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By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
I was talking to my elderly neighbor about my recent pursuit in getting a better life. We had some good laughs.
But one thing she said that I thought was telling was that she was glad she lived in the era that she did. Itís not like when she and her husband were of working age. Long gone are the days when you got into a company when you graduated high school, and stayed there until you retired.
That doesnít bother me so much. I like variety and Iím always looking for the next challenge, or that ever elusive good job, but what gets my goat are teenagers who live better than I do. Iím an adult for chrissakes! Yet I look around and see teenagers with new cars, and not just subcompacts. No, they have cars that I would describe as a ďnice, old-personís sedan kind of car,Ē or worse, they drive SUVs. When I was their age (oh God, I sound old when I say that) I knew better than to expect a snazzy car, or ANY kind of car on my 16th birthday. I remember that day: I got a red carnation from my mom. And I watched the Kentucky Derby. No big party, no car whatsoever. I knew enough about the family finances to know the only car I might have a hope of getting was a Matchbox or Hot Wheels.
Fortunately, my mother liked clothes, so I had designer jeans. I had Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt, and a couple polo shirts. But my wardrobe wasnít overflowing with pricy jeans or LaCoste shirts. I had the Jordache because back then, I didnít have hips OR a waist, and could get away with skintight jeans.
I had a good upbringing. I spent my allowance on horseback riding lessons, and that was it. Anything else I had to save for, or ask my parents for it. I donít remember nagging them for a car. I borrowed my motherís 1974 dull metallic green Maverick, complete with holes repaired with duct tape. Today, if any middle class kid was asked to share a car with a parent, and have that car be a near classic AND full of holes, he or she would die of embarrassment.
Donít even get me started on the prom. I never went, and never expected to go. But these days, there are magazines devoted to the event, and God knows what todayís teenagers pay for this thing.
Spring break? I went nowhere, fast. It never occurred to me to go on a trip, even though I had relatives in Puerto Rico with whom I could have stayed for free. My senior year, it snowed during spring break. I remember my mom being disgusted that the weather was so bad during my time off from school, but what difference did it make to me? I could play in the snowóor not. What spring break meant to me was not having to get up at an ungodly hour and get to school late, more often than not. I was the detention queen, but not because I was smoking outside of the smoking area, or because I was beating people up. I was fashionably late before the term was invented. Iíve since gotten a little (very little) better, but the world still turns if I show up late.
But if youíre a teenager and youíre reading this on your new laptop, sipping a $5 cup of coffee at the hip hangout you and your friends frequent, and you got there in your new SUV, sorry, I donít feel your pain. Yes, you are growing up in a more violent, uncertain time than I did, but I feel I must tell you to enjoy mommy and daddyís money as long as you can. Because after you graduate college, you too will be saddled with student loans and will have to come back home. In time, you will find out that your degree in childrenís performing arts will be useless as a tool to get a job, but will provide a chuckle for all those employers who end up glancing at your resume before it goes into the round file.
Would I trade being a teenager way back when for the youthful experience of today? Not on your life. Even if my parents were alive again and were able to buy me a car, tons of designer clothes and pay for two horseback riding lessons a week AND buy me my own horse, Iíd still choose my 1980s teen years over being a teen today. Why?
Weekly allowance, circa 1982-1985: $10
Price of horseback riding lessons: $8 per week.
Going to school without worrying that some psycho was going to shoot me? Priceless.