Teaching teenagers is an eye-opener. Half of the time I don’t know what they are talking about, and the other half of the time I wish I didn’t. Maybe I grew up with too many religious friends in suburbia, or maybe I was just preoccupied by other things, but I cannot believe how dirty and profane and substance-riddled the teenagers I’ve encountered are.
The sad thing is, most adults I know aren’t much better. I am continuously astounded by the casual conversations that take place among intelligent people. Is it strange that I don’t know and don’t want to know two dozen slang terms for every drug, altered mental state, sex act, and genital part? I appreciate a well-placed “fuck” as a conversation enhancer, but I can’t stand gratuitous swearing. All of this means that I have no part to hold in many conversations where I find myself present. It’s probably an unavoidable by-product of living in a small isolated town and working in a field rife with hippies. I like my hippie friends, but I dearly wish that there did not have to be a pot pipe present every time two or three are gathered together.
I’m not a prude or a teetotaler. I’ve loosened up a lot since my Christian college days and have been making up for some of the experiences I didn’t have back then. I’ve often wished I could have had those college experiences like everyone else, but now I’m also grateful that I was able to go through college and consider serious questions and really confront who I am as a person without being surrounded by weed and beer pong.
I know that casual sex, alcohol, and drugs are an important part of life and/or a rite of passage for many people. I don’t fully understand why (does anybody?), but I have no desire to socially sequester myself from people who consider those things important. However, I firmly believe that just because something is ubiquitous doesn’t mean it’s right or best or necessary. It really, really frustrates me when some people think that not having those experiences equates to being less mature or less experienced or having somehow missed out on life. I’ve seen students of mine alienate their peers and make them question their morals, and it makes me want to drop-kick them. I also know that there are many adults who think the same of me, and I try not to give a damn.
When I was a Christian, I had concrete reasons for my moral standards, and the judgmental attitude to go along with it. Now, I’m a lot less straight-edged and have more grey areas, but I still have personal moral standards that most atheists would balk at. I am also a lot less defensible, because I can’t point to a book and verse or a theological position to explain myself. I just think it’s common sense. I find it appalling that some adults think it’s natural and perfectly acceptable for 14-year-olds to get drunk and high. I hate the idea of kids smoking pot, and I hate seeing them do it in public. I don’t think there’s any reason for kids to talk about drugs and sex as often as they do. I don’t think I missed out on anything by not doing that stuff in high school.
Is this what the rest of the world is really like?