Recently I had the opportunity to substitute in a local high school library. During breaks in inventory, (a hand can only hold a scanner for so long) I was able to observe the teens of our species in their (sort of) natural habitat. I found that things have changed since teens lived in our home.
Let's break these observations down into categories.
When clustered in groups, the girls clump together in an ever shifting mass. They frequently move to talk to other members of the group who may be standing in a different spot. It looks a bit like birds on a wire that are constantly fluttering to a new position. The leader seems to change in each subgroup for no apparent reason other than that someone else has something to say. There are several conversations going on at one time with no common theme. It's noisy but controlled (usually). When the bell rings or something else causes the group to move, they do so as a mass, dropping off the members in various spots until the group dissolves.
The boys, however, gather in a much more organized manner. It starts with a couple of guys just chatting in the hallway. As a new member of the group arrives, the gathering begins to form a circle, Soon it looks like they are gathered around an imaginary campfire. The boys may chat with those on either side of them but no one moves to cross the campfire to get closer to someone else. There seems to be a leader to whom they all defer....waiting for wisdom perhaps. When the group breaks up (to go to class perhaps or to find a place to hide so that they can skip class) they wander off in small groups.
Hugging is of vital importance. When students meet in the hall or the library, they must hug as if they have not seen each other in weeks or months when in actuality, it has been approximately 15 minutes. This may be a Southern thing as I don't recall this being commonplace in Illinois. The parting greeting is "love you, girl (or guy)".
Both boys and girls have the same uniform....skinny jeans and a t-shirt. I am not sure that everyone who is wearing skinny jeans should be doing so and I am also not sure where they shop. In three days I believe that I saw maybe three girls in skirts or dresses. Footwear is universally athletic shoes or sandals. Many of the students seem to have taken advantage of spring shoe sales as the athletic shoes are blindly white. Socks come in a variety of colors and seldom match. I guess matching socks is just not a priority. The "saggy" pants style seems to have passed....at least in this economically and ethnically diverse community.
When it comes to hairstyles, the differences between the boys and the girls is very obvious. The boys sport a variety of hair styles...long..buzzed...buzzed on the sides and long on the top...spiked....falling into the eyes...any style seems acceptable. Hair products are very evident and it is obvious that much time is spent on styling. The girls have only one style....long. It can be curly, straight, pulled into a ponytail with a scrunchy, or piled up on the top of the head in a messy bun. Styling does not seem important....length is the key. In three days, I saw less than one dozen girls with an alternate style. Hair color seems more important than product. Teal, lavender and yellow seem to be the most popular hues for the spring.
The one accessory that is mandatory for both males and females is a set of earbuds. These come in a variety of colors and are removed and inserted frequently. I am concerned about their hearing ability as they age and predict that hearing aid technology will be a growth industry.
3) General Observations
Teens today are much more "grown up" than we were at that age and even than our 30-something children were. They are definitely more worldly. Do they have the maturity to deal with all of this worldliness? I hope so but I do have my doubts. And after spending 3 days with them, I am no longer in fear for my care as I age. I might not want them to be my doctors but I think I can safely count on them to take care of my in my nursing home. Of course, they won't be able to hear either but that is something we can share.