A week ago Rach and I went to the library after her piano practice. She wanted to pick up some old favorite audio books to enjoy while she was drawing. When we got there we found that while working on the teen section of the library they had put all the audio books, all the manga and comic books, and about half the other YA books in storage. All that was available was a smattering of popular and “improving” print books. A whole library of space– room for a huge magazine room for adults, several computer rooms, several open rooms in the basement, a huge new music area, and plenty of other available spots and they had stored away the vast majority of things the young adults actually used instead of finding a place to leave them out while they worked- the project started in April and won’t be done until at least November. Rach was understandably frustrated. I was frustrated and angry at the lack of respect for young people (they had recently done similar work on other sections and never stored any of that away. This is an ongoing issue at this library- if it is for teens then it is easy to push aside.)
What made my blood boil was the response of the librarian we had questioned told Rach, “Just listen to some of the grown-up audio books,” then she looked at me and said, “She is just being a teenager.”
As if Rachel’s righteous frustration at not being able to get to the audio books she wanted because of the thoughtlessness of others was due to her age or hormones. Her genuine irritation at the situation and their treatment of teens was discounted as just being her age.
I want to take a moment and say that our children’s librarian is excellent and genuinely enjoys working with young adults as well as children. He brings in a lot of excellent books, audio books, comics/manga. He has introduced game days and movie nights for the young adults and made the library a natural hangout and friendly place for young people- but he can’t change attitudes. The other librarians as well as the majority of volunteers will quickly sweep aside the concerns of the younger generation, have been known to cancel activities for them for the sake of activities for older adults, and so on. This treatment is reprehensible but it is the comments that irritate the most.
This is something we run into everywhere. Not just at the library, at the store, at the Y, it is everywhere we go. Perfectly ordinary people who have never met either of my daughters automatically discount their very legitimate negative feelings when things go wrong or people treat them poorly as “being a teenager”. Yes, hormones do affect the way we feel- they act like a megaphone for our feelings, especially when we are in the worst of it, but that is just as true during menopause, during the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy. I know the majority of the women I know would be very unhappy if their feelings were regularly discounted because of hormones. “Oh, ignore her, she is just pregnant.” “Oh, she is just cranky because of her period.” “Oh, she just is crying because of perimenopause.”
No. In general teenagers are the only part of our population who regularly have their feelings discounted because of the hormonal stuff going on in their bodies. Everyone else gets the benefit of the doubt.
I wonder how this older librarian or any of the other older ladies who have made “teenager” comments recently would feel if I referred to her regularly as middle aged or a “middle ager”. What if I discounted her feelings regularly because she is dealing with perimenopause. “Oh, you aren’t really upset because you are having a bad day and people are treating you like crap. It is just because you are perimenopausal.” I don’t think that would go over well. And if everyone was doing that to her, after a while she would become pretty sensitive to it.
Our society as a whole tends to treat both young adults and children as second class citizens. We push them to do this and that, to grow up as fast as possible, and then refuse to acknowledge their maturity until a single age when suddenly we expect them to be all grown up. It doesn’t work that way. Everyone is different. We all grow and learn and mature at different stages. We need to respect one another, recognizing that everyone, children and young adults included, are dealing with different things. We all have struggles. We all have frustrations. We all have good days and bad. And as our children grow, we can gradually help them work through the rough spots, encourage them in their strengths, and treat them from early on with respect, recognizing them as fellow human beings instead of second class citizens. I think if we did that we would find that the vast majority of what we call “teenager” behavior would be eliminated.
Oh, and we solved the problem with the library- I suggested Rach go ahead and order the audio books from all the other libraries in the system. Sure it will be inconvenient for the librarians. Sure it may take an extra day but maybe next time they will leave them out instead of storing them away.