L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 40, July 9, 1998
Mad As I Wanna Be
Second Place Winner, Teen Category
Kimberly Martin (age 17)
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Apparently, I'm a much better looking teenager than I thought I
was. I've always seen myself as a little plain, and maybe a little
too hefty for my height. But boy, when I go out, do I ever get the
looks! Wistful glances from teenage boys? Sadly enough, this is not
the case. Upon every shopping venture I've ever executed, it never
fails that I turn the heads of suspicious shopkeepers everywhere.
Whether perusing clothes at JC Penney's or merely selecting some gum
from the rack at Walgreen's, I can't seem to escape the disapproving
glares of managers everywhere. After much consideration, I finally
confessed to myself that perhaps the scrutiny I received wasn't caused
by my breathtaking appearance after all. Like so many of my peers, I
was being watched closely merely because of my age.
This obvious ogling used to make me feel uncomfortable. I would
hustle out of the store with my head tucked into my chest, feeling
guilty as I passed the exit. There were certain stores I wouldn't
even enter because of the looks I knew I'd get. Finally, after being
forced out of one too many shopping places, I became indignant. I
realized that my hasty exits were practically confirming the
shopkeeper's suspicions that I was there to rob them blind. I worked
thirty hours a week! I had money to spend, and I was a decent person!
I was very tired of managers feeling they had to keep a vigil going
whenever I walked in. Finally, I decided to stand up for my rights.
The right to select between Wintergreen and Pep-O-Mint Life Savers
without feeling rushed. The right to shop in the undergarment section
at K-Mart without having "John the Manager" eyeing all my selections,
making sure none disappear into my purse. The right to a little
While looking at CDs at a local chain, one older clerk seemed to
find a chore to do in every aisle I browsed. Finally, I turned to the
man and said "Can I help you?" Traditionally this was his line, of
course, but seeing as he had said nothing so far, I decided to break
the ice. Flabbergasted, the man sputtered for a few moments and
returned to the safe haven of his checkout counter. Feeling
triumphant, I bought a single that I didn't really want, just to show
there were no hard feelings between us. Now, whenever I catch someone
with a name tag trailing me through a store, I say to them, "I'll let
you know if I need any help." This usually confuses or embarrasses
the watcher sufficiently enough for them to leave me alone for the
rest of my stay in their shop.
Luckily, I was able to find a peaceful way to deal with this
infringement on my rights. Many times, however, this is not the case.
Many teenagers do not know how to deal with restrictions or
retributions caused merely by their age, and so make bad decisions in
dealing with them. They may scream or fight, or take a walk down the
wrong path (violence, drugs, alcohol) to deal with their troubles.
This, in turn, sullies the already bad reputation of the age group and
only leads to more restrictions. My generation must learn that not
only is it important to fight for our rights, it is also important to
do it the right way. Start petitions against dress codes, don't yell
at your teacher. Write a Senator about your oppressive teen curfew,
don't break it and end up in a juvenile detention center. We must
make it clear to our elders that if they always treat us like
children, then it is like children we will always act.
The stripping away of our independence and the loss of the ability
to make our own choices is going to have a debilitating effect on the
future. A person who has been controlled or escorted throughout their
entire adolescence is going to do one of two things upon receiving
freedom as an adult: one, they will not be able to handle the
responsibilities, and so will be completely overwhelmed by what adults
call the "real world", or; two, they will go buck wild and absolutely
crazy as adults, having finally been given the freedom they craved for
so long. Neither of these scenarios bode well for the future. All
teenagers must take a stand and defend their rights, if not for the
rest of the world then at least for themselves. We are important to
this world, whether we realize it or not, and we have a very powerful
voice that we seldom use. I hope that one day soon my generation will
see its importance and speak out to change the unreasonable
restrictions we have been saddled with only because of the year of our
birth. We must write that Senator. We must start that petition.
And we must let "John the Manager" know that we can pick out our
panties by ourselves, thank you very much.
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