Between malls & martyrs

"Between malls & martyrs" Continued...

Issue: "Is there no tomorrow?," Aug. 7, 1999

"The specialty chains are more flexible and better risk takers (than department stores)," he says. "They're able to tailor their whole store environment to this by having the right look, the right music, and the right salespeople."

In the Gap, a Lauryn Hill CD is thumping as Olivia and Laura start flipping through the racks. "Levis?" Olivia responds to the question with a frown. "Well, yeah, I guess some people wear them. But they're not that big. There are lots of other choices."

Other than Levis? Boomers wore their red-tabbed Levis religiously, yet that giant has been toppled by Gap jeans, Calvin Klein, and Guess. And remember that Levis were the uniform of masses of American rebels (and their imitators overseas).

So could it be that Generation Y is rethinking rebellion? Well, yes, actually.

"Teens today aren't as rebellious," says Laura. "Maybe our parents' generation were rebelling against the idea of being seen and not heard. Well, no one can say teens aren't heard now. And we talk to our parents more, about more things."

In fact, three-fourths of teens say their parents influence their behavior "a lot," and nearly all say they want to spend more time with their parents.

"Family relationships are often disappointing to teens," says Mr. Barna. "The typical teen spends less than two hours per week, cumulatively, in significant interaction with Dad."

And they get less and less time with him, Mr. Barna notes. At the age of 13, six out of 10 kids identify their father as a person they turn to with important life issues. But by the age of 18, only one out of four teens say they can turn to their fathers for advice.

They've rejected '60s-style rebellion outright. Every year, the American Council on Education surveys college freshmen, asking if they believe it is important to keep up with political issues. In 1997, a record low 27 percent answered yes, compared to a high of 58 percent in 1966.

In The Limited, Olivia reaches for a hat-a fisherman's hat, she calls it, though it's really the sort that Woody Allen wears for anonymity. Laura oohs over a shirt that looks like something else Woody Allen-or any man over 50-would wear. It's a button-front, short-sleeve number with a big pocket and a big collar. Hugh Beaumont or Robert Conrad would be perfectly comfortable wearing it under a nice cardigan on weekends.

"This is big," she says. "Grandpa shirts. Only it's kind of cheating to buy them new. You're supposed to really get them from your Grandpa, or from thrift stores."

As shocking as it sounds, button-down shirts and khaki pants have made a comeback, accompanied by swing music and-breathe deeply-modesty. Skirts are below the knee, bosoms aren't bared, and they're thinking about the future. During the past three months, some also have thought about Cassie Bernall.

"There's no doubt in my mind that she knew what that guy's response was going to be, but she answered yes," Laura says. "So yes, I think she's a martyr. It really reminds me of the fact that the decisions I make now will have lasting consequences. I wonder if I do enough to tell people about the gospel-now, when there's no cost at all, when it's easy."

And Cassie Bernall has helped make it easy of late. Christian teens across the country say their non-Christian friends were also affected by Cassie's story, and sometimes sought out Christians to find out why Cassie responded the way she did.

"All of us are wondering if we would do the same thing Cassie did," Laura says. "But we have to remember that being faithful to God in the big things means that first we have to be faithful to God in the little things. That's the message I hope-and I think-our generation is going to take away from this."

This is a generation that has been devastated by the unfaithfulness evident in divorce.

"It's just selfishness," says Laura. "They don't think about the kids. People my age have come to accept divorce as normal, but they still think it's wrong. I think our generation is going to try a lot harder to stay married."

In Gadzooks, a clothing store that also sells inflatable furniture ($34.99 for a big, purple chair), costume jewelry, and various unfathomable hair accessories, Laura starts to steer Olivia away from the wall of T-shirts with off-color (and sometimes obscene) slogans. Olivia sees them, but barely blinks. This is a jaded generation. When asked, a clerk says kids buy them.


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