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History Repeats Itself, First As Tragedy, Second As Farce.

January 17, 2009

I regularly tease my sister Helen that she is reaping the rewards of her own youthful adventures by having to raise her teenage girls. And while she may be suffering a kind of karmic blow-back, she can take some solace in knowing that she’s got their number and has a better idea of what they are going to do next than our mother did.

Yet, I feel sorry for my nieces for they will never truly know the joys of teenage rebellion. Parrish’s daughters, the eldest of my nieces, spent their formative teen years in the backwoods of Santa Cruz, amongst a tribe of vegan new age warriors, dope smoking hippies and commune escapees. You can’t rebel in a place built and inhabited by iconoclasts and social outcasts. It is pointless, and goes unnoticed by the town folk. My younger nieces, however, live in the same small town where we grew up, and they will face many of the same issues my sisters and I faced over 25 years ago.

They will try to rebel for that is the nature of being an American teenager. But they will always be thwarted because there is really nothing they can do, no outfit so outrageous, no stunt they can pull, that their mother or aunts have not already perfected, and in some cases invented. The ironic truth is that rather than defy their parents, they will be forced to emulate them – and where, pray tell, is the rebellion in that?

They can try to affect the rebel look, but that won’t get them very far. Most of their adult female relatives have something pierced and sport tattoos, so that’s a dud. Fashion forward? Nope, fashion backward. Today they pay a professional to put streaks of fun colors in their hair while I was getting demerits at Marlborough in 8th grade for using food color and spray-on dye to effect that chic “punk” look in contrast to my pastel colored uniforms. They are paying top dollar for jeans with the tears already put in them by Third World child laborers. Mine were made in America, as I had to do it myself. Black nail polish? Lots of eyeliner? Come on, can you get more 80’s?

They can sport the look, but they don’t have to do the social heavy lifting that comes with true rebellion. There’s no sedition when you don’t have to bear the mocking and the stares that come with really being a rule breaker. I was the one wearing men’s boxers to school who got pantsed in the Quad at SAMOHI in 10th grade by Kirk, Spencer and Todd to see if I was wearing boy’s briefs as well. Now they sell boxer style shorts for women bearing designer names other than Fruit of the Loom. Their skin-tight straight legged jeans are made of stretchable fabrics. So they will not know the humiliation of having to have Parrish’s boyfriend Nick hold my stomach flat while his buddy Eric zipped me into my Levis before I left for a party. By the time I had graduated high school I had worn every trendy outfit from Rockabilly to Mod to New Ro to Punk to early Grunge. All of which are back in fashion, or on the horizon. Had I saved them my clothes my nieces would be the envy of every girl in school, not to mention a few vintage clothing dealers.

Kids today may think they are on the cutting edge with their sexy photos on their My Space pages. Please. I got my first nude photo from Chris for Christmas in 9th grade, and he used a public photo booth at the Promenade Mall instead of a cell phone camera in the privacy of his bedroom. That was risk taking behavior! Sexting? Seriously? We spent hours crafting intricately folded, multi-colored, handwritten notes filled with all kinds of lusty language. Personally, I can never run for public office for fear of the notes I wrote in junior high school surfacing before a senate sub-committee on obscenity.

Sneaking around with boys? So not worth it. We were the last generation to have teenage sex where the only life altering worry from not using condoms was the risk of teenage pregnancy. Now, not only will they find that sex with teenage boys is lousy, susceptible to a myriad of diseases, but they are bound to get busted. While my boyfriend Andy’s mom was too naive to check his closet and find me hiding there one fine suburban Saturday morning after sneaking in and spending the night, that’ll be the first place my sister will check on her surprise inspections of their bedrooms. Tell their mom they are staying the night at a friend’s house? Please! My sister refined that ploy in her youth, so she will know to call the parents, several times, and make it impossible to sneak out or will catch them in a flat out lie. Not to mention the handy GPS unit in their rarely parted with cell phones that will always give away their whereabouts.

Out and about doing something they shouldn’t? Destined to be caught in the act, if not by their mother, then definitely by their grandmother. When my sister Parrish and I tried to hitchhike home from a party on Pt. Dume one night, who do you think was driving the first car to pull up to our outstretched thumbs on the PCH? Mom. When Jim (who was drunk) and I (who was tripping on acid) were making a half-hearted and feeble attempt to make out in the backseat of the Buick station wagon, who do you think opened the back of the car and caught us half-dressed, horrifying him and bumming my trip? Mom. There’s no escaping the maternal instinct for bad behavior and it is even worse when the instinct is well informed by experience.

Drugs? Again, pointless. Unlike their grandmother back in the 80’s, their mom knows the difference between the smell of dope and the smell of incense. D’oh! The powers-that-be have long since closed the drug drive-thrus of Venice that my girlfriend Julie and I frequented back in the day; so the kids in Malibu today are forced to buy their drugs from the local dealers, who are either people we went to high school with or are the same people we bought from in high school. Either way, it will get back to their mother before they can crack open the dime bag. Small towns suck when you’re a kid.

And while I don’t wish my sister many a sleepless night in the coming years, she will have to forgive me when I laugh and am less sympathetic than she would wish to her laments about the shenanigans of her teenage daughters, but it’s like watching re-runs of M*A*S*H, the antics and angst are still pretty damn entertaining 25 years later, even with a cast change.

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