5 'Cool' Adults You Never Realized Were Utter F*ck-Ups
We all knew them as kids: the adults who got us. They were completely unlike our parents, because they had something other authority figures didn't: a life they'd ruined with poor decisions. Yes, what we took for "not selling out" was actually "having almost nothing to live for." In retrospect, it's clear that these adults (in legal standing only) were absolute maniacs for consistently making the life choices that would seem coolest to kids.
In honor of the second season of Those Who Can't, airing now on truTV, we want to take a moment to look back at the teachers, "cool" dads, and role models we idolized as kids, and really examine whether they deserved it, or if they were essentially giant, impulsive children taking wild stabs at adulthood.
Your Recklessly Chill Shop Teacher
Because of the broken drug laws in this country, our worst self-medicators do not get the help they need. Instead, they are relegated to the lowest-status job in our society: supervising our children as they operate heavy machinery. It's a difficult existence for them, but to teenagers, the fact that they're high 24/7 is cool. Possibly because life for teenagers is so fraught with anxiety that any alteration of consciousness seems pretty damn cool.
But what teenagers don't realize is that everyone has an illegal drug of choice. There is absolutely nothing special about it. Hell, your parents (the least cool people on Earth) were probably high when they picked your name. How else do you explain the number of ways to spell "Caitlyn"?
The only thing that was different about this teacher was that he didn't even have the basic social skills to hide it from kids. He admired that elaborate pipe you were making while letting you insist it was a birdhouse, he watched dispassionately while kids tried to throw pieces of wood through the circular saw from across the room, and he had no qualms about hot-boxing his own car in the school parking lot.
"It's cool, kids. It's cool. You know, my car just does this sometimes."
Now, you can see why that would be a step up for teens. They wish they had the freedom to casually partake in recreational drug use in the parking lot between classes, because they are forced to be somewhere every day that they hate. But to adults, needing a "top-up" at work in order to get through the day is a strong sign that you've made some bad choices along the way.
The Neighbor Who Owned Every Toy You Wanted
What could possibly be cooler than having every single Ninja Turtles action figure ever produced, including the Technodrome and Sewer Lair play sets? And all the original packaging? And the receipts? And the shopping bags he originally bought them in? If you answered, "Not being a hoarder," you are correct.
As kids, we looked up to him because he dedicated himself to getting every single thing we wanted but couldn't afford. As an adult, we are disturbed by him because he dedicated himself to getting every single thing children want but can't afford.
"I just figured out how to be a cool eight-year-old, and now I'm how old?"
Not everyone who collects things is emotionally stunted or a hoarder, but when a limited-edition Troll doll takes precedent over general necessities like a vacuum or a toaster, you have to make sure that person wasn't magically turned into an adult by a boardwalk fortune teller machine. This person's defining characteristic is that they have the disposable income of a 30-something and the shopping list of a three-something. Hobbies and eccentricities are always a question of degree, and this person's degree is a PhD in living 20 years in the past at the cost of meeting basic needs.
Someone's Mom Who Let Kids Drink At Her House
It's a fact that every high school has at least one parent who lets their kids and their kids' friends drink at the house. (Pretty sure it's mandated by the PTA.) To teenagers, this is one of the few adults brave enough to stand up to our irrationally high drinking age in the United States. To everyone else, this is an insane person who cares more about looking cool to teenagers than they do about going to prison.
Sure, they'll offer up the old excuse that they're turning their house into a high school Hamsterdam because the kids are "safer doing it in a controlled environment," and that makes a lot of sense to you as a kid. But as an adult, you start to notice that most of the people who have this idea also happen to have no adult friends. On the one hand, that's good, because it means other adults aren't complicit in the "corruption of a minor" charges they may eventually face. On the other hand, it makes you suspect that the real reason they're giving kids safe harbor is that they don't have anyone to day-drink with who's of legal age. After all, it's hard to maintain that "they're doing the same thing in a safer environment" when a bunch of teenagers are day-drunk on mid-range rose and domestic brie.
"You can go play iPad once you're keeping pace with mommy, OK sweetheart?"
The College Guy Who Still Hangs Around High School
With college comes all the things high school students prize: freedom, autonomy and not being in high school anymore. It's easy to be wowed by the college kid who hangs around high school, what with his lectures about Objectivism and intricate misunderstanding of Introductory Philosophy. In fact, it's easy to be so wrapped up in the glow of his presence that high school kids never think to ask themselves, "Hey, why isn't this college student hanging out with his college friends?"
Nobody understands him. Least of all himself.
The answer, of course, is that the college student who hangs around high school doesn't have any college friends. High school is the life equivalent of the La Brea Tar Pits: If you aren't careful, you'll get sucked in forever and become a dark, eternally adolescent version of yourself. The fact that he's taking a high school student to her prom may be a "wow" for the yearbook committee, but it certainly isn't doing this guy any favors with his peers. That, of course, means that he'll be hanging around the high school even more, creating the downward spiral that pulls him further and further into the tar.
Your Fun Uncle / Aunt / Your Parent's Fun College Roommate
If you were lucky enough to have one as a kid, there was probably a time when you idolized your parents' fun friend. They were so worldly that they would bring you exotic gifts, like those "cursed" masks from Africa or those knives from Phoenix. They always seemed to have a cool new girlfriend or boyfriend, and they were fun! Every trip to the grocery story had the potential to spontaneously transform into a trip to the water park or an ice cream parlor. They're the person most likely to have let you shoot a gun when you were too young for that to be tinged with feelings of guilt!
Yeah, but she kvetches at an eighth-grade level.
It's only in the cold light of adulthood that you realize all of their seemingly fun behaviors were in fact a flat-out sprint away from the many problems facing them. They weren't happy ALL the time; they were happy to be at your place, because it was the one place people listened to their opinion without them having to buy a round. They weren't spontaneous; they were incapable of completing the errand of getting milk without having a panic attack about where their life was drifting next. They weren't letting you shoot guns at that age because they knew it would be fun for everyone involved, they ... OK, maybe they did in fact do that just because they knew it would be fun.
The point is that the people we looked up to when we were children had some serious problems. That's because children are idiots with idiot priorities. They have no taste and no understanding of the way the world functions. So if you've been holding on to a piece of advice from that drama teacher who took so much time listening to students' relationship problems that their own marriage fell apart, maybe it's time to reexamine the validity of that counsel.
You and your childhood heroes spent an important and wonderful time together. But like the toys from the Toy Story series, they can't stay your heroes forever ... because they are deeply, deeply broken.