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I remember when I was in junior high, my friends & I exchanged recipes. I remember this distinctly because there was a stuffed pizza that Rodney gave me the recipe for that I still make today. Now, mind you, we didn’t have a great interest in the culinary arts & none of the recipes were of the “from scratch” variety. They were little things that we could make when mom & dad left us home alone to fend for our selves.

By the way, it was two Aldi frozen Pizzas stacked one on top of another with olive oil, garlic salt, & assorted other sauces & extras, cooked in tin foil for an estimated time.

I bring it up because my little sister & I binged on My So Called Life last night.

Well, I just dated myself didn’t I?

That’s right. My So Called Life & I was exactly Angela’s age. That show hit home with me, mainly because I remember watching an episode & walking into Nicole’s apartment, who I had a major crush on & it was entirely foreign…you are just starting high school, your old friend’s aren’t your current friends, you are branching out, you are going new places & a lot of them seem strange the first time you walk into them.

A quote from the tv show hit me:

“Walking into someone else’s house for the first time is like entering another country.”

For those of you that don’t know, it was that show that you could identify with the teenagers for the one season that it was on, grew to love, & now can sort of identify with the parents.

At least if you were born in the 90s you could identify with it.

The whole teenaged angst thing was lost on my sister.

But she had a totally different world to live in. She didn’t learn how to do laundry until college & she’s still learning how to cook things.

Mom & dad sprang for an off campus apartment for her in college. I paid my entire tuition & I paid for my own apartment, & that little bitch never threw a party in it, or if she did, she never invited me to one or even asked me to supply the booze.

I’m fine with mom & dad giving her a free-ride, but have a fucking party.

“Listen, honey. You are my little sister & I love you. But this shit has to stop. You are 18 now, go to the campus clinic, get some birth control, I’ll buy you some booze. I’ll pay for it myself, & I’ll leave you alone so long as you promise me to drink too much & get laid. Can you do that, can you promise your big brother you’ll get drunk & laid?”

When I was 18 you did NOT invite mom & dad over because there was no way you could clean up the beer bottles & pot paraphernalia in time, let alone find it all, you know one of your friends had “Big Black Ass” up on the communal computer, they were old & might trip over the lan lines & you really couldn’t guarantee what your roommates were going to be doing.

And that is what we call college in America. If you are good at University you can live like that & pull a 4.0. If you are a college god like me, you can live like that, pull a 4.0 & actually do all the reading.

Reading I think was either a generational thing or I could have just been blessed to have highly literate friends. I remember Tommy & Scott fighting over Clarke v Adams. It was a drunken teenaged argument & it literally went on forever. It irritated the hell out of me.

Anyway, my sister called me up for a favor about 6 months into her freshman year of college. So I jumped on the train, road out to the suburbs, borrowed a car & drove nonstop to Dekalb.

My sister was 18, living in an apartment, & wanted a favor from her 23 year-old brother.

Just for the record, I would have had no problem buying the booze & jetting. My little sister needed to let her hair down a little.

Did I mention that she had two hot roommates?

Did I also mention that that Friday Night favor was laundry lessons?

She couldn’t ask mom because she didn’t want her to know that she was having problems making it on her own.

Needless to say that I was pissed.

So I did what any good older brother would do, I humiliated all of them “You’re 18! How can you not know how to do laundry?!”

Then it dawned on me. I sounded like my father.

Only, yeah, my father didn’t know how to do his own laundry at 18 either. No idea how to separate whites from coloreds & loads of towels & sheets & he still doesn’t know.

By 18, I had been doing laundry for years. It was just totally inconceivable that my little sister wouldn’t know how to do in it college.

So I collected myself & took them to the laundromat on a Friday night, cooked them an actual meal & wondered how these girls could have made it all the way through high school without ever cooking dinner or doing the laundry.

Teenaged angst wasn’t something they understood either.

It was more than clear when my sister & I were watching “My So Called Life” together.

I mean, it’s not like I can identify with Angela any more, but I can remember sort of seeing the world through her eyes. She understood us. She understood what it was like to be that age at that time. It felt sort of like…

Well it felt sort of like this:

I don’t know, that’s still the song that reminds me of being a teenager the most. We were audiophiles, there were a hundred-thousand songs we listened to, but 1979 always seemed to be that song that really defined being a teenager in the 90s.

One of the big things was Meagan’s house. Everyone went there because mom & dad came home around 7 or 8 & her parents would likely be out all night. It was the place with the least adult supervision for the longest time & on the weekends, you went over there.

That whole work thing creates an interesting dynamic between parent & child. By the time you reach high school, you are used to doing things by yourself. Dinner is up to you, laundry is up to you, & mom & dad become, I don’t know, roommates.

Roommates seem the best way to describe it.

You leave for school & the house is empty & you get home from school & the house is empty.

You take care of your little sister.

You become very cynical. That leads to teenaged angst & an attitude that my sister didn’t understand in Angela.

But then when she was little I made her dinner, I did her laundry & by the time she hit high school, dad was home at night & mom was home in the morning & she sort of grew up in a different world.

She grew up in a world where she didn’t need to learn how to cook or do laundry until she moved out of the house. She also grew up in a world where she could ask for help as opposed to having no one to ask & just figuring out shit on your own.

How do I do laundry? Well, you read the tag. How do you cook? You use a recipe. There is really no mystery behind it, it’s something you can learn to do on your own.

My dad was raised by the Greatest Generation, with a mother in the house to hold his hand & he looks for approval from his boss & wants to be told how to do things. My sister was actually raised by my parents & has the same relative attitude.

Call up your older brother to teach you how to do laundry. Ask your boss, he’ll know what to do.

That’s a lot different than the “fuck it, I’ll just do it myself” attitude. Now it’s certainly an attitude because it comes with the “fuck it.” But there is also a cynical confidence behind it, “whatever, I’ll just figure it out.”

You end up with an odd combination of confidence that you can get it done & figure out how to do it on your own, the attitude that comes with the assumption that no one is going to bother to help you, & the cynicism that makes you wonder how this is being used to screw someone over. Yourself of others. That direction came from authority & if authority is like your parent’s they aren’t there for you, they are out there for themselves.

I wonder if that is better.

Seriously.

My sister has a hard time with pressure & on her own. You sit her down with work to do by her self that she’s never encountered before & when you get back it won’t be done & she’ll be flipping out.

A lot of my old students were the same. They were a hell of a lot nicer than I remember being when I was there age, but there is this faith that teacher will explain everything down to the last detail & guide them through it from start to finish.

The anger & angst aren’t there, but mom, dad, teacher will take care of it. When they get bullied, it’s a call for depression & suicide is an option. The skills aren’t there to just say “fuck it, whatever, nevermind. Leave me alone, I’ll just do it myself.”

Instead the whole entire world just falls apart. The rage & anger aren’t there to feed off of, depression & frustration & confusion rule.

It’s an inability to shrug things off with a “whatever,” & a near total inability to say “fuck it, I’ll just do it myself.”

And now the latchkey kids are embarrassed by it & have a hard time coping as where back then, the kids with babysitters & the ones that went to after school care & not home to an empty house were embarrassed by it. They were the odd ducks that weren’t responsible enough to be trusted to make their own dinner in the fourth grade.

They were also the kids that got a ride to school. So you know, you knew exactly who they were, they were the ones that weren’t walking in the morning. So yeah, you kind of knew right away that, if bullied a little, they would cry. At which point you either kept your distance or were the asshole that targeted them. Either way, you were not going to associate yourself with momma’s boy.

It makes me wonder if that’s not better. “Alright, you’re twelve, its your turn to cook dinner. Pick your room up & go do your laundry. No, I’m not going to help you, it’s your homework, figure it out on your own. Mom & I are going out, don’t wait up. Here’s a key to the house. Don’t burn it down.”

“You slept in & now you’re late for school? Go buy an alarm clock, it’s not my job to wake you up.”

“Dad & I aren’t going to be home until late, make sure your sister eats dinner.”
“Cook some vegetables this time, dear.”

Today it sounds like child abuse, but stop & think about it. If we had latch key kids again, by the time they go to college they know how to cook, they can do their own laundry, they are masters of home economics & are totally comfortable doing everything by themselves.

“Nevermind, fuck it, whatever, I’ll just do it myself.”

The worst thing that is going to happen is mom & dad are going to call them a “slacker” because of that “whatever” attitude & who the fuck cares if your roommate calls you a slacker? Especially since, you know, dad still doesn’t know how to do laundry & he’s almost retired. Dude doesn’t really know how to cook either.

So you know “slacker?” Whatever dad, what do you want me to cook for dinner?

It might be the better way to raise kids.

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