This Week in Teens: Are America’s Teenagers Setting Themselves on Fire?
Teens are America’s greatest natural resource. They’re full of new ideas, smarter than ever, and not yet racked with cynicism and guilt. Some of the best things we’ve got—rock ‘n’ roll, energy drinks, hickeys—wouldn’t exist today were it not for teen demand. Not to mention that teens are sustainable; left unchecked, they’ll create more teens just over a dozen years. And yet, to reference a perennial college freshman favorite, the teens they are a-changin’.
The global recession hit those on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum the hardest. Part time employment and summer jobs are now harder to come by. Consequently, teen purchasing power is on the decline. Plus, teens are good at streaming things for free, and Macklemore made them think used clothes are funny, so they have less incentive to buy new things. At this point, it’s baby boomers who have the real discretionary income. As marketers catch up to this shift, the prized demographic will become those over 55. Our nation’s youth will be forced to adapt to their ever-evolving circumstances. Will teenage ingenuity emphasize their continued relevance? Or will our younger siblings collapse into a messy room of hormones, broken curfews, and not-yet-illegal drugs? It is with this background in mind that we launch a new column: This Week in Teens.
Talking heads are going nuts over the Fire Challenge. Photo via YouTube
-If there’s one thing teens love, it’s trends. And if there’s one thing local news stations love, it’s scaring people who think they might come into contact with teenagers (this is easy to do as teens are inherently terrifying). Combining these two passions is this week’s top news story: Teens are taking off their shirts, standing in the shower, pouring flammable liquids on their chests, and lighting themselves on fire. Sometimes the teens start flapping around—because of the fire, remember—before they can turn on the shower, and then the flames spread to their shorts or the shower curtain and they end up in the hospital with severe burns. It’s called the Fire Challenge mom, and it’s all done in the name of internet fame.
Class of 2014, You’re Fucked
It’s that time of year again, when deans across the country wear out their palms like chronic masturbators, shaking the hands of glee-eyed diploma recipients. Collegians of America are aiming high; the class of 2014 has helped push total student debt in the United States to over a trillion dollars.
A person could make it more than a fourth of the way to the moon traversing the tower of cash that would arise if all those loan dollars were stacked up one on top of the other—all $1,181,622,000,000-plus of them. It would make a great dare for pledge week, but unfortunately most of this year’s graduates will likely be crushed beneath their debt rather than surmount it.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would have just gone to work in a factory,” Cindy Klumb, who borrowed $30,000 to attain graduates degree in art and design at Pratt University in Brooklyn in 1992, reflected.
After consolidating and re-financing her loans over the years, Cindy owes $87,000 on the principal and $42,000 worth of accumulated interest. She is four years away from retirement and her social security will likely be going into the hands of Ed Financial, which took over her loan from the federal government. Cindy is one of 40 million Americans strapped with student debt, many of whom will never be able to pay off their loans.
“College is a bad investment that only pays off if you don’t have to go into debt to get your degree,” she said. “Borrowing to get an education guarantees you will never get anywhere or have even the most basic aspects of the so-called ‘American Dream.’”
Porn School Was a Disaster
How much money do you spend on porn? Unless you really, really like masturbating, it’s likely that the answer will be nothing. Free video sites have forced those in the business to get more inventive in their quest to keep turning sex into money. Steve Steele, porn director and the creator of Porn Weekender, is one such person.
Porn Weekender is an interactive model of porn consumption that offers customers the chance to come down to the set to watch, direct, and perform in the action themselves. Some of the people who show up are aspiring porn-industry professionals; others are simply people for whom the experience of sitting at home watching porn is too lonely, remote, or unfulfilling.
The weekends are usually held in Prague, where $1600 will get you a place on set and accommodation for the weekend. But given that around 80 percent of Steve’s clientele are flying out from the UK, he thought he may as well set up in his home country and decrease both the journey and the price tag (which drops to $240 for a single Saturday afternoon). A few weeks ago, I went along to the inaugural UK edition of the Porn Weekender to see what watching porn IRL with a bunch of other human beings is like.
Go to Homeschool – My Education Among the Strange Kids of Rural Georgia in the 90s
"To a very great degree, school is a place where children learn to be stupid." - John Holt
My brother’s first-grade classroom was a repurposed janitor’s closet. There wasn’t enough room for aisles, so he and his 40 classmates would crawl over the tops of the desks to enter and exit the room. They went on exactly one field trip that year, to one of the actual, honest-to-God classrooms the Cherokee County, Georgia, school system was frantically building to catch up to the massive influx of families moving to suburban Atlanta. “You’d better be on your best behavior,” his teacher said, “or we’ll never move into this classroom.” They never did.
I reckon that my fourth-grade classroom, on the other end of the school, didn’t suffer from as many health-code violations. There were a half-dozen leaks in the ceiling, but those would have probably helped if the classroom had ever caught on fire. We didn’t really have aisles either; the desks were arranged in a sort of amorphous jumble to avoid the drips from above.
My parents were more concerned with the curriculum than what the classroom looked like. In third grade up North, I was learning long division, and then we moved to Georgia, where I stepped down to single-digit addition and subtraction. Worksheets featured such problems as 6-2, 3+9, even the occasional 1+1. One day, the kid next to me scooted his desk over. I thought he was going to laugh with me about the 1+1. He spoke in a thoroughly Southern drawl I was still getting used to. “You know how to do this? I don’t get it,” he said as he pointed at the first problem on his worksheet. Eight plus zero.
The following summer, I encountered the term homeschool for the first time. It was on a button my mom had brought home from a conference of some sort, and it read:
Sold. For the next four years, my brother and I were homeschooled.
Back when I was 15, like every other boy of the same age since the day those gross little fish crawled out the sea and grew legs, I was obsessed with anything relating to girls, their vaginas and their boobs. I was a virgin with a fast internet connection and a lust that forced me to keep multiple packets of tissues on me at all times. The girls in my school were pretty hot, which made matters worse, but lucky for my friends and I, they were also mostly very easy.
There was one particular girl in geography class who took my eye. We were allowed to choose our own seats in class and I always made sure we sat together. She was extremely flirty—as in, taking my hand and placing it on her crotch in the middle of class flirty. So I obviously loved sitting next to her and spurring out an average of eight gallons of pre-cum every single time. Anyway, we started to get more adventurous. I’d cover my crotch with a jumper, she’d play around; she’d drop a pencil on the floor, I’d have a grope when she was crawling around under me, and we’d basically jam in as much restricted depravity as was possible without giving ourselves away.
One hazy summer afternoon, while the teacher was drawling on about coastal erosion or something equally dull, she grabbed my hand and slipped it up her skirt. The initial shock of that got me past the unusually wet feel, until my brain caught up with my fingers and I pulled my hand away. Either this girl had come on as soon as she put my hand in, or she just had a thing about bleeding on people, but whatever the reason, I was disgusted and angry. I rose my arms rapidly, sending a stream of period blood up the face of the guy next to me and all over a graph about fault lines.
Sitting in the principal’s office with the girl, my parents, and her parents was single-handedly the worst moment of my young life so far.
THE VICE GUIDE TO SCHOOL
School is the worst thing ever, but it’s something we all have to endure. (Unless you’re homeschooled, but then you have to spend all day with your mega-weirdo parents, and that’s way worse.) Old people will constantly tell you that “your school days are the best days of your life.” But all that means is that they’ve somehow fucked up so bad that their life since school has actually been worse than school. Can you fucking imagine? Yuck.
Going to school in the 21st century is much like it’s always been, i.e. like walking a horrible, horrible tightrope of anxiety and embarrassment. The only difference now is that if you fall off that tightrope, everyone will know about it a lot quicker, because we have the internet and mobile phones to help us spread information about who in our grade has a 7 PM curfew and who’s the only virgin to have ever lived, ever.
Luckily, I possess the authority to help guide you through this terrible time. So spit out that gum, put your phone away, and pay attention.
Every kid in public school wishes they were in private school, and every kid in private school wishes they were in public school. It’s a grass is always greener type situation, even though the grass in public school is covered in urine and maintained by self-loathing, overweight community college graduates whose sole reason for sitting in a room with you for eight hours a day is the promise of a yearly two-month, daytime television-filled vacation. Private school kids want to be in public schools because they have a reputation for being edgier—the girls are all totally slutty, and the boys come from the wrong side of the tracks. While that may be true, public school is also filled with unbelievably stupid children raised on professional wrestling and beef, many of whom are probably already riddled with diabetes. Being forced to exist with these little ogres means you actually have to hide the fact that you’re smart, lest you catch an ass-kicking from a bunch of future grocery store managers. Maybe you’ll want to keep your school books in a pizza box or pick up some slang to throw around outside of the classroom. If anybody asks why you’re doing some Poindexter shit, just say you’re trying to holler at bitches. Why join the chess the club? Bitches. Why take AP English? Bitches. Why act in the school play? BITCHES.
Oh, I’m sorry, is your superior education and head start in life getting you down? Just kidding, I bet you’re actually really down with the common man. Your dad probably has a copy of Ham on Rye resting under his monocle and 40-year-old Macallan single malt. I don’t really have any advice for you, pretty much everyone I know who’s been privately educated wears Opening Ceremony and has a personality disorder they pay people to ignore. Either that, or they will go the other way and develop a sense of shame about their privilege. Which leads to them shaving their heads, starting to talk like low-end drug dealers, possibly even becoming low-end drug dealers, and generally trying to copy the people who rob them on Saturday nights. This will either be permanent, or they will snap out of it at 18 when they realize no one is falling for it and, more importantly, no one likes low-end drug dealers.
(Brushes chip off shoulder, flicks hair.)
This is mainly for you private schoolers out there, although some public schools do require uniforms now, which is a bit like asking the janitors at the Port Authority Bus Terminal to wear tuxedos. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but no amount of tactical ripping or oversized safety pins is going to prove that you’re the last living punk or Sylvia Plath’s natural heir. For now, try and appreciate the homogeny of it all, because pretty soon you’ll have to dress yourself. Every. Single. Fucking. Day. Just know and take solace in the fact that every school uniform in the land is ergonomically designed to make perfectly adequate looking boys and girls look like sacks of baked beans.
GIRLS: Contrary to what old dudes on the internet believe, no one looks sexy in plaid or skirts that weigh more than a wet dog. Attempting to sex things up in any way is futile, and means you’ll be spending your mornings grooming, when you should be spending them sleeping. Also, covering spots with excessive Maybelline matte mouse doesn’t hide them; it makes you look like Mars (as in, the planet).
BOYS: You may think having one of those weird stubby ties makes you look like a straight-up G, but girls aren’t impressed by them. In fact, schoolgirls aren’t generally gonna be impressed by much that you do, because you’re a boy, so you’re going to spend lunch either a) smoking, or b) eating cafeteria “food” and washing it down with chocolate milk. Basically, you’re going to stink. Oh, and you’re going to get lots and lots of boners—remember to hide these securely behind your waistband. It doesn’t matter how old you are, no one likes a guy who stinks and has a boner.