Out of the Mouths of Babes

Wandering around chicagotribune.com the other day, I noticed a new advice link (ok, maybe not new….new since I’d spent any time at the trib). It appeared to read “Ask Me!!” which seemed excessively exclamatory, but I clicked anyway. Turned out it was actually “Ask Mel.” Mel is a 16-year-old blogger for Chicago Now, who handles questions that “only a teen can answer.” Curious, I took a peek at a few of her columns. I began skeptical, and then became horrified. For example, in response to a writer who can’t stay awake at school, Mel offered the following sugguestions:

Dear Tired Eyes,

I feel your pain.
Every morning, my alarm goes off at 6:30, and I hit the snooze button 6, 7, 8 times. I end up getting up around 7:15, frantic because I don’t have enough time to do my hair and makeup, etc. So I fall asleep in class a lot. (Trick: When teachers yell at me, I just tell them I was “resting my eyes”. Not sleeping.)
Alright. Here are some tips.
-Put your cell phone across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn the alarm off. (I do this, but somehow I always find myself back in my warm, cozy bed. Weird.)
-Take a freezing cold shower. That will definitely wake you up.
-Drink coffee! I have a cup o’ joe every single morning, loaded with sugar, of course. Yeah, it makes me feel more mature.
-Wear uncomfortable clothes to school. Whenever I wear sweats and a t-shirt, I doze off. But, when I wear jeans and a nice top, I somehow stay awake. Go figure.
-Chew energy gum! Do they still make that stuff? When I was a freshman, I think I OD’d on it.
-Eat sugary snacks. Cookies and candy.
If all else fails, just start bringing a video camera to class. That way, you can nap while your teacher rambles about the Cold War and pronouns. Good idea, right?
-Mel

Coffee? Sugary snacks? Uncomfortable clothes? And then more sugar?? But these kids need rest, exercise, nutritious meals, and less pressure to perform well on standardized tests! Not junk food, tomfoolery, and sass!

But then I realized….they already know that. Of course they do. If they wanted boring, old person advice (which apparently is what I would give), they’d write to Dear Abby, or, um, ask their moms. They WANT the opinion of a peer. A smart, thoughtful teenager, to be sure, as her blog reveals, but a teenager nonetheless.

One of my favorite posts of hers is a list of ways to deal with boredom while grounded. She just seems like a regular kid, who gets into regular trouble. She’s not making a big fuss about establishing trust and respect between parents and kids, nor about defying them and sneaking out. Just how to get through the boring weekend at home that you know you probably deserved:

Dear Trapped Inside,

You know, I happen to be an expert on this stuff. Here’s a list of non-school related things that you can do this weekend to fill your time:
-Learn to juggle
-Count how many stairs there are in your house
-Pretend to be a dog and spend your day crawling on your hands and knees
-Annoy your siblings/parents
-Put a fly on a leash. Click here for detailed instructions.
-Play DDR nonstop
-Write a song and then sing it
-Fingerpaint
-Organize your closet
-Watch some good movies (Breakfast Club, anyone?)
-Bake a cake
-Eat the cake
-Plot to escape your house when your parents are sleeping [well, Ok, i missed that one]
-Style your hair differently
-Speak Spanish
-Learn the entire “Thriller” dance
-Dress up your dog
-Mel

And she finally won me over with her latest post, responding to a writer who’s sick of doing chores at home:

Dear Annoyed,

Um, do what they want you to do? How hard is it to keep your room tidy and help out in the kitchen once in a while? No offense, but you need to be less lazy. The answer is simple, hence this short response. Sorry, no shortcuts here.
-Mel

Mel gets my vote. She’s a good writer and seems like a smart kid. She’s 16 all right–she’s into Gossip Girl, Jamba Juice, boys, and occasionally picking a fight with the parents if it’s about something “really important” like TV. But she seems like someone other kids her age would like and trust, and turn to for a specific kind of answer. We’ve got lots of moms in the world–including most of the major syndicated advice columnists. Mel is a welcome breath of (smoothie-scented) fresh air, for her own demographic at least.

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