"Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?
What's the matter with kids today?"
It's an amusing song. And it expresses the frustration and confusion that older generations feel about the younger generation.
A great deal of the misunderstanding results because of the tribal markings* each generation uses.
When I first returned to the United States, having been in southern Africa where my parents were missionaries, the ways in which my fellow classmates dressed was very different from what I had just experienced. I had attended boarding school, a necessity when the mission station where we were was a day trip from the nearest school for me. Boarding schools required students to wear uniforms. So everyone clearly belonged to the same "tribe" by virtue of those uniforms. And it was easy to tell when we saw other school uniforms that other "tribes" were close by.
High school in the United States did not require students to wear uniforms. And yet they did. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, I encountered girls who wore blouses with Peter Pan collars, wide skirts decorated with poodles, and crinoline slips. And I so envied that new style uniform. I never did get a poodle skirt**. Of course, now I have to laugh at
Once the 1960s moved into full swing, I was able to adopt the uniform. I had long hair, and wore long "hippie" style dresses. My husband, who I married in 1967, had shoulder length hair and a mustache. We looked like we belonged in the '60s. And, of course, there were people who shook their heads and said "Kids!"
Fast forward a couple of decades. When our daughter was a young girl, she began to bug me to let her get her ears pierced. All or almost all of her friends had their ears pierced. I resisted. After all, at the time, our daughter was pre-teen. My answer was--yes, you can get your ears pierced when I get mine pierced. NOT FAIR--of course, as I had never had mine pierced. But I now understand her request was part of wanting to belong to the tribe.
There are many ways today to young people mark themselves as belonging to the tribe. When I taught at the local community college, at the end of my working career, I was amazed at how many students had tattoos. And then I began to note how many students had body piercings. And I am talking about more than pierced ears. Occasionally, I would note that a student was "playing" with her tongue ball. OK--a tribal marking, but not one I could appreciate.
Thus it ever was--adults who had their own tribal markings shake their heads and ask--"Kids, what's the matter with kids today?"
* As I was preparing to write this, I searched my blog to see what I might have said on this subject before. (I confess, I do find myself repeating some ideas.) Herewith is an earlier entry on the topic--written about my teaching time.
** Photo of the poodle skirt comes from a website where you can get your own pattern to make one.