Posts Tagged ‘teenagers

So… who smokes?

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My school is known for its large percentage of stoners. There’s no way of knowing exactly how much more drug use happens at my school than at others, but it’s a reputation we proudly uphold. And thinking about the last post I made, I’ve been curious to test whether the number of my classmates who have smoked is truly as low as 1 in 5, the popular figure cited on anti-drug websites.

Enter my somewhat unscientific study of how many of my classmates have ever smoked. My school is close-knit and everyone knows everyone’s business; however, there are still some kids whose smoking habits I know nothing about. Below, green is for non-smokers (signifying inexperience), pink is for smokers (because pink and green is my favorite color combo), and murky brown is for the unknowns. All of the students in my classes are seniors, with the exception of orchestra, which is about 1/4 underclassmen.

AP Economics: Generally regarded as the hardest class in the school. On the flip side, this year it attracted so few students that nearly all the applicants got in.


15 smoke, 13 don’t, and I’m not sure about 3. So far smokers have a plurality, but as browns could go either way, the race is close.

AP English: A medium level class with a famously lenient teacher. Lots of people applied, so the selection process was a little rushed/random (e.g. the genius kid somehow didn’t get in, but the kid with a 3.2 and 1800 SATs– not that they’re an accurate measure of intelligence, but still– did), and the class is on the large side.


21 smoke, 9 don’t, and I’m not sure about 7. But even if every brown were green, smokers would remain in the majority… showing that more smokers choose to take the less serious class? That teens like to read literature while lit?

Art, the notorious class of 12th-grade stoners. About half the students attend the class on any given day, and we spend most of the time listening to music and eating junk food, courtesy of the teacher.

art111 smoke, 3 don’t, and I’m not sure about 2. Actually, four people left the class in January, at the start of the new semester– one took AP Psych, one took martial arts, one got a free period, and one got suspended and is doing an independent study. They all smoked; if I included them, the percentages would shift to 75% smokers, 15% non-smokers, and 10% not sure. Also, the students of Art smoke more regularly than do the students of AP Econ.

Orchestra: the dorkiest class in the school, hands down. The students are typically “good kids” and relatively quiet; most are virtually unknown. However, a handful of the orchestra kids are among the most well-known in the school.

orch12 smoke, 13 don’t, and I’m not sure about 4. Of the smokers, about six (including myself) are in the fairly-regular-but-still-casual range; two deal and get stoned every day, and four are the typical “Smoked twice in sophomore year” bunch. It’s common knowledge that only about one-fourth of orchestra students have ever been to a party; the ones who go out on weekends are the same eight who smoke. So, what are the others doing with their time? Only three other seniors (out of 12) are taking at least one AP class; most orch students earn between a 3.0 and 3.5 in non-honors classes. A B-average is by no means a bad thing, but I have to admit I’m a little surprised that the grades aren’t higher. I guess I always assumed that the stereotypical “good kids” were hard studiers, but perhaps they’re spending their at-home Friday nights playing video games.

Conclusion: Of course, relatively few of the smokers are true stoners, but far more than 20% of kids at my school have touched weed. And our academics are among the highest-ranked in the city (no pun intended), which goes to show you that casual drug use isn’t synonymous with deemed failure.


Written by jane

April 3, 2009 at 4:47 PM

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Being a teen sucks, #10

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#10: Weed = Meth = teenage pregnancy, STDs, squalid life of living on the streets.

Scare tactics. Anyone who has smoked pot will become a heroin addict, because didn’t you know that marijuana is the gateway drug? Also, being stoned means you have no control over yourself.

The high feels great, the side-effects are relatively minor– marijuana is simply too attractive for some teens to pass up. And because making a legitimate case against weed is difficult (just look at the conflicting scientific results that come up when you Google “marijuana harm studies”), groups like the Partnership for a Drug-Free America take an increasingly alarmist stance in their PSAs, creating horror stories that link getting high with stealing, shooting up, being slutty! Even the most plausible ads, like those that stress the “altered perception” that results from marijuana, are risible. So… why were we smoking this, again, if not to reach a different feeling from normality? Does this mean that consuming large quantities of alcohol impairs my judgment? Should I not drink, eat three pot brownies, and drive??

The majority of anti-marijuana campaigns insult my intelligence and that of my classmates. In junior year I attended a mandatory assembly on National Meth Awareness Day (yes, it does exist), which covered all drugs in one go (lumping together all designated drugs, another thing I dislike). Somewhere in the PowerPoint presentation came a slide illustrated with The Cycle of Drug Use, in this case, weed. It proclaimed that smoking leads to poverty, which leads to dealing and prostitution, which leads to homelessness and ultimately more drug use. As stated above, I dislike the way these campaigns equate casual smoking with these serious problems, as well as how the campaigns judge the aforementioned prostitution and homelessness as demonic, dehumanized evils. I know some people in the projects who are proof that most of us are only one or two disastrous instances away from losing our homes… a parent walks away, grandma needs medical care but has no insurance, mom loses her job… and many of the homeless in San Francisco are veterans who never received help with their mental illnesses, simple as that. Hard drug use is more of a side-effect than a cause of homelessness, let alone marijuana.

Smoking anything is bad for your lungs, and may increase your chances of getting lung cancer. If you smoke several joints a day for fifteen years, you might have a greater risk of getting a heart attack or having a stroke. And of course, if you blindly take anything and consume it, there’s a chance you’ll consume other things along with it. But though pot smoke may possibly be more toxic than tobacco smoke, people who smoke weed tend to inhale a lot less than cigarette smokers– one wouldn’t smoke sixty blunts a day, the equivalent of three packs– thus diminishing the total toxicity in weed smokers’ lungs. And weed happens to be the least addictive of drugs: social addiction, yes; physical addiction, not likely. So the moral of this story is that anti-drug groups have to exert a lot of effort to market marijuana to teens as unattractive, and do so at the expense of logical, scientific, and journalistic integrity.

P.S. On that same Meth Day assembly, the speaker concluded that drinking alcohol is a valued tradition because the Romans drank wine, but that opium and marijuana are crass because they don’t have the same historical weight. Yeah… Eurocentrism, much?

Written by jane

March 28, 2009 at 1:01 PM

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Being a teen sucks, #8

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#8: Newspapers like to create sensationalism about deemed “dangerous behavior” for teens.


My reasons for not sexting are twofold: 1) I only got my first cell phone last summer; therefore I’m somewhat behind on all things texting, and 2) since getting a phone, I haven’t met anyone compelling enough with whom for me to sext. However, I wouldn’t say I’m completely disinclined to sexting; I have in the past sent some dirty notes and emails to boyfriends. And this brings me to my first point of defense for sexting: that young adults have and always will express to each other some amount of interest in sex, which isn’t some sort of deadly epidemic to be contained.

By the time I had my first long-term boyfriend, email had nearly replaced the phone as my friends’ primary medium of communication– Facebook was soon to come– and while I stuck to the occasional raunchy email, some of my friends typed dirty via instant messenger. Before this, it was paper: notes in class (often still used; extra points if it’s in a language the teacher can’t understand) and letters. Read Love in the Time of Cholera and you’ll see the naturalness of young adults expressing desire on paper. For this reason I take offense at the all too common sentiment that teenagers should not be sexual beings, period. Lately, the newspapers that have covered sexting as well as the famously judgmental Tyra Banks have eschewed and belittled the sexuality of young adults, painting to various levels of subtlety all sexually active 16-year-old girls as nothing other than sluts. Sadly, I have read nothing condemning boys to the same scrutiny; it seems that establishing young women as sad victims of a downward spiral of so-called dangerous activity gains more readers than presenting a balanced story. While it may be true that today’s youth is more sexually open than that of fifty years ago– our ads and tv shows are certainly getting steamier– teenage sex is not a new phenomenon, and should not be reflexively denounced.

I think the strongest argument against sexting is that anything digital can gain global exposure (e.g. girl sends naked pic to boy; boy sends to all his friends). I certainly wouldn’t want any compromising photos of me or messages sent by me to circulate the internet; that’s why I don’t plan on sexting with anyone too new for me to trust.

But if we’re talking about internet scandal, licentious pictures and texts are hardly the only fodder for gossip. Born in ’91, I grew up with the internet, with my first email address at ten and my first instant messaging screen name at eleven. Though I rarely anymore email friends, now preferring (degenerating?) to use the phone, I’ve sent emails to several people about my intimate feelings: confessions, problems with friends and boyfriends, etc. If any one of my friends wanted to embarrass me on the internet, they could easily forward several years worth of my musings about a hot teacher or a regrettable hookup to virtually the entire school. While my Facebook page is private (only those I permit may view), anyone with a camera could upload a picture of me smoking, thizzing, or drinking to a public form, jeopardizing my college acceptances and my future jobs. Thankfully I have not yet been embarrassed by the internet, but I have been upset by off-line gossip nearly as harmful as forwarded sext messages. Ex-boyfriends have betrayed confidences, friends have unwittingly told secrets, mercifully few strangers have passed on gossip. Anyone should be careful when it comes to sexting and who to trust, but this ultimately comes down to cautious use of all kinds of both digital and non-digital communication. For essentially, all relationships involve a certain level of vulnerability, and it is impossible to completely protect oneself from vilification.

Additionally, most of the stories I’ve seen portray young men as the cruel forwarders of private pictures, failing to note that women are as capable of such malice. I know I have taken advantage of things told in confidence: when an ex of mine spread the untrue rumor that I cheated with multiple partners, I mercilessly retaliated with a very true story about a foreign object and the boy’s painfully tight orifice.

I’m glad that some newspapers, such as my very own San Francisco Chronicle, are dismissing the sexting sensationalism. I love this quote from Marty Klein:

Sexting is the latest way adults are getting panicky about teen sexuality and for mainstream culture to get panicky about technology. And when you mix the two together, there’s always a lot of anxiety and misunderstanding.

I hope other publications choose to more carefully examine sexting, rather than to mindlessly reproduce stories without any substantial content. Or better yet, they could turn their focus toward legitimate news.

Written by jane

March 21, 2009 at 11:44 AM

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Being a teen sucks, #3-4

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#3: Underage clubs as entertainment.

Underage clubs, or I should say, sad gymnasiums and Jewish Community Centers that host dances for sweaty teenagers once a month, are not cool. I live in San Francisco, a city that I understand has a pretty decent club life (though as a minor, I’ve only been able to get into a few places). So I’m actually kind of surprised that there’s only one crappy teen club here, the Glow, whose mission statement is “For you and your friends to have a Safe and Fun night out,” capitalization original. Even if the establishment is trying to suck up to parents, it should really know better than to market safety to a group of teenagers. Like, “Hey, Ron, do you wanna do something Safe and Fun tonight? I heard that Glow has a great reputation– it even enforces a dress code!” What allure. Anyway, because they check every bag and kick you out if you act too loopy, Glow has not exactly become a hot spot among my peers. Not to mention the music never strays from whatever’s on the Top 40.

#4: Energy drinks.

Glow and its siblings serve two main beverages: soda and an energy drink called Red Bull. First of all, I don’t know why one would ever want to serve this shit. You group a hundred hormonal teenagers together, the majority of whom are already tipsy but not drunk enough to raise any suspicion at the doors, and now you want to make them hyperactive? And the logistics are just bad. At 80 mg of caffeine per serving, Red Bull gives you about as much energy as a small cup of coffee with milk. So of course you have to drink three or four cans of the stuff, and then not only do you have to pee, but you also might have a stroke! If they’re looking to make their visitors jittery, I don’t see why teen clubs can’t serve espressos; exploiting South American plantation workers is almost preferable to experiencing the sickeningly sweet taste of carbonated teen juice.

Written by jane

August 31, 2008 at 3:24 PM

Being a teen sucks, #2

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#2: The Twilight series.

When I first heard a couple of my peers talking about Twilight, I thought they were referring to the Twilight Zone. “Cool!” I thought. “I’m not the only person under fifty who tunes into the SciFi channel!” I was sadly mistaken. For those of you who are not familiar with this particular literary travesty, Twilight is, according to Wikipedia, a series of “vampire-based fantasy/romance/horror novels by American author Stephanie Meyer.” I think the description speaks for itself.

Basically, Twilight is the smutty story of Isabella Swan (…), a high school girl who falls in love with Edward, a vampire from a couple centuries ago. Of course, Edward just happens to be totally harmless– he’s a “vegetarian vampire,” meaning he doesn’t drink human blood. I can’t decide whether this makes him incredibly progressive or just decidedly non-vampirian. Anyway, Edward is a complete Mary-Sue: dark, handsome, smart, and perpetually young (he’s frozen at seventeen). The series consists mainly of Isabella fantasizing about Edward and the occasional Vampire!Drama. Here’s an excerpt from the back cover of one of the books:


Edward’s soft voice came from behind me. I turned to see him spring lightly up the porch steps, his hair windblown from running. He pulled me into his arms at once, just like he had in the parking lot, and kissed me again.

This kiss frightened me. There was too much tension, too strong an edge to the way his lips crushed mineā€”like he was afraid we had only so much time left to us.*

How the hell is this book a New York Times #1 Bestseller? I have nothing against romance– in fact, most of my favorite books are love stories– but this is simply too cringe-worthy. In fact, I could only get through the first half of the first book. Teenagers looking to broaden their reading horizons should check out 1,001 Books, which includes some classics as well as engaging new reads like Jefferey Eugenides’s Middlesex. And few of these works are very complicated; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is probably no more difficult to read than a Harry Potter book.

* This back cover excerpt belongs to Stephanie Meyers.

Written by jane

August 31, 2008 at 1:51 AM

Being a teen sucks, #1

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#1: Being a teenager = being lumped in with those who write poetry.

Over the course of my public schooling I’ve come across several teachers who have urged me and my classmates to write for leisure. “It’s a creative outlet for your feelings,” they said. I don’t know about you, but I never liked to write poetry. In elementary school I read Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot and was appropriately horrified when I learned that the musical Cats is based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, but that was the extent of my interest. And while I respect those young adults talented enough to have written themselves into the New Yorker, the majority of us have absolutely no gift for poetry and should not write it, ever.

However, it seems the shallow pains of high school are simply too great for my fellow teenagers to refrain from writing. I browsed Xanga, a blogging host with a mainly juvenile audience, for poems that support my argument against teens writing about their feelings. Here are the highest quality (read: correctly spelled) pieces I could find:

Poem by Nostalgic_Worries*
My life is filled with empty dreams and sleepless nights
I look at you eyes wide with fright
As I start to turn out the light
And face the monsters in the night.

Laying here alone and cold
You turned your back on the lies you told
Walking away with my heart in your hold
Making a statement that’s so very bold.

As my eyes begin to cry
No longer strong enough to try
Oh, how badly I want to die
Spread my wings, take off, and fly.

A good example of rhyming for the sake of rhyming. I really want to turn this into iambic pentameter (“My life is filled with empty dreams and nights“).

Untitled by Rcknrollangel__quotesx0x*
Every time you spoke
I could almost choke
with how much I wanted to believe
that you really did love me
you were such a lovely liar
and my need was dire

There are so many depressed teenagers in America, I almost feel bad for mocking them. I mean, trivializing others’ pain is a jerky thing to do, and I suppose it’s better that teens write than watch bad tv or hang out at 7-11. And yet… reading poems like this, I’m embarrassed to be part of the 13-20 demographic. In fact, I think my poetry assignment from fourth grade, which I rescued from the basement last week, is superior to these wallowings of self-pity. I had to write about an animal and came up with this:

The Lion
I am the Lion! I am fierce! I have teeth and claws that pierce!
If you meet me, you better run fast! Or else you’ll be my breakfast.
Run like the wind or you’ll be in fear, for I’ll eat you if you come near!
I’m a lion– I’m a big cat!

I labored for so long, especially over the spelling of “pierce”, and still couldn’t come up with a good rhyme for “run fast.” I mean, that was Fred Durst (rhyming “here” with “here”) caliber. The experience turned me away from any poetic endeavors; I don’t think I’ve attempted another piece since. But I still think “The Lion” and I could take poems by Nostalgic Worries or Rcknrollangel in a fight, any day.

For further reading, visit the hilarious blogring WRITE YOUR TEARS IN A POEM on Xanga (my one stop for everything teen). The group description reads, “Poems of pain. Poems of heartbreak. Poems of suicide. Poems of death. Poems of anguish. Poems of love. Poems of hate. Poems of tears. Poems of memories. Poems of blood. Poems of everything you have ever had to deal with.”

* Reprinted without permission.

Written by jane

August 30, 2008 at 6:07 PM

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