The media is not kind to teenage boys. They portray them as inarticulate, lazy, grunting beings who like to sleep all day, eat all of your food and play video games. They are stereotyped as being loud, smelly, entitled and self-absorbed.
Having taught teenage boys and now living with a teenage boy (please send wine), I can attest that SOME of the generalisations are true:
Teenage boys do stink.
The fug emanating from a teenage boys room (or from the boy himself after 3 days on camp) has to be experienced to be believed. The smell is a heady mix of boy sweat and body hair and hormones.
Sweet baby Jesus, teenage boys can fart.
Nothing can destroy a moment of blissful silence more effectively and completely than a meticulously timed, well executed teenage boy fart.
Teenage boys fart like they live their lives: with reckless abandon.
Like their farts, teenage boys are loud and can be physically intimidating.
They exist unapologetically. They take up space: lots of it, and are seemingly unaware of where their body ends and others begin.
They eat. So. Much. Food.
At times their physical presence can assault every single one of your senses.
They are SO MUCH MORE than just the stereotype.
Teenage boys are hilarious. (Honestly, they are hands down the funniest human beings on the planet).
And fiercely loyal.
They forgive quickly and completely. (Having also taught teenage girls, I cannot tell you how much this statement deserves a Hallelujah!)
Teenage boys are a mass of contradictions.
Even if they seem to be unaware of where their bodies end and others begin, put them on the football field, the basketball court, or at the end of a cricket bat, and you will witness the most amazing synergy as their bodies perform superb feats of athleticism.
They will barely blink an eye in response to their uncanny ability to lose a school hat, shin pads, their left footy boot and a ridiculously expensive blazer all in one week, yet their reaction can be off the scale when they lose a game on PS4.
They are growing into their bodies faster than their brains.
They are realising their strength, while still being incredibly vulnerable.
They have a keen sense of justice and moral outrage, matched only by their ability to loudly burp the alphabet.
They are spectacularly bad at explaining how they feel, but extremely good at showing you.
They possess so much love, even when they don’t like us very much.
They respect clear boundaries, even if they constantly push against them.
They crave human connection, but prefer to punch and shove each other than to hug it out.
It is their physicality that makes them look intimidating from the outside, while making them feel connected from within.
For as they are pushing and shoving and jostling their way through each day, they are simultaneously walking the fine line between “boy” and “young man” and “bloke”.
They are growing into their masculinity just as surely as they are (slowly) growing into their brains.
Yes, they are growing into men in a world that privileges men, that is true. But at the same time they are being bombarded by warnings against toxic masculinity and feeling that the world hates them nearly as much as it fears them.
What a tightrope act, eh?
So when I look at the teenage boys around me, those I know and those I live with, I do not see the stereotype. I do not judge them on the teenage boys they are; instead, I look into their eyes and see the good men they are in the process of becoming.
And that makes me smile.