Thursday, January 31, 2008

Creeped out

I call a moratorium on the word "Creepy". If there's one word I hear more often than others from teenagers it's "creepy". Anyone older than they are, who looks at them, is immediately Creepy. A summer ago or so, driving a van full of teenagers home from workcamp, I heard a girl behind me say "Ewwww!!! Creeeeeeeeepy!!!" I asked her what had happened, and she said that a man in a passing car had looked at her.
I reminded her that we had a sign on our van that identified us as a Catholic youth group, and that the van was rocking with 10 kids singing along to the radio. I told her that I would definitely look at a van like that, and it would make me happy to see it- without being creepy. She seemed surprised, faced with a concept that she'd never considered. Not all adults are creepy.
Kids these days have a filter of creepy that they use first in many, many situations. I'm not saying that kids shouldn't be taught to listen to their guts- but I feel like there's a difference between a kid being able to say "I feel uncomfortable when that person does that..." and "he's creepy". And I think that we're doing just the opposite- not helping kids recognize danger signals, but instead assuming the worst in every situation. I think it's a dangerous to raise a generation of kids who are afraid of all adults.
So, I'm not going to use the word "creepy" from now on, unless I'm describing something that actually creeps... like a spider. And I'm going to challenge kids who I hear using the word, to do a better job at identifying what their feelings really are, and what they're reacting to.

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