I don’t think there exists a parent who has ever stood civilly in line at the grocery store who has not (at least) once sworn to abandon some obnoxious, not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, back-talking, self-conscious, can’t plan beyond lunch teenager while at the same time buying Fruitloops. Kick that lazy butt to the curb. Give up on the greedy, destructive self-centeredness. Why parents don’t give into these impulses is a mystery born less out of nobility than resign and exhaustion.
I think, the more one travels to visit the bedrocks of more established societies in places like Europe, China, Japan and the Middle East, one becomes more acutely aware that the USA is very much an adolescent society. We just can’t seem to get control of ourselves, voraciously hungry for more, more, more with no trained eye for where, where, where or how, how, how. Doesn’t matter. The world and its resources were made to serve us. We want what we want and we want it now. America is a spoiled brat that taunts anyone who is different than the Barbie Doll, G.I. Joe, J.D.Rockefeller ideals put in our heads as children.
When I was in treatment for my mother’s alcoholism, the woman who ran the center (whose initials were G.O.D. iconic-ally enough) said that “maturity is being able to accept that everyone is not like you.” In the U.S., we just aren’t there yet. And all these suspicions the collective harbors toward “others” appears to give us a justifiable excuse to bully them, warped as only the adolescent mind can twist reality, free of empathy and consequences. Here we too often see things in strictly black or white, not standing still long enough to see the truth hiding in the dusky shadows between.
But as the myths of adolescence prove to be untrue, so does the myth of “aged to perfection.” Forget it. Older societies are also imperfect. Why? Because they are made up of human beings who are in every way flawed. I have a line in a poem about adolescence that moans, “no one told us, who would settle, who would fly, and who, (and who?) would melt.” As a grandmother I still have not outgrown being annoyed by the fact that NO ONE TELLS US HOW THIS WILL ALL TURN OUT. Not at 15, 25, 35, 45, 55. How maddening is that? No wonder there’s road rage.
Way back when in ‘67, I thought I’d know by now. Surely, by 2007 I’d know. But I don’t. I don’t know which person or country will settle, fly or melt and to borrow from a more recognized and certainly more mature but no less self-centered poet, “it goads me like the goblin bee who will not state its sting.”
Ultimately, all we have is one another. Adolescents are obsessed with appearances; caught sitting next to the wrong person at lunch would be a horror worthy of an internal if not external chain saw massacre. Her table (team, gang, clique, school, town, nation) is the best and it is infuriating that the others exist at all and for SURE she can’t be caught associating with THEM.
But as we mature, knowing that there are other people and other ways doesn’t make us so angry. In fact, it’s pretty cool to travel independently and look through windows tasting of the nourishments prepared by others and then bringing home samples to share, clustered where we are most comfortable, with the ones we hold dear.