Jean-Michel Basquiat: Flexible (1984)
"Oh, the stories they'll tell later!"

My friend Franklin's son Bodie is a freshman in high school this plague year. Bodie's a smart kid, so I'm convinced he'll experience only the normal academic encumbrances, but I wonder how he'll manage to become an adult without the freedom to experience adolescence's usual and necessary dalliances. Playing hooky's probably out of the question. How will he be able to develop even a half-decent addiction to anything he'll later have to recover from if he's not out and about unrestricted by lockdowns? Will he even have access to the usual reprobates every kid tries to relate to for a time? How will he disappoint his mother if he's just home in bed every blessed night after supper? Will Franklin have to serve as his sole bad influence? I believe that nobody gets to become an adult without making more than a scant few serious mistakes, some potentially life-threatening. Teens live intensely and learn rather begrudgingly before building their lives on top of the catastrophe they construct for themselves. How can they accomplish this critical work if they're home with their family each night?

Dates seem impossible while every possible venue's in lockdown.
The old innocent movie and a Coke seems like a sad, sick joke. Courting at the object of affection's home? Not unless that family happens to be within your family's social bubble. This seems roughly equivalent to dating your cousin, practice, sure, but hardly destined to ever become serious. Church groups aren't meeting, proms ain't happening, not even basketball games, so where does a shy freshman sneak his furtive glances? Does he fall for her mask first on speculation that it covers nothing frightful beneath? Does anyone even need to obsess about a pimply face if a mask covers the disgrace? Could anyone muster enough public embarrassment to begin plotting their departure from their birth family if there's nobody around to witness just how lame your mom and your dad are? I doubt it.

The Damned Pandemic has sparked dozens of serious crises. People have lost jobs, their lives, and their health; their homes and considerable wealth, and the situation seems poised to become even worse. My friend Joanie's daughter Elizabeth opted not to show up for college classes this freshman year, choosing distance learning rather than being locked down in a dormitory room, which was just as well because the university shut itself down before opening. Where does the background learning occur, the lessons learned between classes and gratefully under the radar? Where will she learn to sneak, let alone to speak the unique dialect of her generation? One can become a delinquent on social media, but why bother? I believe that we're inadvertently hobbling the upcoming generation. We've been desperately attending to their formal education, albeit lamely, since that's all we've got, but the passage through adolescence will not be successfully paved with Zoom® engagements.

I imagine TroubleBubbles, safe circles for kids to both avoid infection and foment the trouble necessary to eventually become full adults. I doubt that they'll properly matriculate on an anemic diet of any simply straight or narrow behaviors. They need more latitude than any strict lockdown provides. They need places to hide out from watchful eyes to properly develop and road test their judgement, both good and bad. They have reached an age where good old reliably mom and dad can no longer coach them. They must get themselves in trouble, perhaps even considerable trouble, in order to properly form. The Muse graduated high school with her newborn son on her arm. I cannot imagine how anyone might achieve that sort of outcome now.

I doubt that any adult could properly design a TroubleBubble. They probably need to be created by the kids themselves, but they need not necessarily expose the participants to unreasonable COVID risks. I cannot quite imagine how they might accomplish this, but I relent. It's not mine to do anything more than suggest their necessity. They've probably already created them without me noticing, for adolescence seems to impart the ability to sneak out undetected after dark, and these are smart kids, certainly smarter than I was when I convinced myself that I was successfully getting away with something. I later learned that my parents noticed almost everything I'd believed that I had hidden, but that they'd not mentioned it, knowing that I needed to make my own mistakes to ever amount to anything. I trust that today's adolescents will prove just as resourceful as I believed that I was. Oh, the stories they'll tell later!

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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