Saturday, May 19, 2007

Be Afraid

Yesterday it was freezing in my house. I hauled up a little space heater and retreated to my room. When my daughter came back from karate, she exclaimed, "I need that heater for my room. It's mad hot in here."

"Is it mad cold in your room?" I asked.

"Daddy," she said, "you can't talk like that."

"Why not?"

"That's slang. Slang is for kids."

I'm looking at her, eleven years old, and I'm horrified. This, I suddenly realize, this may be the incipient teenager I've been worrying about for so long.

Oh no.

Ironically, I work with teenagers every day, and for the most part, I get along with them very well. But my more experienced friends assure me that, at a certain age, some evil spirit takes them over, and it surfaces mostly in their dealings with parents. My teacher's instinct says ignore it, but I plod on regardless.

"Why can't I use it?" I ask.

"Let me tell you something. You don't sound cool when you talk like that. You have to use grownup words. You should ask if it's extremely cold in my room."

Maybe. But to me, the question now sounds stilted and pretentious, even worse than uncool.

Of course, if simple lack of style could contain the savage teen, it would be well worth it.
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