The Movement of Generations

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Ebb and Flow.

My daughter has asked me about some differences in adolescence between her generation and mine. I can’t say it’s true for all of my generation (small town, rural GA in the  1970’s)  and hers  (military and  tourist-related  town, Gulf Coast, FL in the 00’s), but it’s what I’ve seen myself.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

Physically:

Boobage – The girls in my high school were mostly A and B cups by the time they graduated, with maybe one C  cup  in  the  whole  class  and  very  few  in  the  whole school. The same was true  percentage-wise  in the other area schools. The C-cups got a lot of  attention because they were rather rare. On Shannon’s first day of the sixth grade, I waited across the street at the Episcopal Church to pick her up and watch  dozens  and dozens of middle school  girls cross  the highway,  many  already  C and D cups. I had to remind  myself  that they were,  at most, eighth graders.

Toning – The girls in my high school and neighboring high  school  were  generally  not as well-toned  as in Shannon’s  class.  I do  remember  a couple  of girls who played softball and had phenomenal  arms and legs and one  dancer,  but  home  gyms,  exercise  videos,  Nautilus machines,  etc  weren’t  readily  available  to  my  peers. Nowadays, it’s nothing to find my younger daughter rolling around on the floor to a Pilates DVD.

The  Freshman  15 – Most of us ate our meals  at home—a meat, a starch, and a couple of veggies. Going out to eat meant a date on the weekend and a hamburger, fries, and a coke at Dairy Queen or, if it was a special occasion, driving over to Dothan for a movie and fish and chips at Long John Silvers (I obviously didn’t date rich boys, but there  wasn’t much better if I had). I was 100 pounds when I went to college and was for most of college. I think I was up to 105 by  graduation.  We were told that  you  should  never gain  more  than 15 pounds from your weight at 18 because  you  were “full-grown” then, but I didn’t stop getting my curves until I was  25 and already married. Good thing, too, because both my slender teens are bigger at 13 and 16 than I was at 25—I just never realized how thin I was because I was always told I was fat by my Depression Era father.  The fact that my weight stayed   the same was probably the exception to the Freshman 15 (pounds) that most of my friends put on when we got to  college.    Fast food was plentiful—I remember commenting  on my first  trip  there about the street of  Hardees, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, and several  more being  “Fast  Food  Row.”  Many  of  the freshmen  had  never  had  easy  access  to  fast  food  and Mom’s home  cooking was hours away, so for all of us, our dietary habits changed,  and for those trapped in the dorms with nothing  better than a hot-plate and  a meal ticket for unidentifiable cafeteria food, junk food became a way of life, as did the pounds directly added to the hips.

Sexually:

Death and  Disease: AIDS was unheard  of in the 70’s and the Sexual Revolution of the baby boomers’ generation was  only  a few years past when my peers and I were teens.  Most were still  virgins  when they left high school, with the biggest fear being pregnancy and the lack of “rubbers” for “protection” against unwanted pregnancies.          The      secondary        fear      was       of         contracting “VD” (venereal disease), like gonorrhea or syphilis. They weren’t even  called “sexually transmitted disease” in my area until the ‘80’s, and HIV  wasn’t a concern until the mid-80’s and later. So the kids in high school might get a VD from sex but they didn’t fear they’d die from it—they just  needed to get some penicillin before their parts fell off. A gynecologist (not mine) recently told me that she’s alarmed at how many newly divorced women in their 40’s are getting all sorts of STDs from  unprotected  sex be- cause they still have the mindset of their teen years  but after hysterectomies  and tubals, their old worry of pregnancy is gone.

Homosexuality: I didn’t know of anyone in my high school or any of the surrounding  high schools who was openly gay or bisexual. No one had both boyfriends and girlfriends.  That  may  have  been  particular  because  we were in a Southern Bible Belt town, but it was a shock to find openly (and not so openly) gay and bisexual friends in college. Those who were open were often ostracized. I never once saw two women or two men kissing in my teen years, and  if I’d seen two people of the same sex holding hands, it was have been a headturner.

Socially:

Protection — My parents lived by either Dr. Spock’s baby  manual, their mothers’  advice,  or just the prayers that God would send guardian angels to keep them safe. My daughters’ generation  has been the most watch-over of any I’ve ever heard of. We warned others of the “Baby on Board” our cars so please drive safely around us. We kept baby monitors by their cribs if they were out of sight so we could hear the slightest gasp or cry from anywhere in the house. We’ve put GPS tracking bracelets on them and put cell phones  in their  hands  as  lifelines to their whereabouts. We now even have bubblegum-colored cell phones for kindergartners  with a button  for Mommy’s cell number and  a  button for Daddy’s cell number. My children’s generation  really has  been raised by a village watching out for them whereas my own  generation was told to go play and just be home by dark.

Connectivity – My teen years meant seeing friends at school or at  church. Most of my friends were long distance and I couldn’t see them on weekends or call them since calling was expensive and we had not such thing as “free long distance”  or “free night and weekend  calls.” We couldn’t IM or text one another either. When a friend moved away—even a few hours away—they were lost to us forever. Sure, we could send a  couple of letters, but eventually, one wouldn’t answer and we’d lose touch. My daughters have had friends move to the other side of the States during their teen years, and they keep in touch via the Internet and cell  phones, blogs, IMs, and text messages. Camera phones and web cams  are available,  too, though I have bought a web cam yet. If they have a paper to research, they don’t have to spend a bazillion hours at the library,  going  through  Readers’  Guides  to find obscure articles in the bowels of the University’s special collection. All they have to do is Google a subject and spend a  few  minutes  to  a  few  hours  researching  the  matter online. The information  is right there, at their fingertips. So their generation truly has grown up in the Information Age, where everyone is readily connected to everyone else and information is generally regarded not just as available but free to the masses.