Why “Kids These Days” Doesn’t Fly

ice car

You’ve seen it before: adults shaking their heads saying, “Kids these days,” as if kids these days are any different from kids those days (pick a century, any century, in a country, any country).

No. The more we change, the more we stay the same. Isn’t that part of the definition of “classic,” a work that remains resilient and salient no matter how long ago it was written?

Exhibit A is Shakespeare comma William. No one reads his plays, scrunches their nose, and mutters, “People those days.”

Why? Because Shakespeare’s plays are undeniable classics, which tap into universal human traits that (listen for it!) do. not. change.

So, the next time you catch yourself thinking that the world is going to Hell in a hand basket (and where does this weird expression come from?), stop thinking so much. Please.

And the next time you hear someone complain about the so-called “millennials” or Generation X (Y, Z, it’s all one to Me), run interference, why don’t you, and remind them that it’s all the same song playing over and over again on the Cosmos’ spinning turntable: “Variations on a Key of Kid Commonalities.”

I was reminded of all this when I came across Thomas R. Moore’s poem about a bunch of teenagers who drive their Plymouth on a frozen lake winter nights, doing doughnuts and sliding around at high speeds.

Are they stupid? (Yes.) Are they just asking for it by tempting fate? (Yes.) Yet, in this case, they’re part of what is now fondly called “The Great Generation”— the one that lived through the years of World War II.

“The Plymouth on Ice”
by Thomas R. Moore

On frigid January nights we’d
take my ‘forty-eight Plymouth onto
the local reservoir, lights off
to dodge the cops, take turns

holding long manila lines in pairs
behind the car, cutting colossal
loops and swoons across
the crackly range of ice. Oh

god did we have fun! At ridges
and fissures we careened,
tumbled onto each other, the girls
yelping, splayed out on all fours,

and sometimes we heard groans
deep along the fracture lines as
we spun off in twos, to paw, clumsy,
under parkas, never thinking of

love’s falls nor how thin ice
would ease us into certain death.
No, death was never on our minds,
we were eighteen, caterwauling

under our own moon that
warded off the cops and
front-page stories of six kids
slipping under the fickle surface.

What Moore is tapping into here is not your garden-variety stupidity, however. It’s more stupidity’s lovingly-cherished second cousin twice removed: invincibility.

This theme begins with the final line of the fourth stanza: “… never thinking of / love’s falls nor how thin ice / would ease us into certain death.”

And why are these teenaged crazies not thinking? Simple. They hold in their hands not just a steering wheel or a “long manila line” but a magic talisman: youth. They’re invincible because they’re eighteen and because they’re caterwauling

under [their] own moon that
warded off the cops and
front-page stories of six kids
slipping under the fickle surface.

This is how it goes and goes, from time immemorial. Youth gets its own moons, ones that ward off the law, front pages of newspapers, and that fickle dude known as Dr. Death.

Remember those days? Of course. Because kids these days are just like the kids you knew in your day. Questionable at best, but laughing through life’s lottery as if their numbers will never come up.

As Hemingway put it on the last page of The Sun Also Rises: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Well, if you’ve made it far enough to write a poem about it, yes.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *