Challenges

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I know many adults are struggling to understand why teenagers across the country have been chewing on laundry detergent pods.

I believe I can bring some clarity to this question: it’s because they’re morons.

I do not say that to be insulting. I say it because: a) I was once a teenage boy, and b) I have raised three teenagers, two of them boys.

So, I know whereof I speak.

In my experience, boys are far dumber than girls, who tend to reserve their teenage stupidity for random acts of meanness against other girls they feel competitive with. (Ladies, correct me here if I have that wrong; but, the worst I can remember my daughter, Annie, doing was gossiping darkly about the girls on the cheerleading squad.)

Boys, on the other hand, tend to do intentionally stupid stuff to get attention or because they think it’s going to be funny. You can always tell a boy is going to do something exceptionally idiotic when it’s preceded by, “Watch this!”

In my case, I once got caught pegging crab apples at cars with my pals Mike, Pat and Jig. We were quite the gang of thugs. As I recall, I hid in tall grass about 20 yards back from the road with Pat while Mike and Jig were in the branches of a tree overhanging the road. The idea was to hit the car from the side and the top, which seemed like absolute genius to us at the time – I mean, the side AND the top, can you imagine how cool?

Anyway, we nailed a couple of cars before the entire city police force showed up, this being a major, major event in a town like Escanaba, a veritable crime wave. I ended up getting a stern lecture at the police station about how lobbing crab apple grenades was a gateway to a life of crime.

I honestly don’t remember why we decided denting cars with crab apples would be a great and adventurous way to kill an afternoon. And from the perch of adulthood, I am damned sure I’d view an apple attack on my car as evidence that society is falling apart.

But the truth is, it just seemed like the thing to do at the moment. Teenagers do stupid stuff. That’s really all there is to it.

The type and degree of stupidity, I think, varies by generation. For instance, when I was a kid, we wouldn’t have eaten laundry detergent because our parents (aka “homicidal Nazis”) intentionally made us eat soap if we cursed or lied. It was called “washing your mouth out.” My parents favored the Zest brand. I still can’t use it to this day.

I do think today’s teens and young adults have drifted toward more self-destructive stupidity, and that’s rightly got people concerned. We can search all we want for the deep, dark, sociological or psychological reasons behind the Tide Pod phenomenon. And the Cinnamon Craze before that. And the Gallon Challenge before that. (What is it with this generation and ingesting stuff?) But in the end, teens do stupid things because teenagers are stupid. It’s kinda that simple. You just gotta hope they survive to become adults who shake their heads at the dumb things teenagers do.

Now, to end this on a positive note, I spotted a meme online that made me laugh. It said: “Hey, teenagers – here’s the real “Tide Pod Challenge”: put it in the washer and do some damn laundry for a change.”

Now there’s a challenge I highly endorse.

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