October 1999
s m u g
by Joe Procopio

Fast Times Indeed

It's back-to-school time, kids! Here, in 1000 words, I'm going to tell you how to act, what to wear, who to schmooze, and how to blindly struggle through each hideous day without any permanent scars to the ego or otherwise.


Let me state up front that I did not want to get into the whole back-to-school thing. I have no sense of obligation to measure and combat any moral decay in our school-aged generation. I don't buy it and furthermore, I don't care. Look up "role model" in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of me giving the finger. I'm also not one for publishing reflections of my most intimate memories as a form of reader bonding, expecting that my first invitation to a Sadie Hawkins dance somehow has anything to do with your life, or, for that matter, real life. I'm just not the type to do you like that.

The inclination is absent and, in my opinion, so is the authority. When someone mentions back-to-school to me, the most prominent memory I have is that of strolling through Kmart with my mother and sister and begging for the Happy Days lunchbox and the Star Wars Trapper Keeper. Junior high and high school were a big boring blur. Not much happened, and precious little else was accomplished. I coasted into college, more on charm than smarts, and never met that one special teacher who, through a made-for-television mix of tough love and admirable passion, inspired me to be a writer (and heavens, doesn't it show by now?). The whole exercise found me gratefully doused in ignorant bliss. I never won the big game, and I never got pantsed in the cafeteria.

However, it seems my editor and my therapist have spawned some kind of unholy collusion, working together in what I can only guess is the most devious of plots to "fix" me. Perhaps it has something to do with the expense account I ran up last month (let me tell you something, she doesn't look it, but Callista Flockheart can drink). So this month, rather than the hobnobbing, networking, and shameless self-promotion on which I've built my "writing" career, my assignment is the very vanilla task of giving a little back to the kids, as it were. To "get down" with those among you dreading the pomp and circumstance that awaits you this fall.

In that respect, I have but one line of advice: Stop taking it out on each other.

Take it from someone on the other side, the adults in your life are to be mistrusted and scrutinized. Not because they don't love you, because they don't. Really. I mean, your parents love you and all, maybe, but your parents do not love your friends, nor do they trust your friends' parents to bring your friends up properly. Let alone leaving a stranger's parents in charge of any offspring. The thought really sickens them. So when they get a break from day-trading and reading Drudge, they spend any free time left over trying to find out what's going on inside your collective heads. And then putting a swift stop to it.

The fact of the matter is, the adults around you have no idea what it's like to be a contemporary teen. They can't. It's a pop-culture impossibility. Combine that with the fact that most adults barely have a grip on being adults and you've got a real mess.

Adults read Rolling Stone. Have you ever seen an issue of Rolling Stone? Take a look sometime, it will scare the crap out of you. This is part of the reason why they subject you to mindless drivel like Varsity Blues. They think you think it's cool.

Back to the matter at hand. Once you get through the educational basics, secondary schooling is a complete waste of time. So instead of giving you useless advice, let me give you careless direction.

Get out.

I'm not na´ve enough to believe that every graduation exercise is full of hearty, well-adjusted eighteen year-olds bound for State and really "digging" that faux-Vonnegut commencement speech (which they made into a HOUSE RAP - do you see what I mean?). If you can't ride out the full twelve years and don't think you'll swing the grades then get out any way you can. Join the army, get your GED and get a job, transfer, home-school, just leave the public school system in one piece. And then, if you're lucky enough to posses the drive to get into a college, any college, you're paying for it in some form and you at least have a choice of which classes you'll fall asleep in. Plus you get to drink without anybody flipping out.

As for what everyone else is telling you about you, avoid it, ignore it, and carve out your own path. This means that the jocks are going to have to grow up. Nerds, stop stressing so hard about the little things. Preps, try to realize what kind of life lies ahead of you if you keep mentally aping your parents. Punks, remember, we're pissed off at them, not us. Rednecks, dweebs, smokers, rebels, stoners, townies, artfreaks, toadys, bangers, what have you - just get as much of an education as possible, and then beat each other up in the stock market like your parents are doing.

(Editor's Note: Bold, if irresponsible. Work on grammar. Only 896 words: C+)


in the junk drawer:

feature car
ac/dc gun
compulsion vise
posedown cheese
and such
and such
blab fan

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