5 Reasons Sucky Teenage Years Are A Secret Blessing
The end of your teenage years, sadly, isn't like the end of teen movies. There isn't a freeze frame during a food fight promising that the nerds all become tech moguls, the sensitive loners find true love, and every single preppy douche gets their dick punched off in a freak water polo accident. High school is Hell, not the kind of afterlife with a karmic wheel of justice. And yet there are a few surprising silver linings to our terrible teens, ones with science stats to back them up. For example ...
Teens Who Can't Get A Date Are Better At Forming Relationships
Perhaps the greatest underdog in high school, we'll always root for the shy kid, the one who can't even speak as their crush walks past them (usually in slow motion). But according to the movies, we needn't worry, as they always get the object of their hormonal lust, despite them being way out of their league. Unrealistic? Not really. After all, teens who don't go on dates are much better catches than those who do.
While the majority of teens will at least hold a hand or two before graduating, there are always some who won't get that special someone with whom to go steady, or share a milkshake, or drive the convertible up to Fingerblast Point. But worry not, dumb adults, as a new study published in the Journal of School Health asserts that teen spinsterhood won't turn them into antisocial monsters at all. In fact, not getting hit by the 18-wheeler of hormones that is teenage dating might even improve one's mental health.
The study analyzed 594 10th-graders over seven years as they were asked about their dating lives, happiness, and mental health. This was then cross-referenced with ratings from their teachers -- one of the rare times an educator will comment on their students' love lives, except for literally every moment they spend in the teachers' lounge. Unexpectedly, researchers found that non-daters tended to have equal to above-average interpersonal and leadership skills, and were better at maintaining platonic relationships. They also tended to suffer less from depression and suicidal thoughts than students more frequently date. Not exactly a high bar to vault, though. Have you ever met a dumped teen?
Since the study respected the adolescents' privacy and allowed them to define what a romantic relationship is for themselves, the results aren't that thorough, as it's impossible to tell how many friends with benefits or Canadian girlfriends were stacked into the deck. Nonetheless, its authors feel that the statistics are plenty convincing to encourage schools to stop putting pressure on single teens by treating them as abnormal -- or in the case of Christian schools, as bullet points in their abstinence-only sex education programs.
Being A Rebel Is A Great Path To Long-Term Financial Stability
Everyone remembers that one kid in class who constantly gets into trouble, the rebel who sticks it to the Man (the principal) and spends every Saturday in detention. Yeah, I bet you think he's "bitchin," is that it? Let me tell you something. He's a bum. You want to see something funny? You go visit that rebel in five years. Then you'll see what he's become. A millionaire, statistically.
Published in the journal Developmental Psychology, a 2009 study that claims that Ferris Buellering your way through life is the third-best predictor of whether you'll land a cushy job as an adult, behind intelligence and who your dad is. The study discovered this after following up on 745 subjects from Luxembourg who had taken part in a massive 40-year-old survey that tracked teen rebelliousness -- by '60s Luxembourgian standards, at least. (Presumably stuff like not finishing your thick bean soup, or smoking duty-free cigarettes with those rascally Belgian kids.)
What the study found was that by middle age, these individuals who once showed a tendency toward "rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority" were now successful members of society, even earning a higher income on average than their more mild-mannered peers. As for the reason these troublemakers thrive, that's harder to establish. It could be that these free spirits aren't afraid to speak up and go after what they want, which is a good trait when asking for a raise. Or it could just be a dirty cocktail of valuing competition above interpersonal relationships and a willingness to break rules -- i.e. they don't mind throwing others under the bus to get that corner office. And it makes a lot of sense that if Ferris Bueller was still around today, he'd be with his investment firm bros on the driving range, laughing about how he once got some loser to steal his dad's car, crash it, and get disowned.
Pimple-Faced Loners Really Pop Later
It's a teen tale as old as time. One day before the Spring Formal (which is Colonial-Williamsburg-themed, for some reason), your face breaks out like a plague victim after their fourth day of eating nothing but deviled eggs. For teens, having lots of acne can be a minefield both socially and facially. But it's true what they say about awkward wallflowers -- they tend to grow into strong women going places. And it turns out those pimples could be greasing the wheels of success.
Some solace for the 650 million teens going through high school hell with the acne scars to prove it: Those pus craters can have a positive impact on your later life. A study in the Journal of Human Capital which wished to gauge economic success based on physical appearance chose to track this via acne, an objective and observable medical condition that limits its physical harm to beating us with the ugly stick. The researchers poured over the data of thousands of vain students in the '94-'95 school year (peak Clueless era), who were monitored for things like academic achievements, mental health, and most importantly, zit-to-smooth-face ratio.
The researchers then followed up with the now-adult subjects years later to see how they fared since the sebum subsided. Statistically, those with formerly cratered facades not only got better grades in English, math, social studies, and science (you know, real nerd stuff), but also collected more college degrees per capita than their clear-skinned counterparts. Especially with pimply white high school girls, the study shows a big transformation -- like, "takes off her glasses and flips her hair" big. While white girls with whiteheads were a depressing 11% less inclined to like the person staring back at them in the mirror, they also saw the greatest statistical swing in subsequent success, scoring 3.8% more bachelor's degrees and a noticeable bump in personal earnings -- and not just from their lucrative side-business as a YouTube pimple popper.
According to the researchers, who incidentally admit to having a relatively zit-free childhood, this success is likely because zit freaks tend to stay home more often, avoiding social interaction and preferring to pursue intellectual activities. But the link between acne and achievements is so corollary that you can might as well claim that excessive face grease lubricates the brain, or that bacne scars form patterns that can reveal the answers to tomorrow's big test. Still, that shouldn't stop any pimply teens from taking these stats and rubbing them in the face of their smooth-skinned nemesis as vigorously as they rub their own face with a half-gallon of Noxzema.
Being The Geek With Glasses Might Mean You're *Gasp* Smarter Than Average?
If there's one thing every '80s coming-of-age movie has in common, aside from Corey Feldman, it's that a group of teens always has to have one kid with glasses -- and they're the brain. The poindexter. The wiz-kid. The clever mastermind who's also a foot shorter than everyone, wears a medical alert bracelet, and has a 5% chance of dying from an asthma attack midway through the story.
People associate glasses with nerdery so much that being told you need glasses at a young age can feel like a lifetime sentence of always being picked last for sports and first to tutor math. And for what? Sure, it'll make you look more innocent on trial, but it's not as if equipping glasses actually gives a bonus to your intelligence.
Not quite, but a new study in Nature Communications claims that there is a deep-rooted relationship between a big noggin and faulty peepers. Gene analysis of over 300,000 people aged 16 to 102 claims to have found "significant genetic overlap" between the hereditary cognitive function in the brain and myopia, the dweebiest kind of sight impairment, causing a 30% increase in the likelihood of near-sighted nerds.
Obviously, anyone who needs glasses knows that studies based on measuring intelligence are about as spurious as someone claiming they can mathematically solve the wave function for the electron density around complex molecules. Nevertheless, this could be fruitful for four-eyes, since the study also found that people blessed with higher cognitive function are also blessed with a host of health benefits, like a reduced chance of heart attacks, lung cancer, and depressive disorders, among other things.
So the next time some jock picks you last in gym class because he assumes based on your prescription sports goggles that you're all brain and no brawn, you can tell them those spectacles vaguely connote several athletic health benefits. Then show them the extensive study and demand they give you "a sports stick." Checkmate.
Cool Kids Tend To Grow Up Into Maladjusted Losers
So far we've only talked about the outcasts -- the geeks, the freaks, the burnouts, the Luxembourgians. But no teenage ensemble is complete without the cool kids. The ones who have all the sex, whose parents are perennially out of town for the weekend, who've perfected the art of ostracization. But while they're kings and queens of the state-funded castle, peaking too soon can quickly ruin your life. Just ask literally any teen actor, singer, or model.
Bitter indoor kids (like us) tend to cling to the hope that one day the popular clique's coolness runs out and they'll end up as losers working at their dad's car dealership or going to prison for farting on a judge. So great news! That's exactly what tends to happen. And the earlier it starts, the worse it gets. In a study published in Child Development, researchers from the University of Virginia followed 184 teens from age 13 to 23 to record the effect of "pseudomature behavior" -- the pseudo-scientific term for being rad as hell by having hot friends, getting into trouble, and doing under-the-shirt stuff.
As it turns out, kids who score high on the Fonzarelli Scale also tend to grow up maladjusted, or not at all. And it's exactly the behavior that made them too cool for middle school that makes them too stupid for society. Adult popular kids tend to do 40% more alcohol and marijuana than average, and have a 45% higher chance of developing substance abuse problems. In fact, being cool at an early age is a better predictor of future addiction than actually doing drugs. They also have a 22% higher rate of criminal behavior, since for some reason, stealing a rival's property or waterboarding your peers in the toilet suddenly become no-nos after you turn 18.
And that's exactly what researchers believe is the issue. Peaking in high school means never learning that it's bad to peak in high school, leaving cool kids socially stunted and unable to tackle long-term challenges. When the subjects formerly known as rad were asked why they couldn't hang on to relationships as adults, many believed it was because they weren't adventurous and daring enough anymore -- exemplifying the kind of thinking that also gets them banned from every Olive Garden in a 50-mile radius.
For more weird writing and proof that his guidance counselor was being optimistic, do follow Cedric on Twitter.
For more, check out Show And Tell: A Cringe-Worthy Look At Our Teenage Notebooks:
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