Today’s kids: neon sponges, smokers

By Kelli Christiansen

I turned the big 21 about a week and a half ago, and I feel old. I’m not sure why.

One reason is because someone thought I was 16 and that made me feel really old. I would have been insulted if I were turning 19, I suppose. I remember when I was still a teen-ager I was disgusted if anyone thought I was younger than I actually was. Age is such a strange conbept.

At any rate, I feel old because I worked at a mall during the break between the spring and summer semesters, and there were a lot of high school teeny boppers working there wearing plastic jewelry and neon sponge-like things in their hair. Not to mention the ones who spend their entire days wandering around the mall.

I call it wandering. I suppose the people who do it call it shopping or hanging. Either way it seems like a lot of wasted time to me. Don’t these kids have anything better to do than spend eight hours a day wandering around the mall? Not actually shopping but eating Mrs. Fields cookies and Sbarro pizza, smoking where their parents can’t see them.

This is really a national disaster. Normally, I’m sure people don’t think of this as any sort of catastrophe—not like the drug wars—but it is. I know because I worked at a mall.

I see little boys smoking. And more and more little girls smoking. (How ladylike. What could be more attractive than having a burning piece of paper hanging from your lips?) Ten and 12-year-old boys chewing tobacco. What gentlemen.

I guess nearly everybody goes through a smoking phase or at least takes one teenyweeny drag. And I don’t know anyone who never stole a peanut from the grocery store while their mothers were squeezing the tomatoes.

But more and more I see little kids shoplifting. Whoa, Nellie. That’s a problem. It raises prices for the honest people who pay for the things they want…blah, blah, blah.

There is more to this situation than escalated prices. These young children are turning into dishonest punks. And no, I’m not going to give them a break just because they’re young. That’s a problem: people giving young kids who violate the law “breaks” because they are “just babies.”

Look: if someone is old enough to plan a way to swipe something from a store, that person is old enough to pay the price, as it were. These kids do not deserve forgiveness. They are breaking the law. And what’s more, if they didn’t spend entire days hanging out at the mall and actually doing something worthwhile, maybe they wouldn’t be such hooligans.

Where are the parents of these kids? What—are they dropping their kids off at the mall, slapping some money into their upturned little hands and saying “see you after work” as they drive off toward the expressways?

Whatever happened to day camps or swimming pools or reading a book? The kids of today want to be entertained instead of finding something to entertain themselves. They get their morals from smart-alecs like that Simpson kid, who, by the way, is not a real person, folks.

So what’s goin‘ on here? Is it that now that I’m the big 21 my life has changed so drastically that I see children as disobedient little beasts? Or are they actually much different than when we were all growing up? I sound like I’m forty, I know, but something is definitely amiss.