So yesterday one of the students in my Creative Writing class got my blood boiling with an ill-timed (and it wasn’t simply that it was only 9:00am) and totally-not-thought-out comment about (in his ignorant opinion) our inability to remain staunch and resolute in our convictions in the face of peer-pressure. He tried to make the argument that our need for acceptance and approval far outweighed any moral convictions we have previously accredited ourselves with. Oh and yes… he was serious! Naturally I was convicted in my decision to educate his ass; but I do admit that it got me thinking (after the few hours it took me to calm the fuck down, that is!).
You see, his delivery was born out of the arrogance of youth; the bravado that is fueled by the absolute conviction that those under the age of smarteen proudly trot around as their proof in and validation for knowing absolutely everything about everything! Come on… you all know what I’m talking about. But, what he foolishly did not know he did possess however, is the germ of a thought-provocation that begs the questions, “are grown-ups equally as likely to succumb to external influences as those lesser in age and more seeking of validation? Or, do maturity, wisdom and experience inoculate those of us of a certain age and stage against the malleability of suggestion and so-called popularity? Are we just as susceptible, but simply call it something else, like say, ‘choice’?”
Let’s address this. Can any of our decisions to acquiesce or decline maintain their integrity as solely ours; or are they all inspired or determined by either their affect or effect (on others)? I mean, is peer-pressure by any other name still simply peer-pressure? Are any of us able to categorically lay claim to the 100% ownership rights to all/any of our decisions? Or, has all that has happened since we’ve become bigger-little-people is that we have earned the right to leave behind the embarrassment and stigma of being viewed as spineless and spaghetti-like and instead be allowed to celebrate our new-found autonomy; oh… that is absolutely dictated by another’s views of both their so-called autonomy and their allowances for either our inclusion or seclusion from their space.
Shit! On so many levels this kid pissed me off! Who has time for this crap?! But, it’s here now, so we’d better address it. Sigh. Here’s what I would like to know – are any of us truly, and I mean truly living lives that are devoid of other’s influences? Is that even possible? Can it be as simple as when you’re under the age of seventeen it’s negatively referred to as “peer-pressure”, but when you’re delightfully well past that age it’s sexily called, “consent”? Is the only difference between the two your local government’s recognition of your ‘age of consent’? Is my right to buy cigarettes and alcohol (legally), the criteria that ascertains I am no longer susceptible to undue influence? And while we’re at it, aren’t the ads for the afore-mentioned so-called milestones its own form of peer-pressure?
Okay, let’s take this one teeny step further (I do have other shit to do, you know!). In all the actions of others who touch our lives, if we were to look a little closely, aren’t there droppings of manipulation? I mean, call it what we want, aren’t we all simply motivated by our own needs and desires? And, in an effort to fulfill same, don’t we often need the participation (willing or not) of those around? You do not need for me to tell you this (but naturally I will), we are not, any of us, ‘singular’ creatures. Granted, we (mostly) get here alone and no matter the how of our deaths, we end up similarly. But, for the juicy stuff in the middle of those two events, despite our periodic claims to the contrary, we all need the presence of others. I mean, without any doubt, I need you.
So, all this is about is to determine whether (1) we ever truly grow out of our desires to laud our influences over others; whether positive or negative and (2) if, as we age, we truly do grow out of our susceptibility to be influenced. Or, if that susceptibility just has a newer, shinier, more respectable name. Oh, and I have yet another question – is it only called peer-pressure when the encouragement is something that is bad for you – say, under-aged drinking, smoking or sex’ting? I mean, what if those around are pushing/pressuring you equally as hard to say, study or maintain your virginity? I don’t know about yall, but I find it quite peer-pressurable when my friends try to always get me to wear sneakers! Ha-ha.
Listen, the boy pissed me off because he dared to question my/others’ strength of convictions to maintain the standards I/they have adopted in the face of external influences. He questioned whether any of us truly had the strength to hold firm; suggesting that the need for approval would always win out. I handled that bit of ignorance and arrogance in him J . But, like absofuckinglutely everything in (my) life, I was able to mentally cock my head to the side and wonder if below and behind what he so clumsily tried to say, there was not even a smidge of something to nibble at. So, this is me nibbling…
Wishing yall a day filled with undue influences for all that is great, enriching, thought-provoking and… damned sexy! I mean, think about it. With just a slight switch of letters (and perspective) we could make this into something well… Peer Pressure = Pair (and I hope to God I do not need to explain what you (two/pair) can enjoy because of that other word Pressure) 😉