My love-hate relationship with the youth of today.

Notes from the fashion apocalypse.
May 26 2011 7:18 AM

The Worst of Youth

Why do we fetishize and overpraise the young?

1_123125_2266761_2279902_2293516_110525_doonan_age_tn

As I hurtle towards the big six-O, I find I have developed a total love-hate relationship with young people. Some days, j'adore them. At other times, when they're being completely and utterly precocious and annoying, it's all I can do to stop myself from going all King Herod and massacring the innocents.

Simon Doonan Simon Doonan

Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.

What is it about all these emerging lifestyle gurus, teen real-estate machers, tween fashion entrepreneurs, and prepubescent bloggers that compels me to get all biblical on their asses? Simply put, the young folks of today are a bunch of insanely overachieving, materialistic, poorly educated, distraction-prone, conformist, mentally turgid losers, whose only discernable skill is the ability to sext pics of their genitals to one another. (I have finally figured out how to do this with my iPhone. You will be relieved to hear that our dog, Liberace, rather than my family jewels, is the chosen subject. I sincerely hope that my snaps of him are not being mistaken for images of my genitals. That would not be fair to the furry little lad.)

Despite all the horrifying indictments listed above, you young people have somehow managed to grab the spotlight and point it right at yourselves. Youth is the new global currency. Suri Cruise is the new Sumner Redstone.

This extreme privileging and overpraising of jeunesse is a new phenomenon. People think the 1960s was youth-obsessed. Not so. Back then it was all about being an adult, a suave, sexy grown-up with access to the finer things of life. We're talking Sean Connery, Simone Signoret, Lawrence Harvey, Yuri Gagarin, Maria Callas, and, of course, Joanne Worley. Back then, we teens lurked in the margins of society while chisel-jawed blokes with graying temples helped women with pointy knockers into their chinchilla stoles. That's why we were always complaining and banging tambourines. "Stop being so remote and soigné and grown-up! Put down that chinchilla stole and listen to the bangin' of our tambourines!" we would whine.

On May 24, my ability to contend with youngsters without lapsing into Herod mode was severely tested. There I was, at the Jacob Javits Center, surrounded by more than 2,000 graduating students from Fashion Institute of Technology, receiving (drum roll) a lifetime achievement award. This was indeed a cause for celebration, especially since I am not aware of having achieved anything particularly momentous, unless you count trussing up a life-size effigy of Margaret Thatcher in a rubber dominatrix outfit and plonking it in a Barneys window.

I had, needless to say, a perfectly gorgeous time. The warm, jolly FIT grads annihilated all my nasty preconceived notions. The truth is, my antipathy toward youth is entirely theoretical. Whenever I spend time in the company of anybody under the age of 25, I invariably come away feeling that the youngsters of today are astoundingly smart, creative, altruistic, and groovy. And I realize just how much we have in common. My own infantile ways find an easy match with their unformed sensibilities. I have much more in common with the Tavi generation, than I do with, for example, Diane Sawyer, Wolf Blitzer, Benjamin Netanyahu, or Mary Hart.

There was, however, one challenging moment: In my cap and gown I felt fabulously flowy and very Lawrence of Arabia. Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. "What's Linda Hunt doing in the men's room at the Javits Center, and why is she wearing her Law and Order judge's robe?" I almost shrieked.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before the afterglow faded, and I returned to my curmudgeonly ways.

"Aren't you a bit young for a lifetime achievement award?" commented a colleague as I rode the elevator back to my office, clutching my award. "Good God, young man! I do believe you're right!" I responded, feeling a bit like Methuselah.

Back in the day, lifetime achievement awards were strictly for colostomy-bag totin' octogenarians. Not any more. The fetishizing and garlanding of youth has put the awards schedule into fast-forward. At 22, you win Most Important Fashion Designer in History. By the time you hit 58 (moi), people are giving you a standing ovation while wondering if you can still widdle on your own. And whose fault is that? You mark my words, those overachieving brats are to blame!

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.