Last Laugh: Stop making sense

A former wildchild laments the rigid conformity of today’s youth.
A former wildchild laments the rigid conformity of her daughter today’s youth.

I’m never having children,” said daughter Sophia, at age 19. “Babies are revolting, like little grubs.” Suddenly, at 23, she’s humming a more maternal tune and it’s, “Oh, how cute!” leaning into prams. This might herald a stiff chardonnay or the knitting of booties (depending on your attitude to the word ‘grandma’), if Sophia weren’t sensible to the point of boring.

There, I said it. Much as I love her to pieces, Sophia and her boyfriend (he’s very nice) are two of the most straight-laced 20-somethings I’ve ever met. Working hard and saving their monies, accumulating an envious collection of Sistema plastic containers, not for them hungover Saturdays interspersed with flashbacks of vodka slammers and traffic cone hats. No, I imagine their Saturday nights are spent going large on a jumbo puzzle. As for the yodelling ovaries, may as well hold off turning the spare room into a nursery – because there will be absolutely no reproduction before an expensive wedding, followed by the purchase of a medium-sized house in the suburbs.

Where did I go wrong? And I’m not the only parent experiencing the unsettling sobriety that is Generation Sensible – or Generation Yawn, as they are called by some. Today’s youth, held by the media to be alienated, unhappy, violent failures, are actually the opposite: our supposedly surly young peeps in fact more polite. A British government survey found those born in the early 1990s are less rude and noisy in public places than their previous cohorts were at the same age.

Forget sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, current youth are clean-living and career-focused. Shunning criminal behaviour (such as breaking into the Esplanade Hotel, for instance, to use the spa pool. Not me. A friend) and unwanted pregnancies, you won’t find them at a dingy house party gyrating on an emo. They’re not enjoying an LSD-inspired wallpaper fascination or dancing in fields on Ecstasy. They DO like going out for a nice meal, as long as the food is sustainably-sourced. Although more socially liberal and accepting than previous generations when it comes to gay marriage and euthanasia, according to UK polling firm Ipsos Mori, they’re also likely to be more right-wing than their parents or grandparents were at the same age. It’s unholy.

For evidence of just how much 20 is the new 60, just look at the current trendiness of grey hair. Not convinced? I have one word for you: cardigans. And beards. Okay, two words. And unlike their mod, rocker, punk or club-kid predecessors who experimented with fashion, young hipsters are embracing ‘normcore’, a unisex trend characterised by bland, functional clothing reminiscent of geriatric ward casuals.

Why young people are so boring is unclear. Whether a backlash against troubled financial times or the hedonism of their parents, the effects can be seen everywhere: pubs closed and turned into kale markets, Sid Vicious replaced with Ed Sheeran. They’ve put away anarchy and falling on your face and replaced it with health and safety planning worthy of a librarian convention. What’s the point of having children if you can’t tsk at them? Now, these young fogeys are tsking at us. But, however staid and stupefyingly conservative, maybe we should pity them. Perhaps a retreat into rules and self-righteousness feels safe, makes sense of the chaos of the world. Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, little darlings, but life is always and forever uncertain: the reason for its terrible beauty.

Not to blow my own trumpet, but at 22 I was the single parent of a one-year-old, completely broke and utterly rudderless. My boyfriends were the sort you couldn’t bring home to mother and my hobbies included shaving my head and frightening old ladies. Your 20s are supposed to be a hot mess. A lack of adherence to a rigid structure can be wonderful, a higgledy-piggledy existence far more enjoyable than ploddingly ticking off life events. You fall down, sure, but you get back up wiser thanks to your mistakes.

Temperance in youth is unnatural. Studies suggest the human brain doesn’t fully develop until 25, so it’s also biologically question-able, like a Shabbit (half sheep, half rabbit). Plus, growing up doesn’t only require knocks, but the absorption over time of a certain amount of vital information. You live, you learn. How can you own a Cuisinart if you don’t know who Hitler is? Most awful, though, is the idea that one’s greatest parental achievement is offspring asking, “What would mum do?” then doing the opposite. Life is short, my dears. Muss your perfect hair, undo your top button and try to have a little fun.

Words by: Lisa Scott

Photographs by: Getty Images

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