From tween to teen: The century turns 13

Here's to the 21st's onset of adolescence. May it be awkward and beautiful.

| December 26, 2012
DON'T STOP BELIEBIN': One of the many Justin Bieber 2013 calendars available online begs the question: Will his fans outgrow him?
DON'T STOP BELIEBIN': One of the many Justin Bieber 2013 calendars available online begs the question: Will his fans outgrow him?
- calendars.com

The century is 12 going on 13. What say we begin with a tribal initiation of our collective psyche?

It’s time to slam the door on 2012 and shout, “You’re not the boss of me!” to The Man.

Stomp your feet and raise your middle finger to the misguided politicians, wartime quagmires and corporate interests that brainwash us and contribute to the mass epidemic of detachment, alienation, instant gratification and spoiled self-centeredness that’s poisoned our spirits since the century’s horrific 9/11-scarred infancy.

As we go from tween to teen, let the hormones rage and let’s shake things up.

First, some props to 2012: The groundswell of support for the re-election of Prez Obama, Time’s Man of the Year, was inspiring regardless of which side of the political fence you choose to smoke your weed.

Speaking of pot, the beginning of the end of marijuana criminalization sparked up in Washington and Colorado. Kudos to doing away with outdated ideas and hypocritical backwardness.

There have been great strides in philanthropy with youth grassroots movements, Kickstarter campaigns and microgrants, along with the localized focus on food and arts, and hopeful modicums of progress among the oppressed à la the Arab Spring and Burma. May the next generation see more Aung San Suu Kyis.

The fall of ’12 saw glimmers of a new hopeful, idealistic attitude in America. We’re recovering from our PTSD, waking up from apathy and finally working on coming together to slow down climate change and examine our gun laws and culture of violence. It’s sad it took a devastating storm and the massacre of innocent children to stir things up, but, hey, people tend to learn the hard way.

Thirteen — acne and emotional turbulence aside — is an age to look forward to. Developmentally speaking, 13 is the age we form our identity. We start to think critically, to challenge, to opine, to talk back and — hopefully — acquire a more sophisticated sense of humor and taste in literature, movies and music. We learn to play music, to draw lifelike figures, to write maudlin poetry. We read Henry Miller and Caligula and revel in the joy of diddling ourselves.

For some, it’s the beginning of genius. For others, it’s just a descent into droopy-drawered, Mountain Dew-drinking apathy. God willing, our century is destined for the former and not the latter. (That is, if New York Mayor Bloomberg has his way.)

Thirteen isn’t all bad. It is after all the age that inspired Big Star to record its classic tune. The 40-year-old ballad’s hopeful innocence and delicately evocative brevity convey the butterfly-in-the-tummy feelings of budding adolescence.

As the century ages, let’s make it our goal to begin to grow up online — to try to wean ourselves off the bad habits of excessive texting and posting. Sure, there are bored, dormant, waiting-room moments that are ideal for Facebooking pictures of your cat or tweeting about who won Dancing With the Stars, but do try to talk with your mouth and make eye contact when you’re having dinner with friends. Really, people.

Oh, yeah, the “Really?” Do you think we ask “Really?” enough? And pardon me for beginning yet another sentence with “Do you think?” Another lazy habit to mark off on the New Year’s resolution list.

Please, in 2013, let’s begin to try to have original ideas. Enough with the retweets, reposts, remakes, retreads, cover songs, tribute bands, sequels, zombie references, teenage vampires, cupcake bakeries, T-shirt companies, iPhone/Apple/Mac fetishes, ripoff ’80s synth bands and the fucking YOLOs. Enough already.

No more dumbed-down tunes with whiny emo vocals and silly dance music. While I like me some Die Antwoord, I don’t fink you freaky and I don’t like you a lot. And nooo, sexy lady. I don’t want to [?] Gangnam-style.

While I’m loath to reveal my age, I experienced my 13th year in 1982-’83 — an exciting time to enter adolescence.

So much was happening. MTV was called Music Television and actually played these things called music videos, on TV, without a nasty Grinch-like message from a music label saying we don’t have permission to watch it.

Punk and New Wave were in their prime, and I had to save up for never-heard-before styles of music — hard to even remember what that’s like, eh? Music was hard to get. It was one sexy bitch of a coquette. Now the omnipresence of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora reeks with Fergie perfume and bipolar disorder.

With the Internet and fashionably horn-rimmed geeks marginalizing counter-culture, it’s encouraging that the century’s 12th year welcomed intelligent, iconic divas on the Billboard charts — like Grammy nominee Janelle Monáe, Lykke Li and Florence + the Machine. Here’s to more badass women on magazine covers, who have more to sing about than ex-boyfriends and their pathetic desperation.

At 13, we get a bigger allowance and get to go to the movies. In movie theaters, blockbusters have started to become watchable, movies like Argo, Moonrise Kingdom and Lincoln — the year’s anomalously great biopic and timeless allegory about overcoming oppression.

As the brain cells surge, may society gain inspiration — may we shed the impressionable cluelessness of ’12’s Bieber fever. Perhaps it’s a stretch, but it’s my hope that 2013 will begin a new era of self-awareness, a realization that we’re too desensitized and fed up to bend over for employers, politicians, media conglomerates and corporations who consistently underestimate us.

It’s also my hope that our political leaders will usher in a new age of discourse instead of dutifully memorized talking points, that they will engage in an inspired, passionate dialogue — even if the voice of their convictions embarrassingly changes octaves from time to time. Here’s simply to convictions.

I may sound idealistic, but the whiff of 13’s pheromones has gotten me a little worked up.

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"Enough with the retweets, reposts, remakes, retreads, cover songs, tribute bands, sequels, zombie references, teenage vampires, cupcake bakeries, T-shirt companies, iPhone/Apple/Mac fetishes, ripoff ’80s synth bands and the fucking YOLOs..." Cheers to that!

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Posted by Leilani Polk on 12/27/2012 at 10:32 AM
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