Is this what the world is like?

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?


5 thoughts on “Is this what the world is like?

  1. vjack

    I think much of it really is like that. At least, it was for me by 15, and that was back in the 80s. Probably quite a bit crazier now. Still, there is regional variation. Here in the South, the behavior you describe is hidden much better. So much so that the adults often have little idea that it is happening.

  2. Shannon

    I agree with what you are saying. I have a similar experience where I went to Christian college and now am more distanced from faith. But I still feel that most of the moral standards I was taught are sensible and I hate when people act like not spending my high school years drinking, doing drugs and having sex caused me to miss out on something crucial. By watching my peers I learned more than enough about those activities – enough to decide that I didn’t want or need them in my life. I had great friends who were able to have fun without drugs and alcohol and I’m not sorry for that. And, like you, I have no problem with people who had those experiences – or continue to have them. But I don’t like being ridiculed for my opinions and choices. Especially when I feel they are logical and well thought out.

  3. Josh

    I’ve had similar frustrations when it comes to expressing my own moral framework. I don’t think it’s harder to defend them without an authoritarian source like the bible, though.

    When it comes to Alcohol and drugs, a good example in atheist / skeptic circles is Penn & Teller. They’re teetotalers, and proud of it. They don’t want to do anything that might mess with their heads, and while I don’t take it to the extreme they do, I have to agree.

    I think a stance against casual sex is defensible as well. I would argue that casual sex diminishes the meaning of the act. While I understand why some would want to participate in this activity for their own reasons, it’s not something I have a desire to do. It’s not the desire for ‘purity,’ or the idea that sex is sacred, but the desire for the act to remain meaningful.

    There isn’t a side to this that is objectively right or wrong – as long as no one is getting hurt. These are just another one of the choices we get to make as we build the meaning we want our life to have.

  4. Santiago

    Back in my teens all my friends were pretty much smoking pot every day, not to mention several that also smoked tobacco and, of course, regular drinking parties. I never really got into any of that (heh, except for some memorable one-time experiences with shrooms and peyote; I still drink alcohol in moderation as well). But here in college all my friends are pretty relaxed, I don’t really go to parties and I prefer it that way, we have much more fun watching a movie or playing mariokart. I just chose to associate more with the people I felt more comfortable with and that was it.

    Also all my “pot-head” friends, with no exceptions, have drastically reduced their use of marihuana, quit smoking and stopped using harder drugs, and drink a bit less as well. In my experience all this drug and alcohol use is just a lack of foresight and experience, things which (generally) people manage to grow out of, and you shouldn’t assume that how someone acts when they’re 16 or 15 is how they’re going to act the rest of their lives, it’s all just a part of growing up.

  5. atwitter

    Um, hi!
    I’ve had a completely different experience than yours. I’ve known that I’m an atheist since I was 12 or so, and my school has been so far completely secular.
    I have to say: we don’t really party that much. And hardly anybody thinks 14-year-olds having sex is OK. It’s not. They’re too immature and irresponsible to be having sex. I think any other slutty, drunk secularist girl will tell you just that 🙂
    I’ve known maybe one person who really did drink a lot, and used pretty heavy illegal stuff. She’s now started her PhD, and for dietary reasons stopped using alcohol altogether.

    Not to mention the illegal stuff.

    We’re not that scary, really!


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