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CHAPTER 6: THE INVENTION OF THE TEENAGER AND DE-EVOLUTION INTO “EMERGING ADULTS”

 

 

After World War II, the American GIs—General Issue—moved back home to America from the war in Europe. The war was long and brutal. Much life was lost on the sides of both the Allied and the Axis powers. Europe was in shambles, and America became a roaring juggernaut of industrial might. Factories that had been retooled to make tanks, bombs, bullets, and fighter planes reverted into consumer products and goods.

Women who took over the jobs in the factories moved home to look after their men and their families. The men returned to work in the factories and offices. Victory had made America more prosperous than ever. America had blown up most of the civilized world and was now the world’s biggest creditor with the American dollar taking over the world reserve currency. A new world order was established with America as the center of the universe.

Oil was traded in American dollars; American culture, food, music, movies, and television were all exported as a new war effort of culture began. American culture invaded other countries for economic gain, and this made America a world exporter of not just goods, services, money and debt, but also culture.

American culture became popular around the world, and especially the music like rock ’n’ roll, jazz, blues, and country all became sensations around the world. The popularity of American culture is illustrated in the song “Americano” as sung by the Brian Setzer Orchestra:

 

Americano

He’s drivin’ a jeep
But he ain’t in the Army
Gets all his cigarette money
From his mommy
Dressed like a rootin’ tootin’
Texas cowboy
But this lone ranger’s
Never seen a horse

He wanna be Americano
Americano, Americano
He wants to drive a Cadillac
Now he’s chasing showgirls
Smokin’ Camels, whiskey and soda
Now he’s never goin’ back

He’s cruisin’ streets for gold
Dressed in designer clothes
Brother if you’re too slow
You’d better not blink
Or you’ll wind up in the drink

Wanna be Americano
Americano, Americano
Gotta buy a diamond ring
’Cause that’s his baby’s
Favorite thing
Okay, all right, yeah man
Wanna be American
Wanna be American

He’s in the land where
Anything can happen
Reach for the stars
Grab that golden ring
Just remember he’s Americano
Well watch it pal
‘’ause he’ll take everything

He wanna be Americano
Americano, Americano
He wants to drive a Cadillac
Now he’s chasing showgirls
Smokin’ Camels, whiskey and soda
Now he’s never goin’ back

He likes that rock and roll
He’s playing baseball
Loves Marilyn Monroe
A coca cola Joe
And a pizza pie to go

Wanna be Americano
Americano, Americano
Gotta buy a diamond ring
’Cause that’s his baby’s
Favorite thing
Okay, all right, yeah man

Wanna be American
Wanna be American
Wanna be American

 

 

Songwriters: BRIAN ROBERT SETZER, MIKE HIMELSTEIN, RENATO CAROSONE, NICOLA SALERNO

The lyrics of “Americano” show a non-American young man doing all the American things that made up American pop culture at different times in history: Coca Cola, whisky and soda, Camel cigarettes, Jeeps, diamond rings, Marilyn Monroe, rock ’n’ roll, baseball, Cadillacs, and dressing like a Texas cowboy.

With all these new exports of culture, there was also a new invention brewing in America that had never existed before: the teenager.

With the advent of rock ’n’ roll after World War II, America became a very wealthy country, as happens with most countries that win big wars. This newfound wealth and surplus of energy and time created a new class of citizen, somewhere between child and adult—the teenager. Never before in history had teenagers, as a separate class of citizen, ever existed.

Prior to World War II, there were children and there were adults. This was similar to Viking warrior culture in which there was no word for woman. Instead, they always referred to a woman in relation to her man. A woman was either a man’s daughter or a man’s wife, but there was no free woman or teenager class for Viking .

A new role in society opened up—the teenager who enjoyed all the things in the song in “Americano”—getting cigarette money from his mommy, having fun, drinking Coca Cola, chasing showgirls, smoking Camels. This was the American teenager, and a new level of wealth and luxury was created in America that slowly led to a deferral of adulthood. In the early 1900s, before World War II, young men and women lived with their parents until they were married off at a young age, before 20 and as young as 14, and then the children became adults and left the home. There was no cumbersome middle step called the teenager—half adult, half child.

The teenager is now an 80-year-old invention and, of course, with the weakness of our society, we now have a new type of non-adult that takes place AFTER the teenage years. This new classification of citizen is called the “emerging adult.”

in 1995, psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, PhD, interviewed 300 young people ages 18 to 29 in cities around the nation over five years, asking them questions about what they wanted out of life.

 

Despite stark differences in their social backgrounds and likely economic prospects, Arnett was struck by the similar answers he heard from his young respondents.

 

They shared a perception of “feeling in between”—knowing they were pulling clear of the struggles of adolescence and starting to feel responsible for themselves, but still closely tied to their parents and family.

 

They also reported pondering their personal identity, a theme that surprised Arnett, who thought most would have settled that question as adolescents.

Working from those interviews and examining broad demographic indicators, Arnett proposed a new period of life-span development he calls “emerging adulthood.”

 

By Christopher Munsey

Monitor Staff

June 2006, Vol 37, No. 6

Print version: page 68

 

As you can see from the above excerpt, emerging adults are an invention from 1995—a relatively new invention—and this phase of life takes place somewhere between 18 and 29. As we get weaker and weaker in our society, we keep pushing and deferring adulthood later and later. It’s preposterous to think that adulthood is now deferred until 25 or even 30 years old. Just a little over 100 years ago, in the early 1900s, people died in their early 40s. Nowadays you are pretty much a child until you are 30. What ?!

 

Five features of emerging adults according to Arnett:

As Arnett describes it, emerging adulthood can be defined as an:

  • Age of identity exploration.Young people are deciding who they are and what they want out of work, school and love.
  • Age of instability.The post-high school years are marked by repeated residence changes, as young people either go to college or live with friends or a romantic partner. For most, frequent moves end as families and careers are established in the 30s.
  • Age of self-focus.Freed of the parent- and society-directed routine of school, young people try to decide what they want to do, where they want to go and who they want to be with—before those choices get limited by the constraints of marriage, children and a career.
  • Age of feeling in between.Many emerging adults say they are taking responsibility for themselves, but still do not completely feel like an adult.
  • Age of possibilities.Optimism reigns. Most emerging adults believe they have good chances of living “better than their parents did,” and even if their parents divorced, they believe they’ll find a lifelong soul mate.

 

By Christopher Munsey

Monitor Staff

June 2006, Vol 37, No. 6

Print version: page 68

 

The emerging adult, as per the description above, seems to outline many of the problems with man-boys. This new class, this new definition of emerging adults, and I suppose, emerging men (until they are 30) is part of the problem and certainly not the solution.

 

Arnett’s research shows that emerging adults want a lot out of life–a job that’s well-paid and personally meaningful and a lasting bond with a partner. Many might be headed for disappointment, he says, noting that most employers simply want someone who can get a job done and almost half of all marriages end in divorce.

 

“If happiness is the difference between what you expect out of life and what you actually get, a lot of emerging adults are setting themselves up for unhappiness because they expect so much,” he says.

The unhappiness of the emerging adult is a new concept in history, and as I have said in other chapters in this book, history has never cared about the happiness of men. Men did their duty, and it was irrelevant if you were happy or not.

Through doing your duty, a man may become fulfilled instead of happy. Fulfillment often leads to happiness anyways. But to chase happiness and pleasure are a fool’s endeavors that can often lead to disappointment and lack of fulfillment.

Marriage specifically has had three different ages in which every age continues to make a satisfying marriage harder and harder to obtain.

In the Victorian era, from 1837 until 1901, marriages were about utility. You had a farm or a house and needed to marry someone to help look after the house or farm with you. Happiness was out of the question. This trend of marriage continued until about the 1960s.

Post 1960s, marriage was about utility plus love. Now young people wanted someone they could love as well as work with on a daily basis. Happiness was now part of the marriage equation.

Today, marriage hopefuls seek utility, love, and growth with their partner. This is extremely hard to achieve, and such high standards for what makes a marriage are leaving scores of young people unmarried and unable to find the perfect match. Similarly, some married couples are unhappy and unsatisfied with their mates because the bar has been set too high by the new standards set by emerging adults.

Nearly half of marriages fail, so perhaps we need to forget about growth and love? These are subjective emotions that come and go over time and take effort to cultivate. Growth and love don’t just enter the relationship by default. They take work, loads and loads of work to maintain.

As stated above, the emerging adult is looking to “find himself,” and this is manifested today with a trip to Europe after high school to go backpacking and “find himself.”

Sadly, finding yourself is a foolish idea. You can look and look, and look some more, but in the end, you will find nothing—because there is nothing to find.

Instead, I propose that you define yourself, make yourself and create yourself as you go. Draw a line in the sand, claim yourself and say: this is who I want to become. This is how I shall live today. We are human be-ings not human do-ings. Who are you to be today?

People always ask young children, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?” This is the wrong question. A better question is, “Who do you want to BE when you grow up?”

In a famous open letter, Bill Gates, the richest man in the world at one time, gave eleven pieces of advice for gradating college students:

Email Text, February 8, 2000:

Bill Gates’ Message on Life

For recent high school and college graduates, here is a list of 11 things they did not learn in school.

In his book, Bill Gates talks about how feel-good, politically-correct teachings created a full generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

RULE 1 … Life is not fair; get used to it.

RULE 2 … The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

RULE 3 … You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice president with a car phone, until you earn both.

RULE 4 … If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.

RULE 5 … Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.

RULE 6 … If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

RULE 7 … Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try “delousing” the closet in your own room.

RULE 8 … Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

RULE 9 … Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summer off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

RULE 10 … Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

RULE 11 … Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Bill Gates—one of the richest men in the world—refuted almost everything that emerging adults believe about themselves. Perhaps Bill knows something that these young emerging adults do not?

I think Bill has a clear understanding of reality and the rules of real life. Bill’s accomplishments and success speak for themselves: he is a self-made billionaire and was the world’s richest man at one time. How can you argue with that?

I enjoy reading Bill’s 11 rules because you can see that he is grounded in reality and does not share the idea of deferring adulthood, responsibility, and reality.

Putting off adulthood only brings poverty, weakness, dependency, unhappiness, lost time, wandering, lost self-worth, and lost self-esteem. Worst of all, it creates a person who fails to embrace reality for what it is.

Emerging adults are so busy getting “smothered by mother” that their teeth and claws have been removed by Mom and Dad.

Unfortunately, these little emerging adult bear cubs need those teeth and claws to survive in the real world.

Do not try to find yourself, for there is nothing to find; instead, embrace reality and define yourself. If you get your definition wrong, try again. Keep trying until you find something that sticks.

Every successful man in history has struggled with his identity at some point. But every man who embraces reality becomes a man of responsibility who owns his problems and makes the decision to define himself in the world. Self-definition means staking a claim to who you are and what you stand for. Throughout history men have taken ground and defended it against the elements and the violence of other tribes.

Take your ground, stake your claim against the wilderness, and fight for your self-made identity rather than going on a quest into the darkness to find something that can never be found.

Only you can define you.

In the darkness of the abyss there is nothing to find.

Claim your ground, claim your identity, and shape it over time.

A successful man makes decisions quickly and changes his mind slowly, while an unsuccessful man makes decisions slowly and changes his mind quickly.

Choose to be the successful man, no matter how much it may scare you.

 

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