Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Being adolescent: yay! (and why not?)

Last night I heard from my pal Ian B, a former PhD student at Nottingham now slaving to acquire sufficient publications to get an academic position (not easy). Ian and I, as noted here in my report on the Nottingham concert, share a passion for the work of Rufus Wainwright and - given Ian's absence last week on holiday I took it upon myself to leave a message for him to say I would record the Culture Show last week featuring RW.

So, having picked up my message about having taped it, Ian called and we swiftly fell into talking about meeting to pass on the video; last week's Jools Holland performance by Wainwright; sister Martha on Friday 27th May(I think I was otherwise engaged, a trip not utterly irrelevant to this post); and my loaning Ian the DVD that came with my copy of Want Two (live at the Fillimore). At which point, Ian chuckled and remarked that "it's like being a teenager: 'I'm off to phone Lisa to talk about Rufus - he's FAB!' ... can you believe it!?" (You have to imagine that Ian's cultured tones adopt the enthused and breathless gasps of a stereotypical teenager for that dialogue!)

But after we laughed and continued with the enthused conversation, his remark got me thinking (just in case you were wondering the relation of my post heading to the content). Being adolescent, behaving like a teenager in terms of an interest: why is this often spoken about as if it is implicitly 'A Bad Thing'?

Okay, so being a teenager - certainly now - pretty much sucks on a number of levels: pressured education, low/high expectations, self-image problems/bullying... the list can go on. But still there is this association between being a teenager and the intensity of an interest/hobby, a like/dislike. How often are we accused of 'adolescent fantasies' with regard to political or social change (the idealism of youth)? Yes, some find it moderately embarrassing to be the oldest at the party/gig: but why can't we continue to take something life-affirming and exciting from contemporary and/or popular culture?

The current advertising campaign for teachers talks about working with people who haven't yet made their minds up: not as sure about that one, actually. Sometimes in youth we can perceive things as very black/white, and maybe that is one thing that age can provide. The variety of experiences and different perspectives we encounter can change the way that we think about issues, from simplistic passions to articulated ideas.

But does that mean there is no place for passion, no room for idealism, no space for enthusiasms to be enjoyed for what they are (and nothing more or less than that)? Does abandoning adolescence mean we must lose our sense of delight in possibilities? Don't get me wrong, I like debate and there is something thrilling about a finely articulated argument. And equally, please don't think that I'm suggesting a shift to a "yah-boo-sucks" approach of "I'm right; you're wrong." But in between - in that moment of teenage, between age and youth clarity - we can sometimes see and take pleasure in things, in ideas and interests, precisely because they do not have to be spelt out, academically defended, legally articulated. And what's so great about letting that sensibility go?

A qualified 'yay' for adolescence I feel?

"It's OK to grow up -- just as long as you don't grow old. Face it ... You are young." (Here - and scroll)

No comments: