Look Who’s Talking

bae

Every generation of teenagers has their own slang. Adults aren’t meant to understand it, and in fact, that is the whole point. We chose language in part to express our identity and since teenagers naturally want to create an identity separate from that of their parents, they use different words, expressions, and phrases. It helps create distance and establish boundaries. . . blah, blah, blah. I get it; we all get it. But if you’re anything like me, you still want to know what the hell your kids are talking about.

So in pursuit of this lofty goal of understanding (and nothing at all to do with being desperate to connect with my increasingly independent children) I am going to attempt to decode the latest* teenage slang.  I recently saw a similar segment on the Today Show, and when I asked my 15-year-old son if these words were used by teenagers IRL (in real life), he said, “Mom, you shouldn’t get all your information about teenagers from the Today Show.” To which I replied, “Well, they are my only source because SOMEONE doesn’t want to share his innermost thoughts and feelings with me.” And then he ran out of the room so fast he left a little trail of smoke behind him.

I want to be clear that the fallout from this will not be pretty. The moment my children read this, I will be dead to them. And not “dead” in the cool way (see #3 below)- dead in the “I have never seen this woman before” and “Drop me off three blocks from school” way. But that is a risk I am willing to take. Plus, I kind of love embarrassing my kids. Maybe it’s because it’s so easy, or maybe it’s because my very existence embarrasses them, so I figure why not lean into it? Either way, I consider it one of the rewards of parenting teenagers and those can be few and far between. So without further ado (and by ado, I mean rambling justification), here are the 10 of the most current slang words teenagers are using. 

  1. Lit: This is how the kids say something is great. Example: “My Mom, Jill Orr, is so lit.”
  2. Stay woke: Originally the term “stay woke” was a warning to be hypervigilant in the face of racial and social injustice. However, when teens use it these days, it is often used ironically or as a joke to be aware of something that poses no real threat. Example: “Fletcher’s mom is decoding teen slang on her blog this month. Stay woke!”
  3. Dead: When something is so funny/cool/surprising that one “dies” of laughter/envy/embarrassment. Often used in text communication. Example: Ellie’s mom just told me to ‘stay woke’. *DEAD*
  4. GOAT: This is an acronym, used in written and verbal communication, meaning Greatest of All Time. Example: My mom is the GOAT.
  5. Squad goals: When your friend group has something that everyone else admires. Often used as a caption for a picture on Instagram or Twitter. Example: A mom might write #squadgoals below a picture of her with her other mom friends if they are out past 8pm on a weeknight for a non-kid related event. But considering my son’s high school recently had a “squad goals” day, I’m guessing this term is on its way to the teenage dumpster.
  6. Fam: Do not expect your kids to describe you as their fam. Forget that you have provided them with food, clothing, and shelter for their entire lives. Their fam is made up of their very closest friends, their inner circle, and does not generally include anyone who lives in their home. . . no matter how many times you tell them that makes no sense and that other kids would kill to call you their fam because you are super cool.
  7. Thirsty: Do not offer up a glass of milk if you hear your kids or their friends say someone is “thirsty.” When used by a teen, this means desperate, or overeager. Example: A certain middle-aged woman might be called “thirsty” if she tries to use teenage slang as a way to relate to her kids.
  8. Smh: Abbreviation for “shaking my head” to convey disbelief in the face of stupidity. Used in written communication, usually text. Example: My mom won’t stop calling herself a GOAT. *Smh*
  9. Slay: To do something really well. Example: I am really slaying this article on teenage slang.
  10. Throw shade: To voice disapproval. Example: Fletcher and Ellie will throw some serious shade on their Mom after reading this article even though it was super lit. (Oh yeah, that’s a twofer. Slayed it! Hundo P! [Bonus word: that means 100%].)

*Please note that I am writing this in December of 2016, even though it will not appear in print until February of 2017, so there is a high probability that these terms have already gone the way of other disgraced teen slang terms like: bae, on fleek, and YOLO. Apparently, the only people using these words are ten- year-old-boys on Instagram and adults having a midlife crisis. 

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Your New Puppy: An Owner’s Guide

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  • Did you know that the average puppy pees 1,257 times per day?
  • Did you know that it takes the average puppy approximately 25 minutes to walk ten feet on a leash?
  • You must never take your eyes off of a puppy for even a moment or else they will pee, poop, or chew up something that is important to you.
  • You will want to invest in Visine or some other eye lubricant before bringing home your new puppy because you must watch him or her all the time (see above) and that means ALL THE TIME. You must never blink. If you blink, the puppy will pee, poop, and/or chew up something that is important to you.
  • Did you know that if you take your eyes off the prize (the “prize” in this scenario, ironically, is your new puppy) and your puppy pees, poops, or chews up something important to you  – you will have taught the puppy that it’s okay to do so?
  • Did you know that the average puppy drinks water like a Snuffleupagus in both style and quantity?
  • Did you know that it will take your new puppy approximately 1.7 seconds to completely destroy your average throw pillow?
  • Did you know s/he can destroy a pair of Lululemon pants in half that time?
  • You will want to rid your house and your person of anything that can be seen as a chew toy by your new puppy, for instance draperies, shag rugs, shoelaces, belts, necklaces, chair legs, fingers, toes, noses, etc.
  • New puppies need a lot of love and attention. Please do not plan to go more than 30 consecutive seconds without thinking about or interacting with your new puppy. This will be seen as a sign of neglect and will be met with extreme displeasure.
  • Did you know puppies show their extreme displeasure by peeing, pooping, or chewing up something that is important to you?
  • Did you know that while it will take your new puppy three days to walk to the end of your driveway on a leash, if you take the leash off, your new puppy will speed to the top of your street in 4.6 seconds?
  • Please plan to spend an average of 45 minutes outside during each potty break with your new puppy. Note: When you combine this with the 4x/day feeding schedule, this process of feeding/pottying becomes essentially confluent, so plan to abandon everyday tasks like doing the dishes, vacuuming, folding laundry, cooking, eating a meal with your family, showering, etc.
  • Did you know your new puppy is 1000 times more likely to growl at your mother-in-law than the shady doormail coupon delivery guy?
  • You will want to avoid having one of your children bring home a contagious stomach virus from school while you’re training your new puppy. This is likely to really test your limits on dealing with bodily fluids.
  • You will also want to avoid trying to write your second novel while you have a new puppy at home. Your new puppy will not respect the process. (You should, however, have the requisite time it takes to complete a blog post during your new puppy’s 7.5 minute nap. Whoops – my time is up!)

 


One Fine Day

For years, I’ve asked my kids the same uninspired question when I pick them up from school: How was your day? And for years, they’ve answered with the same uninspired answer: Fine. In fact, we’ve been round and round on this so many times that last year my daughter begged me to please stop asking how her day was because, “It makes me want to scream. No offense or anything, Mom.” Okay, fair enough. No offense taken. That question wasn’t pulling its weight anyway.

I needed a better way to get at what exactly was going on with my kids at school and more importantly how it made them feel. (I am big into how things make my kids feel, much to their continued aggravation.) So I, like any good parent in the digital age, turned to the Internet for advice. And the Internet heeded my call! When I typed in “how to ask kids about their school day,” Google showed me list after list of questions I could ask my kids that, Google promised, would really get them talking. These questions would be the key that would unlock the secret world of my children’s innermost hopes and dreams. They would make our bond stronger, our love deeper, and bring us closer together than ever before. I wanted the key to that world! I wanted to be closer than ever before!

So I read article after article and synthesized the information to create one super list. And I got in my car and drove to school ready to be transported inside their teenage brains. I have transcribed the conversation that followed:

  1. What did you eat for lunch?

Why? What’d you hear?

  1. Did anyone do anything super nice for you?

Um, no. This is middle school. Nobody does anything super nice for anyone.

  1. What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?

Didn’t I just answer that?

  1. Who made you smile today?

Mom, are you okay?

  1. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse?

Is this for a new book your writing?

  1. Did anyone push your buttons today?

Other than you?

  1. Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet?

Why? What’d you hear?

  1. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.

I thought we weren’t supposed to gossip?

  1. What challenged you today?

This conversation.

  1. When did you feel most proud of yourself today?

That joke about this conversation was pretty good.

  1. Tell me about a new word you heard at school today.

Why? What’d you hear?

  1. What new fact did you learn today?

Time is relative. For example, this car ride home- while technically only five minutes long- feels like an eternity.

  1. If aliens came to school and beamed up three kids, who do you wish they would take?

Seriously Mom, are you having some sort of crisis? Should we call Dad?

  1. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today.

Why? What’d you hear?

  1. What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?

The bus schedule.

As you can see, the conversation didn’t give me any special insight into their world. Or take our bond to new heights. Or bring us closer together. At one point, my daughter faked being asleep to avoid answering any more questions. But it did get us talking— granted, mostly about how weird I was— but still. We talked, we laughed, we made fun of me, and then we all went inside and had a snack. And I figure that’s better than nothing. . . and certainly better than “fine.”

 


Rejection Reflection

I’ve been working on a piece for the Arts issue of the magazine I write for, and it got me thinking about an issue that all artists-  and parents –  have to deal with at some point: rejection. As a writer, I am rejected on a daily basis. Please do not mistake that for hyperbole. I literally receive rejection letters almost every single day for work that I have spent hours and days and months creating. I’m not going to lie, it kind of sucks. But art is a subjective business, and if you’re going to work in a creative field you have to realize that rejection is just part of the gig.

I did not, however, anticipate how much rejection was going to be involved in the parenting gig. Maybe because when you have a baby, rejection seems impossible. After all, your helpless little creature couldn’t possibly reject you because, for starters they can’t even talk, but more importantly they need you for fundamental things like food and shelter. As newborns grow into babies and then into toddlers, need is still a prime component of your relationship. They need you to change their diapers. They need you to get them dressed. They need you to give them your iPad. They need need need to the point that a little rejection would be a welcome change.

And then somewhere toward the end of elementary school, subtle changes set in. “No, mommy, you don’t have to volunteer for my field trip.” “You don’t need to walk me into school.” “You don’t have to hug and kiss me goodbye when you drop me off at Timmy’s house.” Okay, you think, my child is becoming independent. That’s a good thing, right? And during this phase they still need you, of course, because they can’t reach the top shelf in the pantry and that’s where you keep all the candy.

But then somewhere during the middle school years, their needs change again and begin to center around two things: transportation and money. These are not their only needs, but they are certainly the only needs they want to talk to you about. So that means that the other things you offer your children—your values, hopes, dreams, wisdom— are often rejected. And let me tell you, rejection from an 11 to 14 year-old who has not yet perfected the art of constructive criticism can be… severe.

No joke, my daughter asked me last week why my face was “like that.” She literally rejected my face. I wasn’t sure how to respond to this, as this is the only face I have, so I just gave her my most sympathetic look and said in a loving tone, “I don’t know, honey. We’re just going to have to get through this together.”

And I think that is the key to rejection— treating it with one measure of acceptance and two or three measures of perseverance. Because rejections will happen in every aspect of our social and professional lives whether we choose to become artists, or parents, or lawyers, or athletes, or anything other than a giant pile of cold hard cash. It kind of sucks, but there it is.

So I try not to let my kids subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) rejection bother me too much. I don’t let it stop me from parenting. I don’t let it dictate how and why I make decisions about their well-being, nor do I take it too personally. I also use my own stories of rejection to help them become comfortable with the idea that they, too, will one day face rejection, despite what all their “participation” ribbons have taught them. I tell them about all my writing rejections. I tell them how sometimes it makes me feel bad. I make jokes about this or that editor’s lack of vision. And in the end, I show them how I go back to work and try to improve. Because to quote every successful artist—and parent— ever, “Rejection doesn’t equal failure. The only way you fail for sure is if you stop trying.”


I Can Bring Home the Bacon, but the Rest Is On You.

One of the most iconic TV commercials I remember seeing as a kid was that one in which the blonde lady sings about how she can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever, ever let you forget you’re a man. Seriously. Those are the actual lyrics. The year was 1980. And I still remember the commercial all these years later, not because it was such a great ad (truthfully, I needed a quick Google search to remind me it was for Enjoli perfume), but because even at seven years old, I think I knew the whole thing was a total crockpot of shit.

Obviously this ad wasn’t just selling perfume. It was selling the You-Can-Have-It-All lifestyle to a new generation of women who had previously been shut out of serious positions within corporate America and who were largely relegated to the domestic realm. But thanks to the Women’s Lib movement of the 1970s, now BOTH realms were open to women. At the same time. This commercial was more than just a commercial; it was a sign of the times.

The fine folks at the now defunct Charles of the Ritz company were trying to attach their product to the now defunct idea that it’s a breeze for any woman to be a successful professional, a doting wife, an attentive mother, a gourmet cook, a meticulous homemaker, and a satin gown wearing sex kitten – all at the same time.

Here is what the ad was really saying:

I can bring home the bacon.

(Nice double entendre, Enjoli.) The first meaning of the word bacon in this line is obviously money. But perhaps, this line would have been more accurate had it said, “I can bring home 73% of the same bacon you can bring home – even though I worked just as hard for my bacon as you did for yours.”

The second ‘entendre’ of the word bacon here is actual bacon. The message being, “Yes, dear, I’ll stop at the market on my way home from work and pick you up some bacon.”

Fry it Up in a Pan.

The point here is clear: That bacon ain’t going to cook itself.

And never, ever, ever let you forget you’re a man.

“After I’ve worked all day, shopped, cooked, cleaned up, and read the kids a bedtime story, there’s nothing I’d rather do than spray on some atomized pheromones (aka, Enjoli), slip into that Some Like It Hot white satin number I have lying around and rock your world.”

Enjoli. The 8 hour perfume for the 24 hour woman.  

This is the official tagline of the commercial. Maybe it’s just me, but the subtext here seems to be something more subversive. There seems to be an implied threat here: You wanted it all, sweetheart? Well, here it all is. Be careful what you wish for.

If this commercial were to be update for today’s world, I think it would go something more like this.

Same jazzy woman’s voice singing:

You can bring home the bacon (but don’t forget to grab a gallon of milk and some greek yogurt on your way home).

Fry it up in a pan (or microwave it, I don’t care –I’m not eating that shit. I’m ordering sushi.).

And I’ll never, ever, ever let you forget that you’re a man… with a pre-disposition for arterial sclerosis, so slow down on that bacon. And for the love of pete, would you do some crunches once in a while?

The tagline would also need to be changed because clearly this is now an ad for bacon. Or The American Heart Association. Or perhaps sushi. But in any case, it is no longer an ad promoting the idea that women can Have it All. And thank goodness for that. We all know that while women CAN have it all, we really don’t WANT it all. We want to split it. We’ll cook. You clean. We’ll fold. You put away. We won’t let you forget you’re a man, if you get up with the kids in the morning. Our trail-blazing, bacon-frying, Enjoli-wearing mothers taught us that while having it all is a nice idea, the reality is fraught with boobie traps. (Oh, yes. Pun intended.) And the load is lighter when shared.

Of course, TV ads today don’t really have the influence they once did anyway. Thanks to DVRs, most seven year old children, rather than ponder the sociological implications of a quasi-feminist-while-being-actually-misogynistic perfume ad, are more likely to ask the far more concrete question, “Mommy, what’s a commercial?”

For a more serious analysis of the Enjoli commercial, check out Jennifer Ludden’s piece on NPR.