As if it’s not difficult enough to get through life, what with surviving parents and younger brothers and sisters, passing exams, getting and keeping friends, looking and behaving in a manner that’s not stupid, now you have to do all of this against the backdrop of the perfect teens you see on TV.
They never have zits, are all above average looking, never carry one extra kilogram, despite the fact that they are constantly shown munching hamburgers and hardly ever do any exercise. They never have bad hair days, are always dressed in the latest expensive fashions and always manage to look cool even if they’re throwing a tantrum.
They wake up in the morning looking cute, not puffy and grumpy and they never develop a boil on their nose before a big date.
These families fall mainly into two categories: either the laugh-a-minute type or the serious and concerned pillar-of –the-community type, who have serious discussions with their kids about moral issues and things like pollution and sexual choices. The parents, often childhood sweethearts, are always still in love with each other, unless it’s a comedy in which they go for each other’s throats, while the live audience rolls in the aisles. (What’s a dead audience anyway?)
Their brothers and sisters are also cute and sweet, even when they’re being irritating -nothing like the brats that you have to deal with on an ongoing basis. You are convinced your younger siblings were placed on this earth to turn your life into a complete misery. And you somehow always get the blame for what they do wrong, but they don’t listen to you.
TV teens always think of the right thing to say while they are still in the situation, unlike you, who thinks of the perfect comeback three weeks later while clearing out your cupboard. Wit and wisdom roll of their tongues like a waterfall and the word ‘Ummm…’ is never heard.
They never blush. They either have a quick comeback, or they manage to look deeply hurt in such a way that whoever was nasty to them looks like the villain of the piece. They have also all specialised in looking dark and sultry and mysterious and unpredictable. They never sulk, only brood in self-righteous anger. They never slam doors and swear, but they weep in their darkened bedrooms, where their parents come to apologise to them.
Their parents reason with them and never say things like, “You can come down to supper if you’ve stopped sulking”.
Their teachers mostly bear no resemblance to what you have to look at every day. The teachers mostly care, are remarkably tolerant of rudeness, and often actually care enough to be nasty, to get involved in personal matters of the students and to mark assignments instantly and fairly.
They don’t ever seem to spend a lot of time studying, yet always pass tests, often top of the class. Whatever they turn their hands to, they can do well.
They get chosen for sports teams and school plays, unless their not being chosen is the theme for this week’s sultry brooding session.
Their classmates are always beautiful, varied and interesting, the only exceptions being the really nasty ones. And the nasty ones always get what they deserve. You, on the other hand, are still being bullied by the person who tripped you up in Grade 5.
Their love interests
There always is one. There’s always someone in whom they are interested, someone who is interested in them, someone they’re just dumping, or have just dumped or been dumped by. In real life, months can pass without any of these things happening.
The love interests are almost always attractive and interesting, but often with a dark and painful secret, which almost, but seldom completely, scuttles the relationship. There is always a third or fourth person lurking, whose main aim in life appears to be to torpedo the budding romance.
And then, there is always the misunderstanding. She sees him with another woman, who turns out to be his sister. Or someone tells him she has the morals of an alley cat, which turn out to be nothing more than jealous spite. But all of this provides the opportunity for much weeping and wailing and general gnashing of teeth.
And have you noticed that they always, even in big cities, happen to run into the person in question.
Their financial status
Their families always have loads of money. Their furniture always looks brand new – no wear and tear or scuffmarks – and their kitchens always look like something out of an advertising brochure. Their lounges contain every imaginable gadget, but you hardly ever see them watching TV.
They almost always have their own rooms, often their own TVs and telephones.
They often manage to keep a car going on what they earn flipping hamburgers twice a week. Their social lives are hardly ever curtailed by a lack of money and when it is, their parents are always obliging with a loan, which you never see them pay back.
If all of this is making you feel inadequate, relax, you’re in good company. If you have zits, parents who shout at you and are often unreasonable, no transport, a shared bedroom, dragons for teachers and definitely a to-do list as far as your appearance is concerned, take heart in the fact that you at least have a foot in the real world.
Change and growth in your life does not happen in hour-long episodes, but is an ongoing process. And you are also clever enough to know that there are some problems in this world for which there are no easy or immediate solutions. So give yourself a break.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)