Who do teens admire today?
When I was a little girl I admired Cher, Marie Osmond, Dorothy Hamill, and Judy Blume. If you’re old enough to know who these women are, you can see that I admired some famous women who were good at entertaining as singers, figure skater and author. Ok, I wanted to be Dorothy Hamill, because she had cool hair, a pretty smile and could do triple salchows effortlessly. (The hairstyle never worked out for me, nor did the figure skating career).
Then when I was a teenager I admired Doug Flutie, Whitney Houston, The Police and my high school trigonometry teacher, Ed Amaral (mentioned in my last post, Swing That Bat! (Who Cares if you Miss?)).
Doug Flutie, Whitney Houston, and The Police were all over sports and entertainment news in the 1980s. It was fun to watch the handsome, 5’9″ Doug Flutie lead his football team as quarterback for local Boston College. Everywhere you went you could hear the fresh sound of The Police. And Whitney Houston was just a bit older than I was when she was making her singing debut. She had a beautiful voice and she herself was beautiful.
Ed Amaral is an anomaly in that group. Unlike Flutie, Houston and The Police, Amaral would not be familiar to many teens outside of Hanover High School. I don’t remember much about Trigonometry but I do remember Mr. Amaral’s daily wisdom and encouragement, such as you’ve gotta get up and swing the bat (and not be afraid to try in life). He was an ordinary man with an ordinary job, but he made an impression on kids and gave them hope for their future. I’m sure there are many more ordinary people out there who positively influence our kids. We need to recognize them.
Let’s be honest here. We all, at times, are intrigued by beautiful, talented, successful people we see from afar, on t.v., in movies, in magazines or even in the towns we live in. A little part of us wants to know what it’s like to live in their shoes. But we are only seeing a snapshot of those people. We don’t know what kind of people they really are.
Often it’s the ordinary people, the ones who receive no special attention (such as Ed Amaral) who possess the qualities that we should all be seeking. I’m not talking about beauty, athleticism or intelligence, but honesty, selflessness, integrity, empathy,and tolerance, to name a few. Teens want to feel accepted so it’s no wonder they admire people who are making names for themselves and who have a following. They appear, on the surface, to have it all.
role model (noun) 1. a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.
Role models sometimes go bad. Take a look at Miley Cyrus, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong.
- When Miley Cyrus made the news recently for her bizarre outfit and dance routine at the Video Music Awards, I wasn’t too surprised. But all I could think of was another one bites the dust. By biting the dust I’m referring to a very familiar pattern: Successful, talented people who are admired for their hard work and achievements, who get caught up in themselves and abandon good judgment. Apparently Miley Cyrus wasn’t feeling enough love from her fans and thought she needed to switch things up a bit. She certainly accomplished that at the VMA’s with her hardly recognizable hairdo, getup and gyrating. I really don’t think girls will be wanting to imitate that look (please, God). Miley got caught up in the me, me, me pattern.
- Then there’s Tiger. I think everyone at one time or another has admired Tiger Woods. He is a perfect example of someone who has worked hard to achieve his goals (which is what we want for our teens, right?) My son has taken a liking to golf lately. In fact, he wrote a persuasive essay in school about how cool golf has become. He and many others credit Tiger for the sport’s popularity. But apparently, it’s not cool enough for Tiger because he was willing to risk his good reputation to have some extramarital affairs in his free time. Me, me, me.
- And finally there’s Lance Armstrong. He’s been admired by millions for excelling at the grueling sport of competitive cycling — and then made a comeback after taking time off to undergo treatment for testicular cancer. How disappointing for us to discover he had been doping his blood and demanding the same of his teammates for years, in order to outperform the competition. And he denied the allegations all along. Me, me, me.
Fame, fortune and talent does not make a person good and even celebrities need to be good. We need to help our teens understand that it is how people behave — not job titles, trophies and accomplishments in life — that ultimately leads to happiness, contentment, and the respect of others. Being successful in any area (sports, academics, music, business, etc. ) isn’t all that wonderful if you’re lacking qualities such as honesty, loyalty and selflessness. Without those qualities, fulfillment comes in the form of seeking ways to please oneself.
Bravo, Ashton Kutcher!
Recently, Ashton Kutcher had a chance to speak onstage as an award recipient at the Teen Choice Awards. He used his allotted stage time to share with the young audience (between squeals of admiration) some wisdom that he had learned over the years. He said that every job he has ever had before he was an actor, no matter how mundane –carrying shingles, washing dishes, slicing deli meat– was a stepping stone to the next job he got. And each was hard work but necessary (perseverance). But even more importantly, Kutcher went on to define the word sexy, which is equivalent to “cool” in teen language. He didn’t mention anything about beauty, body physiques, trophies or record labels. Sexy people, he said, are smart, thoughtful and generous.
Are Miley, Tiger and Lance sexy? Not in my book. It’s time we help teens recognize the real (sexy) role models.