Volume Twenty: 20-Something = 20-Stupid

Posted on 02/08/2010


So, I’m having a conversation with Michelle the other morning. During the convo, I mentioned a humorous tweet (yes, I’m on Twitter – @sillethoughts) I saw about MTV’s uber-popular “reality” show, Jersey Shore. Paraphrasing the tweet, it suggested that Italian-Americans should now be able to empathize with African-Americans, because that’s how we look on BET. They, the brilliant producers at MTV and their clever editing, created caricatures of how Italian-Americans are. Honestly, I did believe that’s how they were – especially in Jersey. Yes me, the champion of anti-discrimination, anti-stereotyping, and anti-prejudices had committed the ultimate sin of lumping Italian-Americans into an all-inclusive category. Nevertheless, my ah-ha moment came from Michelle (@thesweetglaze on Twitter). She suggested that the antics on that show was no more an Italian-American issue than the buffoonery on College Hill was an African-American issue. She suggested it was a 20’s issue. That, when you put 20-something-year-olds in a fat @$$ house and turn on the cameras; idiotic behavior is the predictable outcome.

Nowwwww I Get It…

We all have flashback moments from time to time. I had one at that moment. During my flashback, I even projected myself into the same situation when I was 22…..23…..24 (excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth). Conclusion: I would have behaved in a manner very similar to those people on Jersey Shore, or College Hill, or The Real World, or whatever “reality” show you think of where they put 20-somethings in a house, give them money, alcohol, and an unlimited Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. In short, I would have been a caricature of myself too; for, despite my best efforts, when I was 20-something, I was 20-stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, even when I was in my 20’s and watching programs like those, I used to stand on my soapbox of morality and berate the participants for their frightening frivolity. However, upon closer inspection, how different was my life during that time than what is depicted on the shows? I’ll ask the question to you. How different was your life during that time? Please remember that some (or most) of you I have known for some time, so please don’t start lying to me or yourself. If you need some help, here’s a quick checklist of some of the disturbing aspects of those shows versus our lives – specifically my life – at the same time.

1) Indiscriminate overconsumption of alcohol – Ummm, YES! Me and my boys had a group called Da Liks (urban vernacular for The Alcoholics). Then, a few of  Da Liks connected with some women to form BIGAA (which stood for Big @$$ Alcoholics). BIGAA had one criteria for membership: You had to drink ten (10!) drinks your first night out with us. We would have T&D (toothpaste and draws, aka underwear) parties because we knew that we would all end up passing out at the house where the party was that night.  It was incredibly fun at the time. Incredibly fun, and incredibly stupid.  During that time drinking was an activity. Any random night of the week I could have this convo: Caller, “What you doing tonight, man?” Me, “Drinking.” Caller, “I’m on my way.” I think I made my point.

2) Indiscriminate sexual promiscuity – I’m just gonna plead the fifth on this one. Let’s just suffice it to say that my behaviors could have allegedly been classified as something vaguely resembling indiscriminate sexual promiscuity. Just take the time to reflect on your behaviors. This is not about me! LOL! Again, I choose to plead the fifth on this one.

3) Exaggeration of cultural stereotypes – This is a difficult one to assess – especially when you’re asked to assess yourself. However, objective self-reflection will show that we were trying to live our lives as if we were in a bad Black movie or rap video. When we would venture out, we would project images of being “hard” or “smooth” or “players” or “hustlers”, when we were really smart kids from various suburbs around the country working hard to break the very stereotypes we were portraying. Oxymoronic? Yes, but very true. Very few 20-somethings really know who they are or are secure enough to be genuine. We try on varying personas until some of us mature to the point that we decide we’re comfortable with who we are and decide to be that.

4) Violent overreactions to perceived “disrespect” – Between the weekly “altercations” at frat meetings, the never-ending tension with the Kappas, or random intramural conflicts; I’m surprised I didn’t fight more than I did in my 20’s. I was conflict avoidant (most days) and found myself in fights more than I wanted to. Each fight was sparked by someone overreacting to an insignificant slight, and no one being mature enough to apologize or back down. As in the shows, alcohol may or may not be involved; however, stupidity was ALWAYS present. Parenthetically, I do love watching the fights. We all seem to get some voyeuristic pleasure by watching people fight. I don’t know why that is, but ratings go up when the fights go down.


So what have we learned? We have learned to not look down our noses perched from our high horses of judgement; for we have indulged in behaviors similar to those on the shows. Now, are the “reality stars” more histrionic than the typical 20-somethings? Maybe. Who’s to say? Any actor will tell you that when you’re on a stage, you have to exaggerate your movements to be identified. This could just be the same thing. Telling them they are special by being selected for the show (and being treated as VIP’s during and after) may cause them to “up the ante” to prove they were worthy of such distinction. Even at 30-something today, if you drop me in L.A., New Orléans, Vegas, or South Beach with a little change in my pocket, I may revert back to some of my more sophomoric antics. With that being said, I realized that I’m not that much different from the people on those shows. To get to my 30’s, I had to go through the emotional volatility of my 20’s. And while, 20-something may equal 20-stupid; it damn sure was 20-fun.

That’s just my three cents….


“Peep my ver-na-cular cuz I don’t know how to act…”