Fran Lebowitz once wrote that she preferred the company of a mere child over that of a mere adult.
Mere adults are trouble, especially for kids. Often, the problem is lack of empathy. Most adults have conveniently forgotten how they felt about personal issues when they were younger, and now they’re inflicting offensive crap on their own children — or on children in general.
I understand that it’s finally an accepted practice to use privacy curtains in pediatric hospital rooms. When I was a child (born in 1960), people who worked in pediatrics had a neat little amoral system of ignoring or intentionally insulting a child’s sense of modesty. In spite of — or because of — their own childhood memories, they fell back on the industry standard of keeping everything out in the open if a patient was under age thirteen. They inflicted humiliation which was even worse than if they’d behaved the same way with adult patients.
Some of those offenses were the product of stupidity. Others were outright sexual abuse, intended to break patients and make them more cooperative, the way some jail and prison inmates are tormented with excessive strip searches. Other so-called children’s health professionals were just in the mood to entertain themselves at the expense of a helpless person’s sense of dignity (Editor’s note: Some jailers have a reputation for entertaining themselves that way, too). Any time sexual sadism on a helpless person is used for another person’s gratification, it should be treated as a felony.
A pediatrician unzipped my dress in his office waiting room when I was twelve, and thought he was being clever. He was pleased with himself.
About a year earlier, I was wheeled through the common hallway of a hospital on a gurney with my chest exposed. There was no medical justification for removing my clothing above the waist, and when I tried to cover my upper body with my arms a nurse forced my arms down to my sides.
Later the same day, I was ordered to use a bed pan within view of other patients and visitors. I refused, and felt grateful the staff didn’t exert the physical force that was used when they exposed my chest in the hallway. At the time, I was terrified they’d have that much gall.
I may have had a more traumatic childhood than most kids, but I witnessed a human element which hurts children every day. It wasn’t limited to pedophilia, although pedophilia was the worst part and played a big role in it. To put it in general terms, I saw proof that some adults who had authority over me weren’t worth listening to.
Where thoughtful, wise choices were concerned, I knew I was on my own without support or guidance — on the rare occasions when I was allowed to make choices. By the time I was in my teens, I was trying to develop critical thinking skills. Healthy, enlightened adults would have encouraged that, but when I opened my mouth to say anything I got the proverbial shotgun blast to the face.
“You can think when you’re twenty-one. For now, you’ll obey,” was what I heard, in effect.
Twenty-one was the magic age. In most cases, the law specified that eighteen was the age of “majority,” but the adults decided I should be on a shorter leash.
The title of this post is honest, but the word “now” minimizes it. I was angry for a long time, and the anger got stirred up again this morning when I looked at a news site. The link is at the end of this post.
It’s a safe bet that this planned S.F. ordinance will have no provisions for educating young people on the dishonesty and selfishness of adults who market tobacco. It’s enforcement-based, so it’s politically popular but also likely to make tobacco more attractive to some kids. Although tobacco company executives must be aware of that, they’re making a show of opposing a tougher age restriction. God knows what those executives are really thinking, but they must be hoping the kids don’t figure out that tobacco is an asshole industry. Not until after they start smoking, anyway.
If there are statistics showing that legislation and enforcement stop kids from taking up dangerous habits, keep in mind that statistics are numbers. A human being is more complicated than a number.
When will adults stop loving/hating themselves long enough to encourage children and teenagers to think and develop self-respect? Tightening the leash isn’t the answer unless there’s an immediate threat and the kid is already prone to running wild. Even then, it’s iffy in the long run.
When discouraging bad choices, the emphasis should be on helping young people distinguish between gullibility and real sophistication, i.e. Shit and Shinola. Kids don’t want to be treated as fools, and it’s inevitable that some (most?) will make fools of themselves trying to look “mature.” When the hit-or-miss attempt at early adulthood involves something worse than wearing too much makeup or misusing big words, it can be a life-changing disaster.
Understatement Of The Year: Adolescence is a confusing stage of life. Adults can offer real guidance, or they can brag about how strict they are with their children, students, patients, et al.
Maybe the real question is: Have most adults stopped to consider whether they’re living in the real world themselves?