Forward Living: Our kids are all right

Celia Ianelli

Frank and I were dining out with friends and, as usual, the conversation was lively and varied. Unusual, however, was that the chatter bypassed our health and settled on kids: our kids, grandkids and everyone else’s kids. Several times during the meal this question was raised: “What‘s wrong with kids today?”

Although this column is titled “Forward Living,” let’s rewind to the ’50s and ’60s, when some of us were kids.

Differentiating between the sexes was easy: Gals wore skirts, dresses and jeans (at the time known as dungarees). We rolled up said jeans and paired them with our dad’s white dress shirts. Guys wore button-down shirts with cuffed jeans or white T-shirts under black leather jackets and boots.

Friday-night dances were central to our lives. Gals sported sprayed-to-death bouffant hair and wore crinolines under poodle skirts. This getup gave us a circumference of five feet and added two inches to our height. (We thought we looked chic!) My favorite guys slicked backed their hair into a DA; others had crew cuts.

We slow-danced to Connie Francis crooning “Who’s Sorry Now” and Elvis singing “Love me Tender.” At the CYO dances, the nuns patrolled the gym and strictly enforced the “no close dancing” rule. Actually, the crinolines made close dancing a moot issue.

The nuns relaxed while we jitterbugged to Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock around the Clock” or Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” However, they frowned when Jerry Lee Lewis belted out “Great Balls of Fire.” (Hmm — I did catch Sister Josephine tapping her foot.)

Gals loved Elvis; some guys didn’t get Elvis, yet they took pains to imitate him. Chubby Checker taught us two new dances: the Twist and the Pony. Alan Freed, Cousin Brucie and Murray the K were the iconic DJs that dominated the airwaves.

Television needed no parental controls. Shows like “Leave It to Beaver, “Father Knows Best” and “Happy Days” idolized the American family. TV kids were polite; the dad dressed in a shirt and tie — and always knew best. The mom, a homemaker, wore shirtwaist dresses, high heels and a perpetual smile.

Because we married young, most gals skipped over college, although some of us earned our degrees later.
Methinks we never fully outgrew the doll phase; instead, our girls were clad in frilly dresses with matching hair bows and white Mary Jane shoes. Our boys wore saddle shoes and knee socks with short pants. (Forgive me, my sons.) Shoes required white shoe polish and those shoelaces! Lest you think we were too neurotic, our kids wore sneakers and jeans for play.

Back to 2011.

Jeans, unisex clothing, girlie-girl outfits, neon hair and guys sporting earrings are some of the norms. I don’t get Lady Gaga arriving at the Grammy Awards in an Egg; nevertheless, the gal is engaging. Pink and Kesha, aka Kes$ha (not a typo), although glitzy, are entertaining. But wait! Didn’t Elvis dress in flamboyant jumpsuits? And remember his swivel hips?

Today’s TV families are more grounded in reality. (Lord knows how many cumulative hours our generation spent in therapy bemoaning the lack of a perfect family.)

Many kids send and receive 2,000 text messages a month. Yours truly had the telephone cord stretched into the basement (no cordless phones) and yakked for hours. Mom couldn’t hear me whispering, “I dig … Joe is groovy.”
Two incomes are a necessity. Most moms multi-task and don’t have time to play dress-up with their kids. (Lucky kids!)

What’s wrong with kids today? Nothing!

If you’re in doubt, check out the song “Kids” from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” Here’s a sampling.

I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Who can understand anything they say?
Why can’t they be like we were.
Perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?

Incidentally, “Bye Bye Birdie” is a satire on American society in the ’50s. Wanna guess who they were singing about?

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.