It’s in your blood
Part of my job involves working with teens. Where as I know some people who are terrified of teens and their volatile mood swings and impulsive, underdeveloped frontal lobes—my chiropractor recently told me about how she calls her stepdaughter’s adolescent years her ‘hell’ years—I quite enjoy teens.
Teenagers are at the stage of life when they’re learning how to be an adult. Key word, learning. I’ve heard the teenage years be compared to the time in one’s life when they’re learning to walk. Except at that point, they’re a cute little wobbly thing and parents don’t yell at them when they fall down and aren’t able to walk from point A to point B. Yet, when teens make mistakes when they’re learning how to be an adult, it’s not uncommon to hear parents rip them a new one. I love how teens still have the kid power to see right through superficial bullshit, yet can carry on a conversation at a higher level than Sponge Bob.
The other week, I arrived to the youth center on Colfax where I work, when I encountered one of the teens who’d been through one of my programs last year. He was with his dad, who held the door open for me, as I was wheeling in my box o’ program supplies and looking like I could use an extra hand, as per usual.
“Whatcha got new?” the dad asked me.
“Oh nothing new. I’m here to run SMART Moves today,” I replied.
“Come on,” the dad insisted. I could see his son grow more uncomfortable with the amount of time we were keeping this conversation going. I tried the walk away slowly tactic to see if I could just fade out of the situation. That didn’t work.
The dad offered up some new things I might bring to the kids, instead of the standard confidence building and resistance skills of my health and life skills programs.
“How ‘bout some Kung Fu?” he suggested.
“Mmm, I don’t know Kung Fu,” I replied, with my most patient voice, trying to lessen the embarrassment that I sensed his son felt.
“Tai Chi?” the dad threw out.
“Nope. Don’t know that either,” I responded.
“It’s in your blood” the dad replied.
I imagined Kung Fu fighters charging through my aorta and really old, slowly moving Tai Chi grandparents scooting through my veins.
I let out a courtesy, I’m amused, but have to get going and this conversation is over, “huh.” Like a period at the end of sentence.
Later I wondered what the teen son learned from that moment. Teen skeptics might say nothing, that he was probably too self-involved to even notice that his dad had just made racist comments that swept me into the Asian stereotype. But I think the teen was taking mental notes. And I like to imagine they looked something like this:
“Note to self: Not all Asians know Kung Fu or Tai Chi…and what’s the Korean version of Kung Fu? I should look into that.”