that relentless procession of walking hammers in The Wall.



But don’t tell that to the youth of today; they hate Pink Floyd.



The soundtrack of the youth of today is much more harrowing and tell-tale. I don’t know if any of you subscribe to Billboard, but do you know what the biggest album of the year was on the youth-driven Billboard Top 200? It wasn’t Britney, or Christina. It was The Best Of Waking Up During Open Heart Surgery, Volume One. Not for the faint of heart (which is, incidentally, volume two.)



Item: The teener who e-mailed me to say that my column was “as toothless and incoherent as Katherine Hepburn waking up from nap time.” He wrote that in capital letters, too – which is “yelling” in web-speak. I wrote my rebuttal entirely in lower case letters – which is “no-talent York U visual arts grad student pretense” in greg-speak and always effective in getting a rise outta salt-o-the-earth types.



Item: The young woman behind the counter at my local Starbucks, who tweezes her eyebrows into the shape of catheters and declaims “you would” whenever someone orders a beverage.



“I’ll have a grande breakfast blend.”



“You would.”



“I’ll have a venti inverted dumpling triple axel whoop-di-doo non-fat karma comma hey-nonnie nonnie.”



“You would.”



I’ve gotten used to her spitting into my coffee and stirring it with a used Q-tip, but the cheek of “you would” still rubs me the wrong way.



Item(s): my raging hemorrhoid, my RSP, my love of Rosemary Clooney, my burgeoning double chin, my attempt to stay current by wearing phat pants but instead looking like Charles Durning wrapped in a canoe tarp.



My generation: X, which no longer marks the spot.