I remember when duck tail haircuts were all the rage among teenage boys. I even remember wearing a duck tail. For readers younger than 65, a duck tail required hair long enough to be combed straight back and then parted vertically down the back of the head. It required a lot of Brylcreem to keep it in place, which led to that generation being labelled “greasers.”
It’s not clear to me if the brush cut came before or after the duck tail. The brush cut has been around a long time, but there was a time in the fifties when all teenage boys seemed to need a brush cut. That allowed us to dispense with the “greasy kid stuff.”
The most outlandish thing I can remember about the girls is that one of them smoked. But of course there were never any cigarettes seen on the school grounds.
But what’s with young people nowadays? The piercings, the tattoos, the clothes? Hey, does anyone remember when charcoal and pink were the “in” colours? That was in 1956 and everyone needed to occasionally show up wearing that colour combination. Ford even had a model available in two-tone pink and charcoal that year. One of my cousins had one, now that was a really cool car. A couple years later, one of the boys in my class refurbished a Model T, painted it pink and used it to drive to school. That was even more cool.
Chris and I were telling the youth Sunday School class yesterday that the weird young people they see, the ones with the most piercings, tattoos and the weirdest clothes and hair styles, are really the most insecure. That appeared to be a new thought to them, being as they are fine Christian young people without a trace of rebellion in them. (Yeah, I know that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but really they are a fine group.)
It seems to me that peer pressure does two things to us when we are young. We want to set ourselves apart from the older generation, because they are old, they just don’t understand. However, we need to rebel in the way that our peer group approves. The more insecure and anxious we feel about acceptance by our peer group, the more extreme we will be in embracing everything we believe will gain us acceptance. Today is an era of extremes.
It is not only young people who feel anxious and insecure. Parents are so bombarded by pop psychology about their own lives and the lives of their children, that they have become altogether disoriented. There are no solid values anymore, only the latest babbling of the latest pop psychology guru. Children are growing up today with parents who are afraid to restrain them in any way lest they cause irreparable psychological damage.
Yes, I know this may be a bit of an exaggeration too, not all parents are like that. But when troops of young teenagers roam city parks in the middle of the night, where are the parents? When a young man smashes a couple dozen side mirrors on cars in the middle of the night, then appears in court several days later with his thoroughly respectable, yet bewildered, parents, something just isn’t working anymore.
There is a French word that describes parents and teens in our day: they are déboussolé. Literally that means “uncompassed,” although no such word exists in English. People are disoriented and have lost the compass that would help them find their way.
Surely we don’t just want to teach our young people to avoid the type of appearance and behaviour we consider weird. That really doesn’t give them the compass they need to guide them through all the pressures and temptations they will face in life. They need to understand that the answer to anxiety and insecurity is to be rooted and grounded in the faith and love of Jesus Christ. They should also understand that this is what all the other “weird” young people are lacking and that perhaps some of them will be open to hearing of a genuine remedy for their anxiety and insecurity.
A man who is now an older minister has told me of his younger years. He was raised by a Christian mother, got converted in his youth, then strayed off into the hippie culture. One day he was sitting with his friends, smoking pot and discussing the meaning of life. Suddenly it came to him that he knew what it was they were all searching for. A whole lot of young people are searching for that answer today, even though it may be hard for them to recognize it as the answer.