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June 3, 2004


What Happens When you Love Kids Too Much +

An interesting article in today’s Times examines the popularity of Internet sites that rate physical appearance, such as Hotornot.com . Many interviewees in the article try to make it sound as if they only posted their own pictures as a joke (just as I would, if a reporter from a major national newspaper came calling): "What do I care what people on the Internet think of me?" says one anonymous fellow whose “bangability” averaged .63 out of a possible 10. Despite the bravado, a creepy neediness comes through in most of the quotes.

The part that caught my eye was a throwaway towards the end:

"I see this phenomenon as an extension of the narcissism that has become much more pervasive in our culture,” says [psychiatrist Armand] Aserinsky. “I see it especially in the under-30 crowd, where there's this insatiable appetite for acknowledgment based largely on patterns in child-rearing that came along about the time of that generation." He calls it the "overappreciated child," whose every accomplishment, no matter how pedestrian, is praised as if extraordinary, if not also bronzed and placed on a pedestal.

Dr. Aserinsky has hit on an alarming cultural phenomena that's all too clear if you turn on MTV - well, ever - but specifically on a Tuesday night. I'm talking about The Real World. This show, which began by featuring real people living their lives while sharing an apartment now exclusively casts very hot, very spoiled brats. In the current San Diego season, the roommates bitched and moaned and threatened to quit their strenuous “job” on a sailboat, where they put in twenty hours a week with a noon start time. Jock Brad was devastated when his mother suggested that after the show, the 23-year-old college graduate could maybe find an apartment instead of living at home and spending his rent money on motorcycles and beer. This week fake punk-rocker Frankie, emotionally drained from living in a beach house rent-free and taking MTV-paid trips to Greece, packed up and went home early.

Is Dr. Aserinsky right? Could it be that overindulgence is ultimately responsible for the genesis of reality tv? Who could have imagined that loving your children too much would bring about such terrible repercussions for all of us?

Parents, love your children, protect and support them, but for God’s sake stop spoiling the shit out of them. It’s going to turn them into helpless, whiny adults and if nothing else, it makes for boring television. -Emily

The Times has been publishing a lot of "kids these days" articles lately. Last Sunday's magazine section cover story is all about trends in teenage sex and relationships. It's a great article, but it filled me with horror, and also prompted a discussion/argument with a group of friends that lasted for many hours, so watch out.

It seems that teenagers have largely stopped dating or pursuing boy/girlfriend relationships, preferring instead to meet each other at the mall or on websites like hotornot.com or facethejury.com and arrange to "hook up." The "friends with benefits" arrangement is also popular, though one of the girls that the writer interviews says that ''To be honest, we don't even really like hanging out together. I go to his house, we sit there and talk for two minutes, then we go at it. Then we sit there again for about 10 minutes, and I go home.'' Clearly, for some teenagers, ''friends with benefits'' is a misnomer. Take away the sex, and they probably wouldn't hang out at all.

It's better to meet people outside your own school or social circle, so as to avoid the uncool potential of dating each other. Also, "hooking up" for many of these kids means one-way oral sex, with the boys on the more beneficial side of the transactions. Some of the girls the writer interviewed think that these girls have no power, respect, or validation in these kinds of relationships, though some insist that they enjoy it, and that their behavior is not self-destructive. To me, and to some of the psychologists the writer interviews, it sounds like these girls are so insistent on being as sexually aggressive as the boys that it doesn't matter if they get any enjoyment out of it, as long as they are not perceived as being modest or reserved. My long-time radio/MTV/Dawson's Creek crush Dr. Drew says ''It's all bravado. The fact is, girls don't enjoy hookups nearly as much as boys, no matter what they say at the time. They're only doing it because that's what the boys want.''

Where are the parents in all this? you might ask. It used to be that most communications and meetings were arranged via the central family telephone, so parents knew who their kids were spending time with. Now, with kids meeting each other online and making plans via email or cell phones, their social lives are far less supervised. Their parents probably have no idea. If I ever have children, if someone could please remind me to go live among the Amish when the kids are ages 10-18, that would be great. -Amy

categories: Culture
posted by Emily at 5:02 PM | #