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The Rant

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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 at all-inclusive resorts where security deposits, dignity, and virginity are lost, never to be regained.

No one enjoys spring break more than my son, assuming you do not count Bill Clinton. Said son, a mini-Ferris Bueller, went with his class to a Mexican resort this year. I like to think of it as an exchange program, where Mexico sends us their hard-working men looking to better themselves and we send them our lazy Jake-legged brats looking to find a resort that allows drinking at 18. No wonder the world hates us.

Knowing the debauchery that goes on during these trips, I sat my son down and explained the dangers. I told him that messing around with a girl could lead to an STD or, even worse, a relationship. I told him not to pay for sexual favors and that technically, if you pay for it, it is not a favor.

Given the bravado level of the average hormone-saturated young male, I also told my son to be sure that when they went out at least one of them was sober enough to fight. Finally, I tried to tell him that, after two drinks, there is a difference between people laughing with you and at you. All life lessons I had to learn the hard way -- precious moments my son no doubt will remember forever. And off they went.

Apparently, in Mexico, he and his friends tested the boundaries of the chaperones who volunteered for this trip. Now, I have to question the wisdom of any parent wanting to do this. My guess is they have a paid-up umbrella insurance policy or are seeking to keep an eye on their daughters. The problems began as 12 chaperones, heretofore unknown to each other, tried to apply their varying parenting standards to this marauding group of kids fueled by an open bar. Within a day, the chaperones were in arguing mode. Who should be sent home, and why? Sensing the weakness and lack of cohesive disciplinary standards, the kids naturally got worse.

A lot has changed since my high school spring break. To begin with, we didn't have one. But today, as far as I can tell, the Girls Gone Wild video library grows with spring break. Also, there have been major advances in beer delivery systems, which primarily involve a rudimentary PVC tube and an owner-operator named "Stoner" barking orders to kids taking bong hits of cheap beer.

Young men and, hopefully to a lesser degree, women, test their alcohol tolerance on these trips. Best case: They drink too much and get sick and learn to approach drinking with caution for the rest of their lives. Worse case: They discover their inner Britney Spears.

While my wild oats have surely turned to bran cereal at this point and I have started to hear my favorite songs on elevators, I do remember what I was like at that age. And that worries me a lot. Teenagers are usually only as good as the worst-behaved kid in their group. Sadly, the good kids never bring the others up to their level; they just get wedgies.  

I like the boys that my son hangs around with, but when I talk to them, I just know they are up to something. As life-long friends, they have a lot in common, even beyond the fact that they always seem to have their hands down their pants. When they were younger, I reminded them every time they left the house that they could be tried as an adult in our state. But it's not for nothing that so many idiots say the same thing right before they die: "Hey guys, watch this!"

They've even got a name for this kind of behavior: the Darwin Awards -- for those who accidentally remove themselves from the human gene pool in the course of doing something incredibly stupid. As parents, we can only work and hope and pray that our children manage to stay out of the competition. But spring break doesn't help matters any.

Ron Hart is a columnist and investor in Atlanta. He worked for Goldman Sachs and was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Regents by Lamar Alexander. His e-mail is RevRon10@aol.com.

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