Teenagers: Superheroes in disguise
After 20 years working with teenagers in youth groups and at youth retreats, I have reached a stunning conclusion. Teenagers are really superheroes in disguise. Oh, don’t let that arrogant, acne-covered exterior fool you. These adolescents are the ones we should be looking to in a crisis. They have the tools needed to handle any situation. The problem is that they don’t know it themselves.
Let me walk you through the 10 characteristics of teenagers that led me to conclude that they are really superheroes.
1. They don't feel the cold
When it is minus 15 degrees outside and blowing ice pellets into your face with the force of a Gatling gun, you will see superheroes among us. They will look like regular teens but they have the superhero power of not feeling the cold. Why else would they walk around wearing just a T-shirt when the rest of the sane world is fully bundled up with minimal skin exposed to the elements? They must have the ability to resist freezing temperatures. Could they be direct descendants of Mr. Freeze? After all he couldn’t survive in temperatures higher than fifty degrees above zero. They must have adapted somehow to handle the summers, but their true superhero powers come out in the winter. Next time you are outside, wrapped up in scarf, hat and Parka, take a look around at the teenagers in their shirt sleeves and be grateful that we have these superheroes to protect us.
2. They can speak a unique, ever-evolving language
Teenagers have the superhero ability to communicate in unknown languages. If you listen to a herd of teens jabbering away it may well be that you understand very little of what they say. Don’t be alarmed – that is normal. How can we (mere mortals) every hope to tap into the superhero language. When we think we have evolved to using the word “awesome” to describe something that is great, these superheroes have evolved even further using “wicked” or “sick” or “dope” to mean the very same thing. How else would they be able to communicate secretly when under attack? It makes perfect sense and once again reminds us of our mere mortality in their presence. Teenagers have also found some areas of speech to be rendered useless. For example, if you ask them to do something they do not want to do, they will rarely even bother forming a sentence, substituting the unnecessary with a simple “grunt”. Pure genius, or maybe just descendants of Cypher?
3. They know everything
Small children have a propensity for learning, soaking up information from their parents like sponges. However, as teenagers, puberty comes along – the bringer of super powers. From the date when hair sprouts in unusual places, voices deepen and chests enlarge, these superheroes are instantly bestowed with advanced knowledge. In a matter of a few minutes it would seem, they are fully equipped with far superior intelligence than their very own parents. Countless times, parents around the globe will attempt to guide or direct one of these superhero teens, only to be shown their lesser status by the customary super hero answer of, “I know!” It begs the question, “Why do we not put these teenagers in charge of everything?” After all, they know everything, can handle everything, have excellent judgment and the wisdom needed to solve crisis situations like a lost iPhone, without screaming and getting all “freaked out”. Being descendants of Atom IV or other such super intelligent heroes can be the only conclusion for their far advanced intelligence.
4. They wear superhero outfits
I remember back several years to when I was a police officer doing some foot patrol in the town centre. I was chatting with a group of teens hanging out late at night. They began to mock my uniform saying that they would never wear something so stupid. I recall looking at the group of about eight youths, and pointing out to them that all eight were dressed alike. They had the same style of jeans, shoes, sweatshirts and their hairstyles were all scarily similar. And they thought I was the one wearing a uniform. Teenage fashion changes constantly, but one thing remains - they dress alike. They know that by wearing these superhero outfits, with their boxers sticking out the tops of their jeans and their crotches dragging on the floor, that all enemies of the earth will run in fear. Let’s face it, anyone brave enough to look that stupid in public should be feared.
5. They can communicate without talking
If you observe teens in a group or even just in pairs, you will see that they hardly ever are seen to talk to one another. Yet somehow they all seem to know what is the next expected move or destination for all concerned. Is it ESP? Is it telepathy? Or could it be the small electronic devices that they hold a few inches from their noses. It seems these same devices are the only way teenagers are able to communicate with other teens even if they are sitting a few feet away. It has to be that way so that no villains can interpret superhero instructions. We wouldn’t want top secret information leaking into the wrong hands, would we? We can feel safe that the more teens we see grouped together using these small electronic communicators, the safer we are. After all, Iron Man uses technology too and he is a proven superhero.
6. They can do multiple things at the same time
When I watch my own 17-year old son, I am more and more convinced that he is a superhero. Only a being with superhuman powers could manage to do so many things at the same time. He can listen to loud music, watch a hockey game, text message a friend, surf for movie times and do homework, giving equal attention to all of them. If I wasn’t at my sons actual birth, I might believe he is a descendant of Martian Manhunter, a super hero with numerous abilities. Now I come to think of it, there was that point in the delivery room when I turned my back for a few seconds…
7. The ability to morph or change appearance
If you have ever interacted with any particular teenager on a regular basis, you will know that he or she has the power to morph into different people. I have actually seen a teenager transform before my very eyes, plainly revealing superhero powers. The conversation with this particular teen began with them approaching me as an adult would, and asking my opinion on a particular subject. I gave my answer and within seconds the adult morphed into a child and reacted in a screaming fit. Superhero or what? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the ability to change my appearance, character and personality that quickly. Are teenagers possibly the offspring of Captain Planet?
8. They travel in groups
Although superheroes have amazing powers, it is not uncommon for them to team up with other superheroes to defeat their enemies. The Fantastic 4 took on the Silver Surfer. The Avengers combined against the Masters of Evil, Squadron Supreme and other equally menacingly named foes. Teenage heroes understand that there is strength in numbers. Why else would they be seen clumped together in a sea of drooping buttocks at the malls and arcades of our countries? They are obviously plotting their next move together and drawing from each other’s strengths, staying ever vigilant against attacks on earth. Don’t be afraid by the next “attitude” of teenagers you see thinking they are a gang of thugs. Instead, view them with a beaming smile knowing these are your protectors, piercings and all.
9. Superhuman growth ability
The Incredible Hulk is just an ordinary man by the name of Dr Bruce Banner, an ordinary sized male of ordinary height. However, when he changes into the green Hulk his size increases dramatically. His muscles bulge, his veins extend and he literally bursts out of his clothes. Being the parent of two teenage sons, I have to conclude that they must also possess similar superhero powers by the way they too can grow out of their clothes in a ridiculously short span of time. How else could it be that a pair of expensive jeans purchased one week cannot meet their ankles the next? How else can costly brand name winter shoes have to be cut down into sandals for the summer unless due to superhero growth powers? Each time I open my wallet to purchase a new wardrobe item for my teens I rejoice in knowing that I am providing for a superhero who could one day protect me from an evil mutating villain.
10. They can save the world
If we look at the different “causes” that are shaping the way this planet is living, we see time and time again that the majority of their participants are teenagers. Teens believe that they can change the world. They see the world as a global community because they are in contact with their earthly neighbours via social networking. Issues thousands of miles away are relevant to them where they are at and they know that each one of them can make a difference. Who are we to say that these teenage superheroes can’t save the world from the world itself? If enough of these brave fighters stands up for what is right, things can change. Anyone who has been around teens will have seen their enthusiasm to join in with mission trips, humanitarian aid programs and other life saving ventures. Superhero teens believe, like Superman, that the world can be saved and it is their job to do it.
There are superheroes amongst us...
My challenge to you is to view teens as important. It’s easy to look at what they wear, how they act and what they say, and form an opinion. I would ask, on their behalf and yours, that you see deeper and find the superhero that is inside your own teenagers and their fellow guardians of the cosmos.