The other day, I was stopped several cars back from a stoplight at an intersection near one of our city’s selective enrollment high schools. As usual, the kids paid little attention to the crosswalk and floated among the stopped cars, choosing whatever crossing spot was most convenient to their starting point. It was one of those times when I realized how “grown up” I had become.
A group of six boys, likely about 16 years old, walked in front of my car. Among the guys with pimply faces and awkward fashion was one very cool kid. He was the most confident among them — with a smooth walk, clear complexion and chilled out demeanor. And, he was the only one smoking a cigarette.
As a teenager, that cigarette would have essentially been invisible to me. I would have admired all of his coolness and ignored his short-comings. I didn’t smoke as a teenager, but there was no way a bad habit like that would get in the way of my admiration. My impression is that these days, with decades of additional warnings about smoking health hazards and, now, stigma, people perceive smoking as a far greater offense than they did in the mid-80s.
And, from my grown-up perspective, that cigarette was a concerning flaw. This is probably a kid with the charisma to set an example. What a missed opportunity it is for him to set this one!
And a few years from now, when my daughter enters high school, will this guy be something else all-together? Will my daughter see through the charms of a teenage boy who can pull off wearing capris when he is smoking a cigarette? And is he such a bad kid for doing so, or just misguided like so many other young guys from previous generations? In the words of the supergroup Asia, I suppose only time will tell.