May 15, 2007

Black teen humor and me

A father proudly posted the URL to his 13-year-old daughter's website to a Usenet group I read, boasting his daughter's site gets 21,000 hits. So I took a look. The tiny photograph of the web mistress herself showed a pale and serious face framed by dark hair, the almost gothic and always closed look some kids sport.

Me being me, I clicked on something called "too much time on my hands" and landed right in the test results of "Most Likely Way to Die" which had "Suicide" far outranking all other options.

So I asked the dad about whether or not he knew the dark thoughts lurking in his daughter's mind, and both he and another dad promptly suggested that childless I had no clue what kids' humor is like today. The test is all in fun, silly.

It is very possible that I don't know what today's teens find amusing. The teens I do know personally don't have this dark, permanently pouting outlook on the world.

Now, I have no personal experience with teen angst. I was so relieved to not be bullied and to be in California and to be making friends with people with whom I had no painful history, that I pretty much enjoyed being a teenager.

When I was about 13 or so and still in Norway, I considered suicide, fed up yet again with being bullied. I went through my options (poison, gun, drowning, etc.) and realized it would be hard to pull off a suicide without someone seeing what I was up to (because my most practical option was hanging and you can bet someone would notice me schlepping rope; I didn't know about orgasms and belts back then). I then thought about what my tormentors would think when they heard I was dead, and then I got angry. I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of beating me down!

So when I moved back to California at age 15, it was a new and glorious adventure and overshadowed any teen issues I had. I was so used to the world being against me anyway, that that wouldn't get my attention.

It may be my personality, it may be my upbringing, but I wasn't drawn to destructive behaviors. I always laugh at the claim that good girls always fall for bad boys, because I can't ever remember wanting trouble in any form. I didn't have a father to rebel against, either.

Now, I've posted on this blog my own results to a "How Will You Die" test. And I've thought about that now, about whether or not I am being a hypocrite. I posted the results back then because they were fairly pleasant and a bit humorous. I would not have posted the results if they had come up with suicide; it's not what I want on my blog and that answer would probably upset me and my readers, anyway. But I realize now that someone else taking the test could come up with other results and get upset. (And now I'm debating whether or not to pull the above-mentioned post.) So I react when a 13-year-old posts a similar test, though she could just be showing off to her friends.

But that leaves me with what she must have answered to get suicide as a clear result. She may not have been honest in answering, but what if she was? And even if she did do the test as a lark (as I did), there's still the truth that there is always a bit of seriousness in every joke. Perhaps she's just more willing to admit to having the same thoughts I had at her age. Or is using humor to make a difficult topic easier to handle.

At any rate, I'm not convinced it's only black teen humor.

10 comments:

Webmiztris said...

13....that was probably my lowest year too. I got bullied in school and i was a superdork. I hated a particular small group of people for tormenting me and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't think of either killing them or myself daily.

Keera Ann Fox said...

But would you joke about it? (And yes, there are a few adults alive today because looks can't kill, dammit.)

Paula said...

Well, it's possible the test was just using statistics -- suicide and accidents are (I think) the most frequent way teens die. But if the result came directly from her answers, and she *and* her father thought that was funny, that is a bit troubling, I agree. The teens I know are not dark and angsty either, though they still may think about suicide too. I don't believe it's only "goth weirdos" who think about it. I'm not sure where the line is between flirting with the idea as a concept only and the danger zone, but if one of my kids started mentioning it I'd have to be concerned.

Keera Ann Fox said...

It's the same sort of tests you and I post on our blogs. She does treat them as a joke on her site.

I've poked through the rest of her site. She doesn't strike me as suicidal, but she does strike me as a nice kid who needs a healthier perspective on life and herself. She photographed her new year's resolution list. The 13 y.o. wants to LOSE WEIGHT. That makes me sad.

I think my initial call on this as not just today's teen humor still stands.

archer said...

It's easy to get overworked over teen gags. "We call the meeting of the Loser's Club to order. First item of business: KILL OURSELVES! Next item of business: There IS no next item of business." If parents get crazy over every joke like that they'll jump off a cliff. Oops.

Keera Ann Fox said...

I didn't go straight from a webpage to my blog without another neuron firing in my skull. I did ask myself if I was just out of the loop. However, there's black teen humor and there's one teen's black humor. I saw something disconcerting in this one individual (and I have told her father).

My own sense of humor can be both dark and twisted. Just this morning I was captivated by a cartoon showing a look at the moment before the Big Bang: God holding a gun to his head.

Webmiztris said...

no, I don't think I would have joked about it....I don't think I'd have brought it up in conversation either jokingly OR seriously. it was my 'secret'.

Keera Ann Fox said...

I think this blogpost may be the first time close family and friends have ever heard of my moment of contemplating suicide.

At any rate, I don't like the idea of adults shrugging something off as "it's just what they do at that age". Some things need a closer look or at least a verification that it is what it appears to be. My instincts were good: The girl in question is going through a rough time and has been for about 6 months, partly because her family has been, too. Dad's aware, though, and is on top of things.

Weird, y'know, the internet. You trip over a complete stranger's website and like it and them enough to care whether or not they're all right.

Paula said...

Even if only a small percentage of kids who mention suicide are seriously thinking of doing anything, how is it bad to be concerned? I'd hate to brush it off and then find out, oops, that teen was in the smaller group. This is the same as being concerned when someone starts writing weird violent essays -- sure MOST of the time it's nothing, but what about that one guy who's not joking and really is planning to shoot up the school? I don't mean we shouldn't have free speech, but you can still go on alert when confronted with this and possibly try to talk to the person, if appropriate, or find someone who can.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Paula, I got the "you don't have kids so you don't know" spiel. That did make me bristle. And think. And investigate. (Because I trust my own instincts.) And find out that childless, clueless me wasn't that clueless, after all. So yes, I agree. We shouldn't shrug off extreme expressions as a phase. We need to make sure it's not a symptom of something else.