Hire a Teenager Now, While They Still Know Everything

I first hooked up with my girlfriend, Veronica, three years ago. At the time her 14 years old son was visiting his father in Puerto Rico for the school summer vacation. As her living situation was far from optimal, romantic that I am, in a fit of generosity, I invited her to move in with me. The honeymoon ended when her son returned.

I didn't like the way he treated his mother and I didn't like the way he treated me. Let me give you a few examples: I remember, each school morning, her telling him repeatedly, a half dozen times, with increasing exasperation, to get out of bed. I suggested that after her second request she pour a half-liter of water on his head. I assured her that she would not have to do this more than two times, before he learned to get out of bed soon after her second request. "Oh, that's violence," she protested. But when she shared my strategem with the lad's father, he liked the idea.

El hijo (the son) liked playing chess. For a brief while we would play every day. Accustomed as he was to playing with the sharks at the Biblioteca, he was delighted when, in my friendlier game, I let him take back moves. This makes the game a much better learning experience. But when he realized that he would not be able to beat me on his own merit, when I told him, "In six months you might be able win against me," he stopped playing.

Largely he was sullen and unfriendly, having to be told to say hello and goodbye to me. On the occassions he was interested in something he lit up. He was sociable with his peers. I did my best to bond with him. We went to therapy. I was paying for everything.

The straw that broke the camel's back was his refusal over a three-day period, to go buy a can of tuna for his cat. Well, actually it was his lying about why he hadn't, when we came home at 4pm from working at the organic market to find him still in bed on his computer and the cat still tuna-less. I seized upon this untruth and declared that I could not live with him. Tearfully he protested his innocence. Disgusted, his mother banged the table and yelled at him to be quiet. He was guilty and we all knew it. He was a terrible roommate. He moved out and into his mother's studio a few blocks away. A week or so later she followed.

My relationship with Veronica survived and improved from this distancing. My relationship with her son, despite my efforts, and I can be a very interesting person, ceased completely. For the next two and a half intervening years he still refused to say hello to me, without sommeone prompting him, even when I had already said hello to him. My every attempt to engage him in conversation was sullenly rebuffed. The only time I got a smile out of him was a half year ago when I told him, "Your mother is my girlfriend. Don't tease my girlfriend. If you want to annoy someone, get your own girlfriend."

*****

As an adjunct to my homeopathic medical practice up north, I found myself, with some frequency, counseling adolescent boys. I acted mostly as an avuncular figure, talking to them about life. I would point out that most people remember their adolescence as a golden age, a time of fun or, at least, one free of responsibilities. Exhorting them to work to ensure a more pleasant future, I'd advise, "It's easy to have fun when you're in your teens. The trick is to have fun as an adult." I also told them that as men our job was to take care of women. The, pointing out that their mother was a woman, I'd advise them to be nice, to take care of her.

So successful was I in making changes in one of these young men, that his junior high school invited me to come in and speak with a half dozen of their staff about how I had done it. One thing I told him (and shared with the staff) was that if he behaved himself during the first two weeks of school, then his teacher would form a good opinion of him, and that after that he could pretty much do as he pleased, which was to be a class clown. The larger truth was that if he could restrain himself during the first two weeks, then he could restrain himself, when need be, later as well.

In this I am reminded of the experiment done with three year olds wherein the researcher leaves them alone with a candy on the table. Before he leaves he tells them, "You can eat that candy. But if it is still there on the table when I return, then I will give you a second candy and then you can eat them both." Those children who leave the lone candy untouched until the researcher's return do much better in life. Being able to consider the future is a valuable and by no means universal trait.

In this I am reminded of the motto painted largely, barnside at the CSA farm up north, where the farmer employed many teenage interns: "Hire a teenager now, while they still know everything."

*****

My girlfriend is leaving for a three week visit to Puerto Rico, leaving me in charge of managing our stall in the Organic Market. (In her previous absences from the market, when I'm holding up the business by my lonesome, after answering the oft-asked question, "¿Donde esta Veronica?," I've added, "Ella tiene un buen novio," She has a good boyfriend, which I only say, because it's true.) She goes to Puerto Rico to visit her now 17 year old son, recently transplanted from her home to that of his father. His father, having recently attained US citizenship, the son, already in possession of a Green Card, is now on a fast track to citizenship of his own, as long as he resides in the US for, I think it is, 6 months.

El hijo is now having trouble living under his father's roof. This I suspect is very similar to the trouble he previously has living under his mother's roof. But she, more attentive and interventionist than his dad, forced him up out of his reclusive gloom and away from the objects of his digital addiction. His step-mother there in Puerto Rico has allowed him to retain his smart phone, but has taken away his computer. He has retaliated by retreating further into inactivity.

Veronica brushed aside my critiques of her relationship with her son by protesting, "He's an adolescent. All adolescents have these problems." I am doubtful aout the category "adolescence." In my view he's been a young man for the better part of a couple of years now, and should have manned up long ago. But I learned to stop critiquing.

El hijo never cared for my counsel when he was here. Still the advice I send him by way of his this article is that things can get much worse. I am not an ageist, but youth lacks perspective: to quote my own poem, there is "The foolish certainty of youth that now is all and forever." Things can get much worse, and, on your present course, dios prohiba, they probably will."

My other piece of advice is to read Jordan Peterson.

Jordan Peterson has lectured around the world. His Youtube videos have been viewed over 150 million times. His philosophy, best expressed in his widely-translated, run-away bestseller book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Rules_for_Life, has helped hundreds of thousands of young men rise up out of their stupor and find direction in life.

Those 12 rules are:
1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back
2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
3. Make friends with people who want the best for you
4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don't lie
9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't
10. Be precise in your speech
11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

*****

Hijo,
Chatting on social media and playing video games is not going to get you anywhere that you need to go. When you are young it is fun and comforting to imagine a bright future for yourself, but if you do not improve yourself by developing your talents, then life will pass you by.

When they asked Socrates why the Oracle of Delphi proclaimed him the smartest man in the world he replied, "Perhaps it is because others think they know and don't, while I know that I don't know." We all need some self-confidence, but don't be so fucking sure of yourself.

**************


photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr David started this magazine because he could write and liked to communicate. He fully expected that in a town like San Miguel he could find authors to publish in addition to himself. Well, practically no one is submitting anything. Stubborn as he is, he continues, now publishing himself, and a faithful cadre of authors and photographers. His motto continues to be, "It's hard to be ahead of your time."

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