by  Fran Lebowitz


    There is perhaps, for all concerned, no period of life so unpleasant, so unappealing, so downright unpalatable, as that of adolescence. And while pretty much everyone who comes into contact with him is disagreeably affected, certainly no one is in for a ruder shock than the actual teenager himself. Fresh from twelve straight years of uninterrupted cuteness, he is singularly unprepared to deal with the harsh consequences of inadequate personal appearance. Almost immediately upon entering the thirteenth year of life, a chubby little child becomes a big fat girl, and a boy previously spoken of as "small for his age" finds that he is, in reality, a boy who is short.

    Problems of physical beauty, grave though they be, are not all that beset the unwary teen. Philosophical, spiritual, social, legal–a veritable multitude of difficulties daily confront him. Understandably disconcerted, the teenager almost invariably finds himself in a state of unrelenting misery. This is, of course, unfortunate, even lamentable. Yet one frequently discovers a lack of sympathy for the troubled youth. This dearth of compassion is undoubtedly due to the teenager's insistence upon dealing with his lot in an unduly boisterous fashion. He is, quite simply, at an age where he can keep nothing to himself. No impulse too fleeting, no sentiment too raw, that the teenager does not feel compelled to share it with those around him.

    This sort of behavior naturally tends to have an alienating effect. And while this is oftimes its major intent, one cannot help but respond with hearty ill will.

    Therefore, in the interest of encouraging if not greater understanding, at least greater decorum, I have set down the following words of advice.

    If in addition to being physically unattractive you find that you do not get along well with others, do not under any circumstances attempt to alleviate this situation by developing an interesting personality. An interesting personality is, in an adult, insufferable. In a teenager it is frequently punishable by law.


  • Wearing dark glasses at the breakfast table is socially acceptable only if you are legally blind or partaking of your morning meal out of doors during a total eclipse of the sun.

  • Should your political opinions be at extreme variance with those of your parents, keep in mind that while it is indeed your constitutional right to express these sentiments verbally, it is unseemly to do so with your mouth full–particularly when it is full of the oppressor's standing rib roast.

  • Think before you speak. Read before you think. This will give you something to think about that you didn't make up yourself–a wise move at any age, but most especially at seventeen, when you are in the greatest danger of coming to annoying conclusions.

  • Try to derive some comfort from the knowledge that if your guidance counselor were working up to his potential, he wouldn't still be in high school.

  • The teen years are fraught with any number of hazards, but none so perilous as that which manifests itself as a tendency to consider movies an important art form. If you are presently, or just about to be, of this opinion, perhaps I can spare you years of unbearable pretension by posing this question: If movies (or films, as you are probably now referring to them) were of such a high and serious nature, can you possibly entertain even the slightest notion that they would show them in a place that sold Orange Crush and Jujubes?

  • It is at this point in your life that you will be giving the greatest amount of time and attention to matters of sex. This not only is acceptable, but should, in fact, be encouraged, for this is the last time that sex will be genuinely exciting.

  • The girl in your class who suggests that this year the Drama Club put on The Bald Soprano will be a thorn in people's sides all of her life.

  • Should you be a teenager blessed with uncommon good looks, document this state of affairs by the taking of photographs. It is the only way anyone will ever believe you in years to come.

  • Avoid the use of drugs whenever possible. For while they may, at this juncture, provide a pleasant diversion, they are, on the whole, not the sort of thing that will in later years (should you have later years) be of much use in the acquisition of richly rewarding tax shelters and beachfront property.

  • If you reside in a state where you attain your legal majority while still in your teens, pretend that you don't. There isn't an adult alive who would want to be contractually bound by a decision he came to at the age of nineteen.

  • Remember that as a teenager you are at the last stage in your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you.

  • Stand firm in your refusal to remain conscious during algebra. In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.


Note: If you like Fran's way of thinking, check out her books at Lebowitz