- Babies: Universally liked and cuddled, mainly because they can' t talk back. Only unpopular when screaming, vomiting or pooping.
- Toddlers: Cute, but not as fun. Demanding, easily hysterical and full of their own self-importance.
- Kids: Learning how to push buttons, becoming annoying smart alecs.
- Tweens/pre-teens: Fairly well adjusted to life. They have a good sense of self, they know how things work, they've got energy and positivity, and feel the future is wide open to them.
- Teenagers: Complete and utter shits from hell. It's like being a toddler all over again in terms of self-discovery - but with rampaging sex hormones, the internet, drivers' licences and alcohol thrown into the mix. Joy.
- Young adults: Starting to get the f*** over themselves and become proper humans again. Tolerable, except when discussing how "old" they are now.
It's always amazed me, working as I do at a radio station with a target demographic starting in the mid-40s age bracket, that people absolutely LOVE babies, but LOATHE teenagers. It's as if those nasty-faced, nose-pierced, emo-haired, badly-dressed, inarticulate, sex-obsessed violent animals we call "teenagers" sprung forth, fully-formed, from the gaping mouth of Hell, as opposed to developing out of the babies those same very listeners drool and gurgle about.
It's like puppies. Everyone likes them when they're small and cute. When they get big and angry, we take them back to the RSPCA, or worse, tie bricks to their legs and throw them in a dam. Poor teenagers. No wonder they hate the world; the world all of a sudden started hating them simply because they had the hide to grow up.
Now I have no doubt there are some shitty teenagers out there. But I think you'll find they are the ones who were fairly shitty kids, and will no doubt turn out to be seriously shitty adults. That's life - some people are just shits.
(Apologies for the swearing but it's just such a simple, evocative term)
I think - I hope - most teenagers get over themselves eventually, and look back on their teenage years with a mixture of amusement and embarrasment. I know I do. My theory is what teenagers want more than anything is to live in the adult world, but they know they can't, at least not yet. So they rage against it, and out of that rage emerges new cultures, new popular music, fashion styles, ways of thinking and communicating. The best are retained, the stupid discarded as a historical faux pas.
All we can really offer in the meantime is a simple act of kindness.
So everyone - hug a teenager. Offer open arms and a sympathetic ear. Try not to judge, at least not too loudly. And just try not to be too disappointed when they knee you in the nuts.
(Again, apologies if I'm making some fairly obvious psychological generalisations here, but I didn't take Psych 101, so it really is all from my own brain. Is smart, I am.)