Sunday, December 13, 2009

News Flash: Teenage Fashion Blogger Unsettles Middle-Aged Woman

As I read this Financial Times article about the growing prominence (literally, front-row seats at D&G!) of fashion bloggers, I got stopped cold at the mention of 13-year-old Tavi, a fashion blogger here in the Chicago area. Old old memories come screeching back.

This 41-year-old blogger -- currently feeling behind-the-curve which is somewhere she never thought she would be -- got yanked nearly 30 years back in time to the early days of junior high, when she wanted to be a famous writer. A journalist. Like Jessica Savitch, with brunette ambition instead of blonde. Yeah, ambitious beyond belief for a 13-year-old geeky kid with a scraggy growing-out Dorothy Hamill haircut and thick glasses. I knew I wouldn't be on TV, but I knew I could write well for that age.

I was going to be the junior high newspaper editor. Without question, it would happen. I'd been preparing since age 8. But I had to wait for my opportunity. I had to take the journalism class in 8th grade, prove myself, and then in 9th grade, seize the editorship. I watched the editors whenever I spotted them in the lunchroom and the hallways. I was obsessed with becoming one of them. Meanwhile I honed skills by filling up paper journals with writing, and almost winning spelling bees. There was always someone else slightly better than I who won.

And even now, someone else is always ahead. This 13-year-old fashion blogger has a global stage to shine on. What will she become with this early opportunity? I had only the stage of my mind at her age.

Actually I question whether today's internet is healthy for a still-forming personality at 13. Are we fostering nasty narcissism with this worldwide adulation of bloggers? Is narcissism nature or nurture or both? Indeed in high school I got addicted to seeing my name in print. I would write anything to get a byline. I truly thought that's what made me who I was. Recovery came in college when there was much more competition and bylines were harder to come by. While I did still win awards, it wasn't often enough for my satisfaction. I lost myself, and quit journalism. It was a healthy, necessary move. And now, no one online knows my full name. And that's OK.

There's a memory so imprinted on me that even if I got Alzheimer's someday, I do hope this memory will never fade. I was 13. The economy was tough in Detroit in the early 80s and schools were cutting back. My school's journalism program was in danger. If voters didn't pass a millage, my whole future would evaporate to nothing. The stage I was about to stand on before everyone, cruelly whisked away. Yes I truly believed that. Waiting for the 11 o'clock news, I paced our living room. Bill Bonds, who I so idolized on Detroit's Channel 7, announced the Warren Consolidated School District millage did not pass. I fell to the floor. Crushed. My future was gone. How would I ever become a journalist? My Olympic hero Nadia Comaneci started early, even younger than I was at 13, and so must I start early, if I will rule the world someday. The true thoughts of a 13 year old ...

Now here's Tavi, at her 13th year, with a world stage readily available for her to seize on her own. And she has. I'm happy for her. The world's innovators have given her this opportunity, with no interference of voters and taxes.

Tavi's story should remind all that in these days of cut-backs and requests for increased taxes, there are schools full of young people who have hopes and talents to cultivate, and for those youth who haven't yet discovered their special talents, they need a large variety of opportunities and activities. That's coming from me, a homeowner with Chicagoland-size property taxes, most of it going to schools, when I don't have children and sometimes do honestly wonder why it's in my interest to pay such taxes. I only need to remember a night crying on my parent's living room floor to understand why.

I did become newspaper editor, but had to wait for high school. Hope was so bottled up for my dream to come true, that I announced to the high school journalism teacher on the second day of school that I would be editor someday -- not wanted but would. So brazen!! But I made it so. And later, Bill Bonds awarded me a college scholarship. It was a high point of a young life. I had skillfully recovered from that junior high set-back, so devastating at that dramatic age!

Now I'm at the life stage where I feel face-slapped with how things can change in two generations. So many teenage and young adult bloggers with worldwide opportunities, while when I was their age, we were mesmerized by Video Killed the Radio Star on MTV. Wow. Music, with video, on TV!! Can you believe!! We had all-nighter pajama parties just so we could watch MTV. And now, I watched live TV news about Michael Jackson's death on my cell phone. Today's youth are growing up with this as normal. They will never know the wonder of the first time heating water in a microwave oven, the first time using a remote control. Today's youth may have never touched the TVs in their houses. Their wonders are so much more advanced. I can't believe I've reached an age to think things like this. Will this face-slapping ever go away? To a point where I'm not surprised anymore?

Thankfully, this is only a trip down memory lane, and I've resolved the fact that I won't always be first (I'm a first-born Aries, it's a personality characteristic!) and I don't feel the need to scramble to catch up with teenagers. Or, do I?

You know how sometimes people say, who are you trying to convince ...

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