Teenagers do stupid stuff

TRAVERSE CITY — Why are teens eating Tide pods? Here’s why …

I know many adults are struggling to understand why teenagers across the country are chewing on laundry detergent pods.

I believe I can bring some clarity to this question:

It’s because they’re morons.

I do not say that to be insulting. I say it because: A) I was a teenage boy once, and B) I have raised three teenagers, two of them boys.

So I know whereof I speak.

In my experience, boys are far dumber than girls, who tend to reserve their teenage stupidity for random acts of meanness against other girls they feel competitive with. (Ladies, correct me here if I have that wrong. But the worst I can remember my daughter Annie doing was gossiping darkly about the girls on the cheerleading squad.)

Boys on the other hand tend to do intentionally stupid stuff to get attention or because they think it’s going to be funny. You can always tell a boy is going to do something totally idiotic when it’s preceded by the words, “Watch this …!”

In my case, I once got caught pegging crab apples at cars with my pals Mike, Pat, and Jig. We were quite the gang of thugs. As I recall, I hid in tall grass about 20 yards back from the road with Pat while Mike and Jig were in the branches of a tree overhanging the road. The idea was to hit the car from the side and the top, which seemed like absolute genius to us at the time — I mean, the side AND the top, can you imagine how cool?

Anyway, we nailed a couple of cars before the entire city police force showed up, this being a major, major event in a town like Escanaba, a veritable crime wave. I ended up getting a stern lecture at the police station about how lobbing crab apple throwing was a gateway to a life of crime.

I honestly don’t remember why we decided denting cars with crab apples would be a great and adventurous way to kill an afternoon. And from the perch of adulthood I am damned sure I’d view an apple attack on my car as evidence that society is falling apart.

But the truth is it just seemed like the thing to do at the moment. Teenagers do stupid stuff. That’s really all there is to it.

The type and degree of stupidity, I think, varies by generation. For instance, when I was a kid we wouldn’t have eaten laundry detergent because our parents (aka “homicidal Nazis”) intentionally made us eat soap if we swore or lied. It was called “cleaning your mouth out.” My parents favored Zest. I still can’t use it to this day.

I do think today’s teens and young adults have drifted toward more self-destructive stupidity, and that’s rightly got people concerned. We can search all we want for the deep, dark, sociological or psychological reasons behind the Tide pod phenomenon. And the cinnamon craze before that. And the gallon challenge before that. (What is it with this generation and ingesting stuff?) But in end, teens do stupid things because teenagers are stupid. It’s kinda that simple. You just gotta hope they survive to become adults who shake their head at the dumb things teenagers do.

Now, to end this column on a positive note, I spotted a meme that made me laugh. It said: “Hey, teenagers, here’s the real Tide pod challenge: put it in the washer and do some damn laundry for a change.”

Now there’s a pod challenge I highly endorse.

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Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him via email at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.