So, this past weekend, I went with my husbandthing to an art and performance exhibit by his kids, which was a great show on all counts.
During the performance, a 15-year-old harpist did a couple sets, and she played at a caliber I have only heard on much older orchestral professionals before. Truly, she was astounding.
However, in the audeince, regarding her and a few other performers, I heard a few adults say, "Wow, she's really good for a teenager."
And honestly, she was really good PERIOD. She would have been really good had she been 15 or 45. And I hear this sort of commentary a lot, so I suspect some of you may hear it even more.
How do you feel about your skills being judged or qualified by your age? Is it okay, or is it patronizing and discriminatory? Does it make it hard for you to feel you have excelled at something? Do you think you should be judged by your age or by your skills and talents alone?
Yup! Sometimes my grandparents or close friends of the family, which most of the time tend to be older people, say stuff like: "Wow, she's responsible, for a teenager!" It doesn't bug me too much.
------------------ Shine, make em wonder whatcha got!-Newsboys (((Kristine)))
Perhaps the audience members were just expressing surprise that a teenager would play with a maturity usually expected of older people. Besides, if a person is a good artist, one would expect that they would continue to inprove as they get older. An other way of exprssing it could have been "Wow! If she is that good at 16, think of what she will be like at 30!"
Some child prodigies continue to grow, such as Yehudi Menuhin, Glenn Gould, Midori, and Anne-Sophie Mutter to name four.
------------------ "A free society is a place where it's safe to be unpopular."
I don't mind it too much ... in most cases.
About being responsible for example ... I believe i'm more reponsible than most teenagers, b/c i've had to grow up kinda fast. So instead of someone saying i'm just really responsible, they'll say i'm really responsible ... for a 16 year old. I'm responsible for myself and my kitty and h/w and extra stuff, but I still rely on Mom and Dad for the big stuff
It's patronizing, it's discriminatory, it's rude, and it's wrong.
Bobolink: Maybe so, but if she's brilliant now, why worry about if she'll be better in 15 years? Why does it matter? She's good *right now.*
I've had a lot of age-based comments directed at me, and I've always found them VERY OFFENSIVE. "You're responsible, for your age." "You're only 1X years old?? From your writing I thought you were much older." "You're so much more intelligent than other teenagers." "That's a good painting, for a 17 year old." Excuse me. I think I'm responsible for any age. I don't want you to make assumptions about how old I am. Maybe other teenagers would seem more intelligent to you if you'd get over the fact that they're "teenagers." My art work is pretty good, or even pretty good for having drawn for six years, but pretty good for my age? No. That doesn't MEAN anything.
I do not like being reduced to a number. I do not like people who make sweeping generalizations about groups of people, and teenagers are a very large group.
While this has happened often, it hasn't personally interfered with my life. My parents totally agree with my views on this issue, as do most of my closest friends from my (un)"highschool" years (I do find myself arguing about it at college though. I guess the people here figure they're old enough to talk down about teenagers. I think part of it is that a lot of people aren't comfortable with who THEY were in highschool.). I did always have a few older friends who just couldn't get over the age thing. They were friendly and respectful and they mostly treated be like a equal... but in an equal but different sort of way. And they brought up my age and how exceptionally mature I was a LOT. It didn't stop us being friends, but it made it much harder for me to relate to them.
Then there are people who ask my parents about my life/education when I'm standing right there, and they ignore me. That was the worst. It was the funniest too though, 'cause of course, mom and dad would be trying to lead them into addressing *me*, and so would I, and sometimes it confused them a lot.
I do think that part of the reason that a lot of people wanted to think of me as unusual "for my age" was to distance themselves from the idea of homeschooling as a viable option. After "Does your mom teach you?", the most common reaction that I got to explaining my education were: "I/my child could NEVER do that. I/s/he would just sit and watch TV all day. Surely you do realize that most kids aren't as intelligent and responsible and motivated as you are, and they'd just goof off in a learner led environment. School is really best for them." Bravo Sierra. I may be exceptional in some ways (and I rather wished I wasn't, if only in the hopes of being more convincing), but my ability to flourish in beloved freedom is not one of them.
Oh, it just drives me nuts when people start up with those kinds of statements, and it always has! I think it almost seems worse to me now though, cause people (especially my reletives) refer to me as one of the kids, or one of the girls (usually that one comes on the end of a statement about how I shouldn't be spending so much time and money in college when I could just go somewhere cheaper, take an easier major, and work on finding a rich man to marry). Now yeah, I'll admit that my parents still do support me...but for most of the year, I live about 6 hours from home, and I do take care of myself for the most part. I'm 20 years old, for crying out loud! And they continue to make statments about how that's good for a kid (which is wrong anyway and it gets even more wrong based on the fact that I AM NOT A KID!)!
------------------ "Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." ~Lily Tomlin
Sometimes I think adding "for a kid" or "for a teenager" kind of cancells out the compliment.
I've heard this so many times in my life. For choir competitions and talent shows, my teacher always chose songs for me that were exceedingly difficult because he knew I had the range and the ability to sing them. I did (and butchered, but still) the Queen Of The Night aria from The Magic Flute for competition, and I sang Pie Jesu from Requiem for a talent show. Both times, someone said "Wow. That was really good for a girl your age." I hate to sound conceited, but being able to sing those pieces is pretty good for *anyone*.
------------------ I have a hideous, hideous secret... you see, when the full moon shines, I undergo terrifying changes... My skin gets hard and stiff... shingles grow on top of my head... I turn into... a house.
My mom judges my maturity soley by age. Like because i am 16 i dont have the maturity to do anything. But magically at 18 i am going to gain all that maturity.
I HATE it when people think that just because you are a teenager you are less capable then those who are older. I never really think about the little comments. I probably make them myself. But i always think about it in terms of who has had more of a chance to practice at whatever skill and should naturally be better at it. But its no excuse.
Oh I hate it I hate it I hate it. It does cancel out a compliment, and it's insulting. If I said to my teachers or other adults 'thats really good for someone whose in the early stages of mental decay' they'd flip! What makes them think I find being 'a kid' any less insulting. And of course, if someone says something I've done is good for 'a girl' then they get a good slap around the face. (metaphorically) (well, that depends who it is)
Posts: 394 | From: Manchester, Lancashire, England | Registered: Dec 2000
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I don't think being impressed with someone's ability at a certain age is so bad.
Unlike other aspects of one's self (such as gender or hair colour), age is, to some extent, a marker of experience. It's ridiculous to say "she's a good piano player, for a woman," but I don't think it's so silly to say "she's a good pianist for someone who's only been playing for 6 months."
Similarly, as a teenager with very little work experience, I would hope that potential employers would recognize my youth and take it into consideration.
If you're always being judged on the level of an adult, then aren't you doomed to failure? Who's going to give you your start? Is there no mercy in this world?
The thing is, age and experience often DON'T have anything to do with each other. (Except in that there is only so much time in which to do things.) Cases where they do are usually due to specific age restrictions on certain tasks. Your example of employment is one of these. Since in the US one can't be legally employed until one is 14 (and 16 in some states), young people probably haven't had that much work experience. And since working is a necessary part of most people's lives, older people have probably had a lot experience. Same thing goes for driving. But see... that's a cultural artifact. Correlation, but not causation. It has more to do with potential experience than with age itself.
(Regarding cultural artifacts, suppose you went back to the 19th century and met a female astronomer. You might be impressed not just that she was an astronomer, but that she was a *female* astronomer...because you knew that being female at that time, she had much more limited opportunities to do the things one needs to do to become an astronomer. Her being remarkable as a female astronomer wasn't based on her *femaleness* per se, as is hopefully obvious in this day and age, but on cultural limitations placed on females. And the same is true to some extent for young people.)
Playing the piano, on the other hand... There are thirteen-year-olds who have played for 6 or 7 years, and there are adults who have played for six months. It *doesn't make sense* to tell the thirteen year old that he's good "for a kid." (Besides, what does that imply for the adult??? That the adult should automatically be good? be better? not attempt to learn the piano...?)
When Sarabeth Matilsky biked from the east coast to the west coast (US), it was really impressive, really awesome. And if it seems more impressive because she was 17 (or maybe 16?) at the time, it's not because of inherent limitations on people of that age, but that most people at that age are discouraged, strongly and in many, many different ways, from doing things like that.
(*waves to Sarabeth in case she ever reads this* )
It does, in a way, sound like something you say if you're just trying to be nice. For example, if a 13 year old girl who really likes art draws a picture, and it isn't that good, but you want to be nice about it, you'd say "Well, that's really good for someone your age! Just keep at it."
Sometimes people do this unconsciously without really meaning anything by it. I wouldn't get too upset over it myself. I think its just one of those things you have to learn to brush off.
------------------ ...an angel who didn't so much fall as saunter vaguely downward...
You're right that people sometimes say that sort of thing without thinking about it or meaning anything by it, and they're not bad people for it or anything like that. But that doesn't mean it should be ignored, because it's still propagating false ideas and a culture that doesn't always value or nurture the abilities and good sense of its youth. I personally would very kindly say something to someone who said that. Same way I'd say something if someone was saying something well-meant but stereotypical and inappropriate about anothers' nationality or religion.
Posts: 257 | From: Sarasota, FL | Registered: Jan 2001
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Eclipse, I agree with you. I suppose I was saying that when people say "...for a kid" they mean to say "...for someone with not much experience". Of course, if this is what they mean, they should say it, but I think "...for a kid" is just sort of a shorthand for it.
And good point about women. When I was writing that it would be ridiculous to say "...for a woman," I wondered if perhaps it wouldn't be so ridiculous. There are still a lot of constraints against women, so I'm sure there are some things that would be more impressive if they were done by a woman. But of course, it would be rude to say "...for a woman". You'd be better off saying "amazing, for someone who's had a lot of setbacks/barriers.
I have found it very irritating as I have gotten older and I am still seen as young. I know I am younger than my parents, relatives, etc... but it does not seem to get any better past 18. People still act as if I am too young or a kid. When do someone get treated as an adult? Do you have to be married, live alone, be out of school, look old? What makes someone an adult so they can finally stop hearing all the kid remarks!
Posts: 6 | From: Oxofrd, Ohio, USA | Registered: Apr 2001
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