The Bug House Files

You can stick your teenage kicks

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Bottom of the league: a British teenager yesterday.

Bottom of the league: a British teenager yesterday.

This month I am 46 – and while I have never welcomed the onset of middle age, news this week has convinced me that I’ve never had it so good.

Better than if I was about to turn 16, anyway.

For a start I’d almost certainly be fat, especially if I was a girl. According to experts in Leeds, the waist of the average 15-year-old girl has expanded nearly 13cm (5in) in the past two decades, leaving over 60 per cent of 16-year-olds clinically obese.

I’d also be thick. This is how British teenagers have been portrayed by the latest global education statistics, which out of 65 countries place them a dismal 23rd at reading and 26th in maths.

To compound matters the chances are I’d also be bullying myself online, if we are to believe the extraordinary news that increasing numbers of youngsters are setting up anonymous cyber accounts for the sole purpose of abusing themselves in chat rooms.

And even if I wasn’t a fat, self-harming thicko the chances are I’d be a flare mule. These are the youngsters who, according to the football authorities, are routinely used to smuggle potentially lethal flares into soccer stadiums on behalf of their hooligan dads.

If this is western civilisation, is it any wonder we increasingly look enviously at China and South Korea, where teenagers not only top the global education league but are mostly thin?

We should not be fooled: according to a BBC report this is because they are “hothoused”, attending both school and evening classes and often racking up 18-hour days in the fanatical pursuit of betterment. Unsurprisingly, the Far East also tops the charts when it comes to instances of juvenile depression, mental illness and suicide.

Jesus – and there was me with the temerity to wish my knees didn’t ache, my hair wasn’t grey and I could remember people’s names. Compared to the lot of the world’s tormented teens, the inevitable slide into decrepitude is a walk in the park.


Author: Jim Ford

I'm an author and journalist. "The Bug House" series of Tyneside-based crime novels is published in 2014

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