Английский текст для чтения – 25

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Forever Young

Seven years. That’s all. Seven years of being a teenager and then you’re out the other end. Goodbye spots and parents. Hello adult world, independence, the vote. The teenage years are a period of transition, a hormonal blizzard, surely best forgotten – a nasty blip between childhood and being grown-up.

Yes, curiously, we seem to like being teenagers so much that we have stretched the boundaries. Teenagers now start at around six and end at … well, anything up to sixty. But why?

Rock music used to be prime territory for real teens. Not now. Go to any gig, concert or outdoor festival, and you’ll find that they have become family entertainment.

Maybe teenagers will soon cease to exist as a distinct sub-species. But then, as an unexpected product of post-war affluence, they haven’t been around for that long.

The word itself was first coined in the American magazine Good Housekeeping in 1943. Before then it was simple – when you stopped being a child, you went out to work (a boy), or got married (a girl). But then, with peace, leisure and improved education, the pressure was off. There was no need to grow up fast. Children entered life’s anteroom and found they had time on their hands – time for angst, time for trouble, time to be cool, time to be selfish. How lucky teenagers were, yet they never knew it. “Youth is wasted on the young,” as George Bernard Shaw put it.

In Britain, the new rebellious rock’n’roll stars adopted such angry names as Mary Wilde and Billy Fury. Rock music continued its association with youth for a long time but eventually it became apparent that both fans and practitioners were ageing – and showing no sign of giving up pop for Mozart. Wrinkly rockers who’d once have been laughed off stage are now feted as national treasures. Alice Cooper, eyeliner daubed round his old eyes, can sing School’s Out without a hint of irony.

Nostalgia and envy all have a part to play in our desire to remain forever young, but it is naked commercial pressure which really counts. Teendom has always been a money-spinner because teenagers are suckers for anything that makes them seem cool. Real teenagers buy trainers, as do the 50-year-old versions who don’t just buy them for their children. These elderly teenagers are known as “kidults” or “middlescents”, while the tiny teenagers are dubbed “tweens”. You can be sure that once a group has a marketing label then it really exists.

Many parents like to become involved in their children’s interests because as well as wanting to be cool, they also want to be seen as good parents. Becoming a parent, once reckoned to be the event which tipped you into adulthood, now means you have another excuse to indulge yourself, via your children.

Even adults who are not parents embrace teen culture – micro-scooters, Sony PlayStations, roller-blades – all in the name of getting in touch with their inner youth. Apparently in New York, there is now a craze among women in their 20s and 30s to hold slumber parties and where they all giggle over boys, talk about make-up and eat ice-cream.

And teenagers? What do they think of this strange state of affairs? The poor kids have nothing to rebel against any more, because adults instantly appropriate every craze that would once have differentiated them from us.

Vote – a choice or decision that you make in an election.
Blip – a change in a process, especially when the situation gets worse for a while before it improves again.
Affluence – having a lot of money, so that you can afford to buy expensive things.
Anteroom – a small room where people wait to go into the larger room.
To daub – to paint.
Slumber party – a children’s party when a group of children sleep at one child’s house.