So Is Mine

Wednesday, 26 December 2007 at 5:00 am Pacific USA Time.

I’ve lived in Oro Valley, AZ (part of Tucson) for nearly 3 years. One thing that amazes me constantly is how friendly the teenagers are. I mean they’re not putting on an act. They are genuinely friendly… when you meet them on the street, when they are working at the smoothie place, it just seems like an entire town of good kids. You rarely see them smoking.

I compare this in my mind to growing up in the suburbs of NYC. Nearly every kid smoked. Kids were bitchy to each other and to adults. Kids working jobs acted like they were too good to make your sandwich, and going to shops staffed by teens was always a nightmare of attitude and bad service.

So what is it? What is going on here that kids are so different? I thought maybe they all had military parents and were beaten into being "nicer." I was wrong. I recently caught up with a boy and girl who work in a local place. I think they’re in their later years of high school. I asked them what is up with teens. Paraphrasing, here is what I learned.

  • Lots of kids drink. Many kids smoke pot. But nearly zero smoke cigarettes. It’s just seen as disgusting around here.
  • If you live in Oro Valley, your family has money. There is no "bad" part of town. Everybody here is pretty much equally upper middle class. As one kid put it, you get to a friend’s house. His house is REALLY nice. You say, "Your house is really nice!" And you think to yourself, "So is mine."
  • That means a few things. First of all, there’s no class struggle. Most kids see themselves as the same "class" as the other kids. Second, it means they understand what they have. If they can look at their own home or car or possessions, and see how NICE they are, then they have an appreciation for all of this.
  • They kids here told me that kids from the town north of us, Catalina, get bussed in because they evidently have no high school in their town. The OV kids think the Catalina kids range from weird to lame, mostly because the Catalina kids have a chip on their shoulder. That chip is the class struggle. The Catalina kids don’t have what the OV kids have, and I guess they have some sort of attitude. It sounds like the kids here don’t play into that much. They just think those kids are weird and should lighten up.

I’ve rarely met a kid from Long Island who had an appreciation for what he or she had… who didn’t feel a class struggle with those perceived as richer or poorer. I’ve spoken to Long Island kids who have told me that the whole school will judge their status by which cell phone they had, so they always had to have the newest and best cell phones for that status.

When I spoke at my high school some years ago, I spent the day watching the kids in the hallways before my talk. When I spoke to them, I told them that they all look at and treat each other like "my retro bellbottoms cost more than your retro bellbottoms." I could SEE the class struggle even just in the hallways… the looks they shot each other, the way they treated each other.

That’s just not happening here. It’s a very different world. I prefer this world. I just wonder if this can be spread around the country to places where bitchy, jerky boys and girls are being raised with some huge (and often undeserved) sense of entitlement.

I wonder how you raise kids to be grateful for what they have without being envious of what others have. That somehow seems to be the key here. It ripples out into everything these kids do and believe.

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Categories: Just An Observation

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