The Soul of the Suburban Teen

Fareed Zakaria and Paula Throckmorton Zakaria

The Soul of the Suburban Teen

Fareed Zakaria and Paula Throckmorton Zakaria

The Soul of the Suburban Teen
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 6 1999 6:00 PM

Fareed Zakaria and Paula Throckmorton Zakaria

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Dear Fareed:

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Where did you read about Richard Gere? Given that you and I read completely different parts of the newspaper, I am shocked that you fished out that little morsel and I missed it.

By the way, I will not be working on May 19, which has been declared a "cultural holiday" by a few California companies, according to the the Wall Street Journal. So many employees asked for the day off so that they could go and see The Phantom Menace that entire companies are shutting their doors to trade. I know I am not much of a space techie, but if I take off Memorial Day and St. Patrick's Day (which is a holiday in Boston), without knowing anything about war or being Irish, then I figure I can take a day in honor of Luke Skywalker.

Did you see the New York Times article about "How Suburban Design Is Failing Teen-Agers"? The point is that designers of new suburban developments have not thought about teenagers and, as a result, have exacerbated the isolation, alienation, desolation, etc., felt by this segment of society. House layouts have no place for teens to "hang out." And, even worse, teenagers can't walk to places where they can congregate with other teens. One architect quotes an adolescent complaining, "All I've got is Pizza Hut. You go there a lot or you go to someone else's house--we're tired of both." Poor baby. This is a real embarrassment of riches. Eighty years ago most people didn't have indoor plumbing, electricity, or central heating (forget about air conditioning) and now we are above meeting at a fast food chain.

Forget about the high-tech sector's growth potential and America's booming economy--we are sunk. When a country starts saying that it has real problems because teenagers are limited to Pizza Hut, that country has gotten too fat and happy to continue for much longer. As for me, I am moving to Cuba. It may not look so good now but once Castro takes his leave, that little island will be on the up-and-up. They'll be wiring houses with proper electricity and killing themselves to get the GDP to grow at 20 per cent a year. At least they will be talking about real problems--how to feed people, get them work, that kind of thing--not how the soul of the teenager depends on interior design.

Fareed Zakaria, Slate's wine columnist, is also managing editor of Foreign Affairs and a contributing editor of Newsweek. Paula Throckmorton Zakaria designs jewelry and writes occassionally for the Wall Street Journal and other publications. She was president and publisher of The Black Book, a photography journal and sourcebook based in New York.