From time to time, particularly when it is taking off for the rest of the day, The Awl offers its space to normal, everyday people with a perspective on national issues. Today, we’re pleased to once again present you with Walt Fruttinger, an Applebee’s franchisee who at this time has some thoughts about the kids today.
If you lick your index finger and hold it up to the winds of pop culture at the moment, you’re going to find a strong current of vampire blowing your way. Fanged creatures are all over the place right now, and most of them are “teenaged” creatures who are “hot” aimed at hordes of teenagers who are not. So, what do they have in common? Both groups are sullen and brooding. Only the thing is, the vampire ones are what every teenager wants to be: dangerous. And, as previously stated, the vampire ones are also much more attractive than, uh, the real thing.
My question is this: is being a normal teenager right now so goddamn tough that you need to rely on delving into a world of some fictional, fantastical, blood-drinking powers to assuage or come to terms with the shitpile that your real life is? I hope not. Now, I understand that puberty is a multi-tentacled typhoon, sprinkling a hail of zits on your face, while leaving behind a wake of stray, unwarranted boners in your shorts, and awkward social situations that make you want to vomit and kill someone(s). You have some responsibility, no power and very little money. If you’re a girl, you want to be feminine, but you don’t want every mouthbreathing clod to glom onto you, giving indelicate squeezes to your emerging boobs and asking if you’re turned on. And if you’re a boy, you spend 14 hours a day trying to get a gym sock pregnant. School sucks. No one understands anything about you, and your parents are either drunks or squares.
When I was a teenager, there weren’t vampires (unless you count Lost Boys and that was a Corey-laden bag of crap), and there wasn’t texting, and there were not blogs and digital armies of friends ready to champion or bully your feeble ideas and jokes. If we wanted to revert to a fantasy world, there was a hill we climbed, a bonfire we lit, blackberry brandy we drank, and lots of ditchweed to smoke. There’s nothing like the isolated bubbling of water emanating from a three-foot bong, as smoke collects in its chamber, with your thumb on the carb and your other hand ready to yank the stem, knowing that very soon every single problem in your life will disappear, and your only care in the universe will be pursuing a still-warm bag of caramel corn from the stand at the mall. Now that’s magic! And no one needed to be bitten. All the of the answers to life’s mysteries resided in the Faces of Death video series and also in Black Sabbath records. Even some of the lyrics of Dennis DeYoung of STYX.
Here’s another thing. I was called “ButtFrutt” for most of my tenure in high school. So I know something about being an ostracized loser. I wrestled in the heavyweight class and someone soiled my uniform with a melted Zagnut candy bar in the crotch on a road trip. They put the chocolate bar right in the taint of the suit, and then put my gymbag on one of the bus’s heaters.
“Here, Walt. Your tights will be warm for the match.”
So, upon its discovery, I was given Gregg Curtis’s 144-lb-class unitard, after he had hexed it, by losing his match (he was fond of holding up both of his hands and wincing in the direction of his opponent once the ref got things under way), and it was dripping with sweat, and me being 175-lb, and a bit too big for it, I promptly split the “ass” of the suit wide open when I went for a Greco hammerlock on my opponent. The scorekeeper was drinking a Rondo pop at the time and all I remember was seeing it shoot in long arcs from his nostrils. It was a terrible bus ride back to Bozeman, and not because I had to forfeit my match. Thank God there were no digital cameras or Facebook photo journals to capture the humiliation, although I was not 18 and so whomever posted an image like that could have been subject to child porn laws and I might have made a killing in a lawsuit. Fruttinger v. Board of Ed or something.
My point is, did I get home, cry, and then race out and see a vampire movie? Or bury myself in some book about some fangy fuckers exacting some revenge for the existential pain experienced by getting hair on their privates? No. I took a giant pinch of Skoal chewing tobacco, pleasured myself, did four swatters of some ganja that a friend’s older brother had procured in Boulder, and then rode my ten speed over the arcade and put my quarters up on the Dig Dug machine and waited for someone to tell me where the keg party was.
It was along wait, because I didn’t have many friends, and the ones I did spread the ButtFrutt story like wildfire. And social gatherings consisted of people mooning me, or re-enacting my wrestling match, and kids from other schools drawing obscene pictures on bed sheets and holding them up at future wrestling matches. But still. I didn’t need a really intense vampire story. Kids were more into dragons then, I guess. And since there weren’t real fire-breathing dragons, of course, I quietly took it upon myself to capture a little bit of their power, when I later burned down a dozen horse barns in the area. And also a grocery store. And a florist’s shop. But a lot of that is ’cause I was on drugs and listening to heavy metal. But I felt better. Don’t you see my point? I wasn’t some moody little fucker.
Previously: Health Care for Everyone