DEAR ABBY: I'm a 14-year-old girl who often hears negative comments directed at teenagers as a whole. The other day I was sitting in a bookstore, quietly reading, when an employee commented to a customer that "some teenagers were just in here -- that's probably why the display is a mess!"
I have heard other strangers make remarks about teens being lazy, slovenly, apathetic and rude. If these comments were directed at specific ethnic or religious groups, they would be regarded as discrimination, so I want to know if my saying something to these people would be appropriate -- and also why ageism, clearly a hurtful form of stereotyping, is acceptable when it's directed at young people.
I am tired of being followed by store owners and watching other passengers on the bus grab their belongings and scoot away when I come near them. What should I do? - - SICK OF AGEISM IN SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR SICK OF AGEISM: Although times change, human nature does not. While I agree that many upstanding teens get a bad rap, it might interest you to see this 5th century B.C. quotation attributed to Socrates: "Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders, and love chatter in places of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble food and tyrannize their teachers."
In your case, I don't think scolding or lecturing the offenders would be helpful. Any intelligent person knows that the vast majority of teens today are honest, hardworking, law-abiding and upstanding.
Therefore, if you are being followed around by store owners, and bus passengers grab their belongings and scoot away when they see you, it's time to take a critical look at how you present yourself. Is there something about your appearance that could be considered weird or threatening? If the answer is "maybe," then it's time for a makeover.