Sunday, January 28, 2007

"Don't Judge Me"

In yesterday's Letters to the Editor, one Mr. David Woodworth, of Walnut Creek, complained that teenagers don't get "much respect or appreciation for our troubles." They have to work all the time at school, he says, and they don't get paid; school is hard and colleges are a nightmare. Furthermore, he says, adults "think lowly of me because of the way I dress," although they know nothing about him.

This letter was apparently sparked by a recent excursion to the mall with friends, in which some adults gave him and his friends the hairy eyeball. He objects to being judged on his appearance, by people who don't "truly know me."

Mr. Woodworth, you lay claim to a 4.0 GPA, which implies that you have something resembling a brain, but you are allowing your sense of grievance to keep you from using it. If people don't know you, sir, how else are they supposed to judge you, except based on how you look and dress? (Don't suggest that they shouldn't judge you; that one is hopeless.) Everyone in society is judged based on how they look and dress, from the CEO down to the janitor, by people who don't "truly know" them. Happens every day.

I doubt seriously that you plan to take these snarky people aside, buy them a cup of coffee, and spend time persuading them of your worth; so you'll have to get used to being judged by your looks. If you don't like the judgment - try changing the way you look. If you and your friends were shambling through the shopping center dressed like gangstas from the 'hood, because you think it's cool, you'd better get used to a negative reaction from the adults you run into. (Note: I have no idea what you were wearing...) Adults have been looking suspiciously at adolescents for at least 2,500 years, and they aren't going to stop because you don't like it.

You should also consider the possibility that the people you thought were giving you dirty looks were actually thinking of something else altogether, and you just happened to be in front of them. When you're twenty, you worry all the time about what people think of you; when you're forty, you don't care what people think of you; when you're sixty, you realize that no one was thinking about you at all.

And your grievances would be more impressive if you didn't sound so much like Rodney Dangerfield. Life is tough, young man, for all of us: you, me, the CEO and the janitor. Very few of us get much respect these days, partly because very few people give much respect. You may have been glared at by adults who thought you were glaring at them. You'll never know.

As a matter of fact, I agree that many teenagers do have it rough these days. Without knowing any more about you than your letter in the newspaper, I don't know if you're one of them or not. I do know you're wasting your time complaining about something that's probably beyond your or anyone's ability to change, because it's rooted in human nature.


  1. Anonymous10:36 PM

    Whoa, so the young man assumes he is entitled to respect because of his grade point average which, oddly enough, isn't engraded, (excuse me, tatooted), on his forehead. Sigh... Just the other day a young woman wrote a letter to our local paper. Her complaint was there wasn't enough good paying jobs awaiting college graduates with associate degrees. She explained how hard she, and others, worked for their degree and suggested the local area needed,(if I may be old fashioned), to get its act together.

    Wisdom comes slowly and is a byproduct of experience. Take heart. At least, these two individuals spoke up, no matter how much what they said illustrated ignorance of how the world works.

  2. Yes, and he was polite and well-written and used no vulgar expressions that I can recall. So he has some basic good judgment. He'll grow up and quit expecting things to improve soon enough.