I'm a good story

Let’s give them a round of applause

Simply put, teenagers are the worst. I’m not alone in this, right? Spending time at my folks’ place for the past few weeks has forced me to revisit who I once was— before I moved out at 18. Reading old diary entries, I’m reminded of how moody, shallow, and self-absorbed I was as a teenager. (Think me now x 10,000.)

I spent a lot of time worrying about who was my friend and why some shithead boy was a dick to me. My after-school activities included watching Geraldo and gossiping on the phone. I was little use to society and society was little use to me.

I don’t know many teenagers personally so I tend to look at them with general disdain, based mostly on how I remember myself at that age: So completely useless.

Take for example a run in I had on Mother’s Day. I was on a busy subway, and it seemed as though every young person on the crowded car had given up his or her seat to a lady.

Everyone except one overweight teenager wearing grey sweatpants. She’d taken up three seats. One for her knapsack, another for her legs to sprawl across, and the third for her large bottom. In the two seats facing her were her friends, a wiry couple with matching, short bleached hair. Their wrists and necks were wrapped in bracelets made of hard, florescent plastic beads, the kind you craft with in kindergarten, after the teacher warns you not to put them up your nose.

The wiry girl was wearing a plush panda bear hat. Her legs and arms were covered in small, ink smiley faces, the kind a door-girl stamps on your hand after you’ve paid cover to go see your friend’s band play.  She was sucking on a soother that hung around her neck.

The boy’s tight black jeans sat at his pubic line. His shiny red boxers, the texture of basketball shorts, hung around his hips.

Their arms and legs weaved between each other, draping and flopping, over and around. The girl waved around a rose, presumably stolen from some mother’s bouquet.

“I was sooooo high last night,” the boy said.

“K makes me hungry,” said his girlfriend. “So hungry. I never eat on acid.”

“I’m never doing acid again,” said the sweatpants girl. “Ever. With a capital E.”

This went on for seven stops, and continued as I got off. Asinine chatter about hard drugs, raves, and whose house would be parent-free that afternoon.

It seemed like the sole purpose these ridiculous, strung-out 15-year-olds served was to entertain my otherwise boring subway ride. Other than that, they were useless wastes of space.

Later that week, I was invited to a showcase called Battle of the Scores. Kind of like a Battle of the Bands*, but the participants scored films and performed live alongside the short videos.

The event was hosted by two girls, Melissa and Jenny, who were giddy, confident and no older than 16. In between each band’s performance, they’d snake through the auditorium to chat with embarrassed audience members. After asking the singled-out spectator for a name, they’d follow-up with an empty question like “What’s your favourite movie?” or “How far did you have to travel today?” After the audience member answered, the girls would immediately exclaim “Let’s give them a round of applause!”

“You came from Oshawa?! Let’s give her a round of applause!”

“’Crossroads’ is your favourite movie? Let’s give him a road of applause!”

Over and over and over again.

In total, the audience probably spent over half the night clapping. Our hosts likely hadn’t taken improv or Toastmasters before and weren’t terribly good at making engaging, time-killing conversation. And there was nothing we could do but clap because you can’t heckle a 16-year-old. They didn’t seem to care that the audience was bored and irritated. They were having the time of their lives, absorbed in their 16-year-old worlds. Which happened to involve holding mics in front of an auditorium full of people who were obliged to do as they said because heckling a 16-year-old girl (out loud) makes you evil.

So I kept it to myself.

Before I was completely overcome by cynicism and spite, a little blond wisp of a boy took the stage to perform. His name was Scott Hellman and he had scored an impressive Claymation film made by an 11-year-old whose name I forgot.

Alone on stage with his guitar, he sang a soft, dreamy Elliott Smith-eque song that was so beautiful I started crying. Never could I have imagined that the depth of a teenager’s creativity could have moved me like that. It was the first time I felt something, aside from bad, bad feelings, since arriving in Toronto. I was witnessing something very special. I owed this kid a lot.

Scott didn’t win the competition. The judges, who refrained from giving any constructive criticism, commended him for taking the stage alone.

“It takes a lot to get up there and perform on your own,” one said.

It also takes a lot to get me, a moody, self-absorbed and shallow old crow, to feel something so deeply. And for that I’m giving Scott an eternal, and heartfelt, round of applause.


Hi there reader! Am I being ageist again? Or am I speaking the truth: teenagers are generally the worst people around. Let me know what you think by leaving me a note or emailing me at write@eliannalev.com

See what I’m trying to do here? Engage some feedback and conversation! Because I really love hearing from you! Even when you’re mean or inarticulate!

* Speaking of Battle of the Bands, I will forever associate them with Jack Layton’s son Mike. He was in a band called Hallucinogenic Babies. They did a mean cover of “Killing in the Name Of”.

May 19, 2011   3 Comments