This week, I got to watch some 13-year-old girls at the pool. It was quite the eye-opening experience.
First of all, they looked way too cute for 13-year-old girls. We need an international memo reinstating The Awkward Years. Somehow, they have simply disappeared. Generations of girls are reaching adulthood without Embarrassing Sixth Grade Photos, and this is not okay. It is part of being human, like stubbed toes and intestinal gas. Indelible part of life, like it or not.
The first official thing for the girls to do, of course, was to take a selfie. Twenty, actually, because they couldn't quite get the look they were going for.
Once the selfie was perfected, they settled back on pool chairs, ostensibly uploading the pics to Instagram or Snappy Chat or whatever the new thing is called.
It was eerily silent for a good long time, as they all pecked and scrolled away on chevron-coated devices. Every once in a while one of them would stop texting to offer a comment, and they'd all chuckle. But in a few seconds, it was back to the screens.
After they barely had time to get sweaty, someone's mom called (I presume), and they slid the phones in their bags and left, braids still Taylor-Swift-perfect.
At the risk of sounding like a Cultural Eeyore with her Granny Panties in a wad, I have to say it.
It was heartbreaking.
No kind of life for a kid.
Can I tell you what I did when I was 13? I too was at the pool, with my crazy best friend Sheila. After cannon-balling in, we'd adjust the wedgies in our clearance-rack bathing suits and ride pool noodles like horses. Then we'd wash our hair in the tile waterfall, laughing at our George Washington-style wigs.
If we got tired, we'd lay back on weathered blue rafts and talk about nothing, rotating around like hot dogs in a rotisserie. And that was it.
It was a blissful, childish, boring life for a 13-year-old. Just as it should be.
Please, do not for a SECOND think I am judging them, the girls I saw, the mini-Taylor Swifts with the iPhones. Because if I were in their shoes, it's not likely I would have done ANYTHING A SPECK DIFFERENT.
Heck, I'm a mom now, 20 years the wiser, and if I were to visit the pool with a friend and a free hour, I'd do the same stinkin' thing -- be absorbed in my own device (or exert a hefty amount of willpower not to be).
But it's a crying shame.
Isn't it? Isn't it a shame? It's the death of summer right before our eyes, along with everything it stands for -- relaxation, beauty and fun.
We simply cannot go anywhere without our phones, and when we bring them, they hearken to us, interrupting every conversation, every memory, every thought even.
And you listen. Don't think I'm all, "Technology is evil." Clearly, I have a blog. So there's that. And how in the world I EVER FOUND MY WAY ANYWHERE WITHOUT ENDING UP LOST IN MEXICO before Google Maps, we will NEVER know.
But we all must recognize that something happened the day wireless Internet was born.
The first time someone could check his email while waiting for a pound of ham to be sliced, it all changed. We may have gained the ability to order high heels at a stoplight, but we lost something, too.
Something very meaningful.
1. We lost the habit of looking up. Up is so boring, you know. Wispy clouds and trees and birds. Same old, same old. No siree, back to the entertainment.
2. We lost meaningless conversation. Yes, meaningless. Sure, we still talk. But that blank space - (The Moments After You Pick Up Your iPhone) -- that space used to be filled with something. It was ambling, careless, comfortable nothing-talk that's the stuff real friendships are made of. I know. (You know, from Sheila and the pool noodle days.)
3. We lost the ability to be bored. And yes, that's a bad thing. If I am bored for .45 seconds now, I GET VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. I find it really fascinating to daydream about My Life Before The Internet. What did I do, waiting at dentists' offices? How did I fall asleep when the lights went off? What in the world happened in those eight-hour car rides? I know what happened. Life happened.
4. We lost the ability to simply enjoy moments. Now we must capture them on our phones and prove that they happened. Last night, we went to the rodeo. We watched a bull prance around the ring for ten solid minutes, refusing to be caught. It was hilarious. We saw fireworks so close the ashes landed on our thighs. It was a sweaty, dusty, wonderful night. And the whole way home, all I could think: I didn't get a single picture. No one will see this. Ugh. Bad mommy. How ridiculous! Like the mommies of centuries before me, I always hold those memories in my heart, and it doesn't matter one darn speck if no one "liked" the photo.
5. And finally, as if that is all not a loss tragic enough, we lost something else:
We have lost reading.
Reading BOOKS, that is. Which is different (it must be noted) from reading people's Facebook comments or even blog posts.
Oh, you're being silly, you say. People still read books. Maybe. And if you are one of the few who reads a lot, I applaud you thoroughly. But for me, for my part, I'm sad about all the time my iPhone fills, when I used to freely pick up a book.
And maybe I'm a grandma at heart, but I'm just sad about the changes. I'm sad I don't read more. I'm sad I don't set a better example to my kids. I'm sad I can hardly spend time with my family without a nagging thought that I'm missing something. Which is ironic, of course, because I AM missing something.
I'm missing life.
I've said it once, I'll say it again. I'm locking this stinkin' thing up. On the charger, it goes. And in it's place, a book, a real live one, with pages. I want to show my children what real summer looks like. (Ugly bathing suits and all.)
This post originally appeared on the blog Smartter Each Day.