Sometimes I feel like the powers that be delight in making younger generations seem ridiculous.
A professor of mine, Lenny Steinhorn, who wrote The Greatest Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy, complains that much of the criticism leveled at young boomers once upon a time was that “these were not serious people.” I recently saw a clip about a TV special on the lives of 25-year-old women, and Barbara Walters, interviewing the interviewer from the special, asked “Are they a serious group? Do they read newspapers? Do they care about the war in Iraq? Are they more concerned with having careers, or raising families?”
Putting aside the fact that it seems sort of silly to assume the only way to be a “serious person” is to read newspapers and follow the Iraq war, it seems by and large much sillier to think you can characterize an entire age cohort as careerist or family-oriented, serious or not serious, etc. Nonetheless, of course, the media often seem hell-bent on trying. Examples: two recent Washington Post stories dealing with issues surrounding DC-area college kids.
Now I’m a bit above this age cohort, but I find it hard to believe people have gotten drastically more ridiculous and frivolous in the past three years since I’ve been out of undergrad. This is, however, the only conclusion one could draw from these two stories.
The first is on college students and debt. Although the article points out that “the median education loan debt is nearly $20,000 for full-time students at four-year colleges,” and that tuition at Georgetown is $33,000 this year before fees and housing, it goes on to suggest that perhaps too many Georgetown students are really in debt because they are busy spending at “shops selling $200 jeans and bars mixing $15 cocktails.”
The second article is on the HPV vaccine, and why some college women are choosing not to get it. The article pretty much glosses over the fact that the shots are really expensive — $150 per shot for a 3-shot series — and that a lot of university health insurance plans don’t cover it yet. There are probably not many students who can afford the shot on their own, or without their student health insurance, and many more who may be under their parent’s insurance plans but are afraid to get the shot for fear their parents would then think they were having sex.
But reasons given in the article?
“There will always be something else out there, some other disease discovered, or a drug that doesn’t work anymore,” Kirsh says. “We’re always hearing about STDs becoming more prevalent. This is the time of our lives when we’re supposed to be carefree. Now there’s always some danger hovering above.”
Yeah, man, it’s amazing how health issues don’t really care if you’re in the blossom of youth, isn’t it? God, stop making me pay attention to things, I’m in my early 20s! I’m carefree, dammit. But it gets even better:
Some students prefer to focus on the dangers right in front of them, like the friend passed out after a party. Says Levey: “You see someone who’s wasted on alcohol or stoned on your couch. Viruses like HPV can seem minor by comparison.”
This seems like a ridculous, non-sequitar kind of comparison. How many people are ever going to find themselves in a situation where they only have once chance to get the HPV vaccine, and at the same time they have a drunk friend puking on their couch, and they have to decide, right then, which thing to pay attention to? I was going to get this vaccine, but then this guy on my couch was smoking a hookah, and I completely forgot about sexual health for the rest of my life?
Notable, of course, that the student who made the above statement was a male, who can’t get the vaccine, can’t even be tested for HPV, and is not gonna be at risk for cervical cancer if he gets it. Makes more sense why the stoned guys on his couch are gonna be much more pressing. But why is this even quoted in the article as a reason why women aren’t getting the shots?
What is interesting is some of the general sexual-politics sort of issues that a few of the college women bring up.
Some assume that hookup partners who can afford popped-collar shirts and expensive jeans are not the kind of guys who would be infected.
Really? I though everyone kind of assumed the popped-collar type of guys are gonna be the biggest STD-carriers? If only I’d know I could just stop using condoms if I start sleeping with men with more expensive pants!
Male partners are one reason protection is not more common, says GWU senior Adrian Tworecke from her perch in a wing chair at the Sigma Kappa sorority. “They’ll ask if you’re on birth control, and if you are, they’ll say they’re not going to use a condom.”
And if a woman brings up the fact that a man can be infected with HPV and pass the virus to her?
“You’re going to offend him,” Strattner says. Or, senior Mallory Kirsh says, “He’ll say, ‘Do I look like someone who would have an STI?’ It’s so hard. It makes it look like you don’t trust him.”
And obviously, trusting and pleasing your male partners is more important than worrying about your own health. I mean, they wear expensive jeans! What’s a little thing like speaking up for yourself when compared to that?
Edit: oh, goodness, I just noticed that the HPV article was written by miss Laura Sessions Stepp. It all makes so much more sense now….