Taken from a Facebook dialogue on the fashions of droopy pants and face piercing. What does it mean? Is it just gross? Well, that may be the last word as to what the fashion means: It’s gross. If offends parents and the adult society. That’s the whole point of adolescence. Face piercing looks gross too. It’s a punching of American youth. Youth always divides into two groups. When I was in school in the 50s it was the Fonz with Elvis hair, T shirts with rolled shoulders and a pack of cigs in it, levis, and a comb. The other group had short hair and sweaters. So this divide moves down through the generations; divide the good sons who want to be like the Parent and the rebellious sons who want to be the opposite or the Parent.
I think the two fashions, while serving the same purpose have different messages, besides just evoking disgust in the adult population. The body disfigurement speaks of a change in the way one owns one’s body. It is as if one wants to punish the body, like yogis piercing themselves and sitting on nails to show their separation from the body. Perhaps both fashions speak of separation and the pain of separation.
The interesting thing about these fashions that create disgust in the Adults is that you have to keep stretching the disgust and top the last disgust. So the pants keep going lower and the rings keep getting added. Everyone wants to be on the leading edge of the Disgust Wave. At some point the advance of disgust stops and begins to retreat. At some undefined time, the outgoing tide shifts to incoming.
Western civilization is unique in that it created adolescence, which is the delayed transition from childhood to adulthood. Previous civilizations, particularly primitive societies have initiation rites that moves the child from the mother to the world of the father and the tribe of men. One day you were a child, the next day you were a member of the tribe. No adolescence. Today the only initiation rite we have that turns the child (or adolescent) into a man is the military. Today’s adolescence are suspended in time, looking for their lost rite of passage. They may physically grow up, but they remain emotional arrested, and still attached to the Mother.
So these adolescent fashions that separate the adolescent from both childhood and adult hood create a Tribe of Adolescents where they seek safety from the chaos of finding their adult identity in a clearly defined intermediate tribe.