Sunday, September 9, 2012

To Quote My Grandmother: "Why Are Teenagers So Stupid?": YOLO

Traditionally, New Year's Eve is the official reboot-your-life day. But for me, that feeling of renewal comes in September when the school year begins.  All students march onto campus with their shiny new folders; backpacks clean of tagging; fully stocked with college-ruled notebook paper, pens, and pencils. Hell, some even have highlighters. Young, pimple-ridden faces are lifted to the sky with the resolve to keep up with work and earn better grades.  Even the students who have never earned higher than a 'D' in their lives claim that this year they are going to stop screwing around and focus on school because they have realized a fateful truth . . .

YOLO.

They doodle it on my class syllabus; they shout it in the halls.

YOLO.

Now, YOLO may be a new word, but it's not a new concept. When I inquired what the hell they were saying to one another--who knows what kind of underground revolution my students are capable of--I learned that it is an acronym for "You only live once."

"Oh Captain, my captain."
"YOLO" is the descendant of "carpe diem" which was most often translated as "seize the day," until today's youth gave it just one more revision. Oxford English Dictionary defines "Carpe Diem" as the Latin term for "enjoy the day; pluck the day when it is ripe."

In high school, "living" would mean dodging all of their parents' and teachers' expectations in order to drink, screw, and do drugs. (That's true for many adults as well, but I'd like to say it's not as popular of an approach as it is to teens.) I mean this without disdain or condescension; I was no different at that age. The only thing different is that I YOLOed to the soundtrack of Whitesnake and Motley Crew instead of Kayne West and Katy Perry.

Living life to the fullest--or YOLO-- is not just the mantra of today's youth. The name's just changed. Lord Byron, a master of deviance in the early 1800s (google him, you'll see what I mean) would have tagged "carpe diem" on his backpack. Those hippies of the 60s, would be content to say "seize the day" to their classmates as they trudged from class to class. 

But don't be too hard on this wave of language revisionists. Just as constant as adolescent culture is the need to anchor oneself to a particular era with slang.


Back when "capre diem" led the charge for the nonconformists, a man might go to a lushery to enjoy a few gatters. As he became kanurd, he might start looking for a buor because more than likely only a dollymop would be in such an establishment. If he could get enough mecks down her gullet, she might let him feel her heaving bubbies. But, before she allows him to play with her charms, she would make sure he hadn't spent all his chink. There's no way she'd allow him to put nebuchadnezzar out to grass for free.


In the 1960s, "seizing the day" shredded the propriety of the previous century. A man (or woman) would no longer have to grouse around in the underworld of violence and crime in order to enjoy the spoils of alcohol, drugs and sex; one would merely have the desire to mock The Man. Instead of a seedy bar, one could attend a jam. After a few brews and maybe a little boom (shit, in the 60s they might have also indulged in some beast and girl), the hunks will start interacting with the skirts in the room, but unlike the buors at lusheries, these guys can't assume they are all pigs. They may have to settle for copping a feel, and if they get lucky, swapping spit. Otherwise, that stone fox might just flip a lid and call the fuzz. Then everyone would have to beat feet and ruin the jam altogether. 

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Today, teens have plenty of kickbacks to choose from when they are looking to YOLO on a Friday night, but they prefer house-parties. Finding alcohol and bud is easy enough at any social event, but if a guy is not Facebook official with anyone, house-parties provide more sluts to hook up with. If a guy is crazy horny, even a skank will do. But, if he truly wants his bros to think he's hooker, he'll find a kickback where the hotties will be more gucci. They gotta roll it sick, yo.

No longer a teenager, when I YOLO, it doesn't involve lusheries, boom, or skanks. In fact, sitting here, typing up this post, sipping my morning cup of Jo while I enjoy the fresh beach air and watch my kittens frolick-- that's yoloing to me.

Okay, there might be Bailey's in my coffee. 

3 comments:

  1. Loved the language play in this one.
    When I first heard about YOLO, I thought it was some great Olympian.

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