One advantage of skulking around your early thirties is one can freely bemoan the state of the youth today.
By “youth,” I mean anyone younger than me, and anyone under 45 whose puritan leanings I loathe.
I’m enjoying this additional string to my bow of eternal curmudgeon. I scour my local newspapers for the choicest examples of the old whinging about the young, and from those examples excise the time-worn formula of what is crystallized as “In my day.”
Invariably, the authors of what one detracting reader may have called a “typical screed,” are named either Harold or John. The Harold-John Axis lavishes your humble narrator with great reading pleasure.
In Harold’s day, the youth were polite and well-mannered, considerate, and always wore a tie. In John’s day, you wouldn’t dream of dropping litter or talking back to your elders. “Every morning, my father beat me with a polio-soaked birch just to keep me warm. Didn’t do me any harm!” says a permanently-quivering John.
Harold and John have a point. The old will always lament the young. The young will always face charges of impoliteness, self-absorption, degeneracy, and a general fall in standards, from the old.
The problem is today’s youth are the most conformist, most boring, teetotal, artless, and unoriginal specimens to ever vacate a pair of testicles.
In my day, my fellow reprobates and I fell under the eyes of the local Youth Offending Team, a term of which we vaingloriously co-opted to burnish our high crimes of underage drinking and mild rascality.
The YOT was a cadre of social workers and therapists and assorted professional redeemers missioned with steering kids away from their petty hormonal expressions lest they mutate into actual criminals.
Freed from the tedium of British state schooling, we’d loiter outside the off-license, our primary directive to convince some sap to finagle us a flagon of fight-yourself cider and twenty fags.
Modern youths, possessed of a social awkwardness so pronounced it could cut ribbons out of lead, don’t clot outside the off-license in hope of sourcing some liquid fun. They’re too busy taking photos of themselves.
With the loot in hand, we’d skulk off to the groves or a riverbank. After a few hours of downing cans, free from the now ubiquitous screens to which most are beguiled, we’d emerge a little more developed, a little more independent. Our petty transgressions were a rite of passage toward provisional adulthood.
Today, such character-building pursuits are frowned upon. Having fun, like everything else these days, is de facto illegal . . .