Sunday, March 19, 2006

Kerre Woodham: Know-all teens will never listen

Good luck to public health campaigners trying to warn teens of the dangers of listening to loud music. A US survey has found that the widespread use of iPods - in fact, all personal music players - is causing muffled hearing and tinnitus among young people and that's only going to get worse as they get older. Big surprise.

And they think the scary information from this survey is going to change the way teenagers listen to music? You know, and I know, that there is no way in hell the kids will listen to us when we tell them to keep it down.

If we can't persuade them to stop killing themselves in their cars, it's unlikely we'll get them to care about their ears. Did we listen? No one is more arrogant than a teenager. Their parents can warn, authority figures can threaten, case evidence can be paraded - but kids believe it will never happen to them.

And it's not a phenomenon of today's generation. We were just as tiresome and just as arrogant. I don't know how many times my mother warned me not to sunbathe for hours on end. My skin would end up like hers, she threatened. She knew people who were dying of skin cancer. I would compare my nut-brown, perfectly smooth and evenly toned teenaged skin with her middle-aged carapace, baste myself with more Hawaiian Tropical Oil and smile smugly to myself.

I was different. It was inconceivable that I would ever look like that. My breasts would stay round and perfect, my skin would be forever peachy, I took the fact that my body was in perfect working order for granted and assumed it would always be that way.

Old people were so sad. Just because they hadn't managed to keep it together didn't mean other people couldn't. And of course, inevitably, it happened.

I can still remember my first hangover. I was 23 and I thought I had a brain tumour. Previously I'd been able to drink my body weight in alcohol and wake up the next morning with the brightest of eyes and the bushiest of tails. That fateful morning, I thought I was dying.

The boobs went next. From lush, firm and magnificent to walk socks with golf balls at the bottom of them.

My poor abused skin is now wrinkled and mottled and keeping Remuera dermatologists in pleasure craft. Conversations with my friends is like a repeat of The Two Ronnies as we struggle to fill in the missing noun. Remember - you know - owns the bookstore - used to live in Wellington - had the silver Saab - went to Switzerland - on it goes.

And my daughter looks at me with the same contemptuous pity I once showed my mother, and rubs lotion into her perfect skin, and turns up the volume of her iPod.

And when I showed her the story about the damage she was doing to her ears, she listened because it was less hassle than not, and agreed equably that loud music probably would damage her ears.

And once I'd stopped droning on and got out of her space, she went back to the business of living life in the moment, without a thought for the future.

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