29 April 2006

Teenage angst and acceptance

It’s wonderful to be loved for who you truly are. But, what if you’re not?

What if you were a young and able college-going girl without a boy-friend? What if the guys you liked so much admired your intelligence and knowledge, but happily went out to the movies and lunches with dumb good-looking girls in pretty clothes? What if they came back and told you what a great time they had? What if all you ever did was hang out with your parents at home, watching their favourite TV programmes – those yucky serials that made you throw up most of the time?

You tell yourself, you’re doing the right thing. Your loyalty is to your parents. Your parents want you to discover who you truly are. Your parents want to help you develop fully into the person that you should be. They lay down wonderful plans for you. They wish you well. They want you to study, study, study. They encourage you to study so you could excel later in life. While all the dumb good-looking girls go out and have fun with the guys you should be out with.

“IT’S ONLY AN EXCUSE TO STOP ME FROM ENJOYING LIFE!!!” you feel like screaming. Your parents keep you under their wings – almost like a hostage. You’re never allowed to do the things every other person of your age is doing now.

Teenage angst is a concern for many parents. If I am to believe what I hear and see around me, it’s a growing problem in urban India. It leads to teens hating their parents and rebelling… sometimes, depression. In the western world, there are also cases of teenagers with eating disorders (girls mainly), drug addiction, cutting themselves and suicide attempts. Many Indian urban teenagers feel frustrated. They fall prey to anger, depression and drugs (boys mainly). Even to stealing money from home, or applying pressure to their parents, to buy them the things they normally can’t afford.

And why not? All around them, the big wide world is asking teens to be attractive, to be sexual, to be popular. The media is saturated with messages luring them into consuming brands (check out the latest issue of INDIA TODAY for ‘What’s Hot and Cool’) in order to look attractive and popular... To be somebody, standing out in the crowd. To be admired and accepted. Teenagers today simply want: clothes¸ shoes, food, friends, mobilephones, iPods, cigarettes, alcohol, members of the opposite sex, and sex. All, in order to get social acceptance.

For teens, everywhere, acceptance by their peer groups takes precedence over family. They live by the expectations of their peer groups, not their parents’. It’s no big deal, they say. They are quite familiar with this concept. Growing up, they lived by their parents’ expectations; now they are replacing their parents with their immediate social groups. Only this time, the numbers outweigh the parents.

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