Now that my son has turned 13, I'm thinking about writing a self-help book for parents of teen-agers. It would be a sensitive, insightful book that would explain the complex, emotionally charged relationship between the parent and the adolescent child. The title would be: "I'm a Jerk; You're a Jerk."
The underlying philosophy of this book would be that, contrary to what you hear from the "experts," it's a bad idea for parents and teen-agers to attempt to communicate with each other, because thereUs always the risk that one of you will actually find out what the other one is thinking.
For example, my son thinks it's a fine idea to stay up until 3 a.m. on school nights reading what are called "suspense novels," defined as "novels wherein the most positive thing that can happen to a character is that the Evil Ones will kill him before they eat his brain." My son sees no connection between the fact that he stays up reading these books and the fact that he doesn't feel like going to school the next day.
"Rob,S I tell him, as he is eating his breakfast in extreme slow motion with his eyes completely closed, so that he sometimes accidentally puts food into his ear, "I want you to go to sleep earlier."
"Dad," he says, using the tone of voice you might use when attempting to explain an intellectual concept to an oyster, "you don't understand. I am not tired. I am sploosh (sound of my son passing out face-down in his Oat Bran)."
Psychologists would tell us that falling asleep in cereal is normal for teen-agers, who need to become independent and make their own decisions, which is fine, except that if my son made his own decisions, his daily schedule would be:
Midnight to 3 a.m. Read suspense novels.
3 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sleep.
3:15 p.m. Order hearty breakfast from Domino's Pizza and put on loud hideous music recorded live in hell.
4 p.m. to midnight Blow stuff up.
Unfortunately this schedule would leave little room for, say, school, so we have to supply parental guidance ("If you don't open this door right now, I will break it down and charge it to your allowance"), the result being that our relationship with our son currently involves a certain amount of conflict, in the same sense that the Pacific Ocean involves a certain amount of water.
At least he doesn't wear giant pants. I keep seeing young teen-age males wearing enormous pants; pants that two or three teen-agers could occupy simultaneously and still have room in there for a picnic basket. The young men wear these pants really low, so that the waist is about knee level and the pants butt drags on the ground. You could not be an effective criminal in these pants, because youUd be unable to flee on foot with any velocity. Police Officer: We tracked the alleged perpetrator from the crime scene by following the trail of his dragging pants butt.
Prosecutor: And what was he doing when you caught up with him?
Police Officer: He was hobbling in a suspicious manner.
What I want to know is, how do young people buy these pants? Do they try them on to make sure they don't fit? Do they take along a 570-pound friend and buy pants that fit him? I asked my son about these pants, and he told me that mainly RbassersS wear them. "Bassers" are people who like a lot of bass in their music. They drive around in cars with four-trillion-watt sound systems playing recordings of what sound like above-ground nuclear tests.
My son also told me that there are also people called "posers"who dress like "bassers," but are in fact, secretly, "preppies." He said that some "posers" also pose as "headbangers," who are people who like heavy-metal music, which is performed by skinny men with huge hair who stomp around the stage, striking their instruments and shrieking angrily, apparently because somebody has stolen all their shirts.
"Like," my son said, contemptuously, "some posers will act like they like Metallica, but they don't know anything about Metallica."
If you can imagine.
I realize I've mainly been giving my side of the parent-teen-ager relationship, and I promise to give my sonUs side, if he ever comes out of his room. Remember how the news media made a big deal about it when those people came out after spending two years inside Biosphere 2? Well, two years is nothing. Veteran parents assure me that teen-agers routinely spend that long in the bathroom. In fact, veteran parents assure me that I haven't seen anything yet.
"Wait till he gets his driver's license," they say. "That's when Fred and I turned to heroin."
Yes, the next few years are going to be exciting and challenging. But I'm sure that, with love and trust and understanding, my family will get through them OK. At least I will, because I plan to be inside Biosphere 3.