Just yesterday I traveled alone via Southwest Airlines on a little excursion to San Francisco. This sort of public solitude always allows for unintentional observations of humanity at its strangest as well as its most banal. As I am left with no one to talk to (except myself), the result is an unending dialogue with that little voice inside my head.
Occupying my thoughts yesterday were two young girls who hopped in line in front of me just as we were boarding. At first, I thought they were close enough in age to me. Young, but not old (uh hem). That is until the blonde made a comment as she was feeding the brunette frozen yogurt that she “had like never tried mango.” I dropped my age estimation by three years, placing them on the cusp of twenty-one.
I watched them from behind as I watch animals attack each other in the wilderness on the Discovery Channel. It has been such a long time since I have mentally been in their shoes, that I have nearly forgotten what its like. Their moves, their hair flips, their Ugg boots. I ended up sitting near them on the plane, which allowed for further snooping of their kind. Kind of a glimpse into the world of the kids these days.
Well, the kids these days are dumb. I don’t think that they’re actually dumb, but they sure go out of their way to sound dumb. When I was growing up, there was the proliferation of the overuse and abuse of the term “like.” It peppered conversation like the French pepper theirs with a sexy French “Uhhhhh…” – my French friends, you know what I am talking about. It allowed for time in between words to organize our thoughts, to clarify in our heads what we intended to say without creating an audio dead zone. This was the intention, of course, but not always the end result. As we were “Valley Girls” by the definition of geography and a few anti-818 movies, this term was a surefire way to get pigeonholed as a vapid idiot, especially if you allowed yourself to sound like a vapid idiot. I would like to think I avoided this successfully, although I cannot say for sure.
That was my era. Just clipping at my heels is a new era – an affected era. An era where to sound completely uninterested, beyond dazed, talking out your nose and barely breathing while you produce sounds…is considered…cool. It’s as though these children were stuck in front of the E! Channel during their developmental years soaking up Paris Hilton subconsciously. Yeah..I…like…ummm…grew up…in…hmmmm…yeah.
What really confuses me is when people start talking this way. People don’t come out of the womb affected; they hone and develop and learn this over the course of a lifetime. I want to go back in time and see the moment where someone with a normal voice decided that they would pick up this new way of communicating.
And so I continued to watch these girls. The blonde had Shape Magazine in her lap; the brunette watched Gossip Girl on her i-Pod. The blonde asked the brunette about her silver rings and why she wore them; the brunette responded with a dissertation on her personal style, deep reasoning behind it, etc. The most in-depth topic was certainly hair care, in which both girls participated taking turns talking about their $270 highlights and lowlights that they have to get done once a month. When I was their age I was still dying my hair chestnut out of a box because my agency had criticized what they called my “dishwater blonde” hair. Assholes.
I feel sorry for these young girls. They grew up in a time inundated with the celebrity culture. It’s hard to not want $270 highlights when Miley Cirus is younger than you and she’s getting $3,000 extensions thrown in multiple times a year. I didn’t grow up with the pressure of looking like any of the characters on Gossip Girl – gorgeous hair flowing behind them, marble foyers, laptop computers in every room. I didn’t know what Burberry was. I had no concept of Chanel. I was sixteen and I did keg stands when the opportunity arose. My daily uniform (literally) consisted of some Hollister corduroys and an oversized polo shirt.
But the kids these days are exposed to a culture of want that I was never a part of. I did not hold myself to the standards that these kids hold themselves to today. I never wanted to or expected to be famous. I didn’t want to grow up and be a socialite. These were not aspirations I had. I feel as though girls are regressing to some variation of the 1950s ideal, without the visible trappings of immobility and lack of personal freedom or escape. But I sense that a lot of this younger generation, at least in and around Los Angeles, aspires to be nothing more than rich.*
And the affectation of the day goes hand in hand with that. In my experience, I have found that the vast majority of the affected come out of schools like Harvard Westlake, Crossroads, etc. For those of you unfamiliar with the LA private school scene, these are expensive schools. Their students are the children of producers, directors, big time investors. You get the idea. The severe affectation in speech I find is most prevalent in extremely wealthy families, which I don’t understand because these kids are getting the best of the best education, raised by what I would assume to be ambitious, intelligent, and successful parents. But perhaps I am getting it all wrong and mixing it up entirely. Today, after all, it is more popular to sound rich than to sound intelligent.
*I would be lying if I said people closer in my age were vastly different than this new generation. There exists a great deal of older girls looking for a sugar daddy and a meal ticket, although more feverishly and with an extra kick of desperation.