Take my hand and step through the door with me into a world where butter is a vegetable and vegetables are mere garnishes, where an hour of homework turns a person into a zombie, but an hour of video games invigorates him, where bedrooms appear to have been ravaged by Gunga Din but hours are spent putting every single solitary hair on her head in just the right place ... that's right; we're about to enter ... Teenlandia.
Actual conversation I overhead today between my 17 year-old boy and 14 year-old girl:
Girl: Mr. Morris is weird. (speaking of middle school teacher)
Girl: Because he pauses a lot when he talks.
Boy: Like how?
Girl, spoken all in one big breath: Like he asked me, "Are you in the play?" and I said, "Yes." Then he waited a long time and said, "What are your lines?" And I said, "I don't have any." Then he looked away, then looked back and paused and said, "But you're in the play?" I said, "Yes." He goes, "But you don't have any lines?" and I said, "No." So then he paused a long, long time and said, "How about Smith--is she in the play?" So I said, "Yes." Then after a long time, he goes, "What are her lines?" I said, "She doesn't have any." Then he paused and said, "What about Butler? She in?" "Yep." "Any lines?" "Nope." He asked me about five friends. The same questions, over and over with big, long pauses between. He's weird.
Boy: Oh, I remember him. Yeah, he was a "pauser." Like how long does he pause with you guys?
Girl: Really long. Today I counted 12345678910 before he said the next sentence. I counted kinda fast, but still.
Boy: Yeah, one time we counted to, like 8, but we counted One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, Three-Mississippi ...
ME: I hate to break up this stimulating conversation about styles of elocution and oration and ... counting... but we need to get to the doctor's office now.
So I take the boy at 3:00 pm. The appointment is at 3:15. We waited in the waiting room until 4:45. The reading material was terrible. I decided to get in some good conversation with him, you know, bonding time, but every conversation seemed to take a detour down memory lane recalling parenting mistakes I'd made with him, like the time I painted his room like a giant aquarium. He swears he was in high school when I did that, but that's NOT true. What IS true, is that he will tell his kids that, and they will believe him.
I gave up on the bonding and started counting: One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi...
At 5:15, we were just about ready to slip an S.O.S. under the door: "Help us. We are patients. Is there a doctor in the building?" when the doc came in. Guess what time we got home? 5:45.
So today in Teenlandia, we learned that
1. Teenagers cultivate conversation styles specifically designed to render any unwanted parent and/or teacher listeners comatose.
2. Just because you're in a play doesn't mean you have to have lines.
3. Just because a kid loved his room when he was little doesn't mean he loves the memory of it. Or that he appreciates that you bought him the kid version of Sports Illustrated instead of the real thing. When he was a kid.
4. We learned to keep our cools and have patience, filling in pregnant pauses and eternal waiting room time with various counting techniques.
5. But most of all, we learned that being a "pauser" is like buying yourself a ticket straight to Weirdville, and we all know there are no cool people in Weirdville--they're only in Teenlandia.