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.
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.
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 because 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.
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.