The Teenager is back. Note the capital T. A lower case teenager is simply a person aged between 12 and 20. But capital Teens have been accumulating decades of emotional baggage since their first appearance in the 1940s.
By the late ’60s, the term had come to imply erratic, self-centred, irresponsible, sullen, hysterical, rebellious, exhibitionistic, fad-driven and vulnerable to exploitation by ruthless capitalists. And of course, the Teens of then are the Boomers of now.
In recent years, the term Millennial (or GenZer) has been the carrier of those pejoratives, but last week, three young women brought the original roaring back into the media. Brisbane’s Courier-Mail branded these “Teenagers” as “Enemies of the State” because they’d gone to Melbourne, engaged in virus-risky behaviour and allegedly lied about their movements. The TV morning shows joined the Teen damnation (though two of the women are actually aged 21).
It filled me with nostalgia. I was reminded of Nora Ephron’s warning: “When your children are Teenagers, it’s important to have a dog, so that when you get home, someone in the house is happy to see you.” And of the song by Wheatus: “I’m just a Teenage dirtbag, baby”.