We are in the throes of an annual bacchanalian rite in the United States: spring break, wherein our teenaged kids get a crash course in growing up. It is a time when their dignity, virginity and security deposits get lost.
It is that time of year when a young college man’s thoughts turn to romance. If that does not pan out, he takes a lead from Charlie Sheen and turns to the “escort” section of Craigslist.
Spring break in Florida is predicated on the idea that if one kid drinks and does something stupid in public, he will be arrested. But if 100,000 of them do it at the same time, the authorities will be overwhelmed and the kids will get away with it.
My Ferris Bueller-like son informed me of his plans to spend a relaxing week in the Panama City area for his spring break from U. Memphis this year. I wondered out loud what the difference between spring break and his normal week was; he admitted the difference was merely geographic.
He is celebrating his fifth year of college. The traditional anniversary gift for five years is wood, so I am going to get a baseball bat and beat him over the head until he graduates.
He has learned to use PowerPoint in college. He recently gave me a presentation, saying, “Here is a pie chart of the bars I like, and this is a bar chart of the pies I like.”
Well aware of the debauchery that goes on during spring break trips, I sat my son down and explained the dangers. I told him that messing around with a girl these days could lead to an STD or — even worse — a relationship. I told him not to pay for sexual favors unless he had political aspirations, and that, technically, if you pay for it, it is not a favor.
The awkward part is when kids have to ask for money for spring break. Take your time, say nothing, and enjoy watching them try to justify it to you. It’s like our Congress, which also has the financial planning skills of a fifth-year senior college frat boy, funding itself through continuing resolutions. Sounding ever more like a politician, my son recommended that I consider this a “fact-finding” trip. I replied that there are more “fact-finding trips” to Panama City Beach than there are facts on spring break.
The good news is that Ben Roethlisberger was not around my daughter during her UGA spring break. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation alleged he sexually accosted a college co-ed in a bar restroom stall, but they never convicted him. Under Southeastern Conference states’ current laws, all-star quarterbacks can get away with pretty much anything they like except dog fighting. And Roethlisberger is a stand-up guy — at least according to the security camera tapes.
A lot has changed since my college spring break days. To begin with, we did not have spring breaks. But today, as far as I can tell, the “Girls Gone Wild” video library expands on each trip. Boys use cell phones to videotape any lewd behavior by girls when they drink. It is the number one reason the boys all want iPhones.
Most parents worry about their kids, mainly because we remember what we were up to at the same age. I know what my son is talking about. While my wild oats have surely turned to bran cereal at this point, and now I only hear my favorite songs on elevators, I do remember what I was like at that age. If you live through them, some our worst college decisions turn into our best long-term stories.
And that worries me, too — a lot. Our kids are usually only as good as the worst one in the group, and they tend to gravitate toward him. Sadly, the good kid never brings the others up to his level, he just gets wedgies.
Then I think, “Oh well, there are always risks in life, and that is what being young is often about.” Growing up ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. And why graduate into this job market when few of these kids are finding jobs? Twenty-five percent of them paid attention to their professors and blame Bush for the dismal job market. Twenty-five percent blame Obama. The self-reflective 50% blame being a European Art History major.