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Generation gap
"Do I want my son to be a nerd?"

January 19, 2004
The Iranian

My sixteen year old son walks around the house with a slouched back and lips pointing south. "I'm bored." He declares.

I surprise myself as I understand how he feels. Lacrosse season has started and, for the first time, he's not in the team. His friends will not be free for a few more hours, and unless he has someone to chat with, the computer won't be of any use to him. Homework is for the nerds and health club for the middle aged and books only interest older people.

"Go walk the dog." I suggest. He gives me a look and I am once more grateful to realize that looks still can't kill.

I try to come up with a solution. What did I do at his age? It has been years, but I remember.
My school hours were much longer. The bell rang at four, but I would not be going home yet. After school I attended the Newspaper Club to do some art and a bit of writing. The walk home took another half hour and homework swallowed the rest of my evening.

Dinner was around nine-thirty and I had no choice but to attend. After dinner, if I had finished all my work, I'd be allowed to join others in front of our single small TV set and watch whatever happened to be on. The youngest in the family, my turn to read the new magazines came a few days after their arrival and books were provided only as gifts and not frequently enough. I could not use the family bookshelf for the fear of exposure to political books or-God forbid-the x-rated poetries of Iraj Mirza. Once in a while, someone had the courtesy to do the crossword puzzles in pencil. What a thrill it was to erase the whole thing and start over.

Weekend meant one day off. Thursday night provided a family gathering at a relative's home or, if we were lucky, the movies. It did not matter what we saw as long as we went to the first "séance" of the first night because it meant all the young people would be there. In a society where the youth had limited freedom, looking at each other intrigued us much more than any feature film.

Most of Friday belonged to a prolonged bath, haircut, nail clipping, and an extra load of homework. Also, in honor of this one day-off, radio programs became more interesting and meals a little more elaborate. Shopping meant to buy the necessities and, with any time left, we invented our own games. Once in a while, we played back gammon with my father or my uncle would invite us to a low budget card game.

With so much to do, I don't remember boredom.

I look at my poor son's life. What is left for him to do? Every corner he turns there are televisions, videos, films, books and computers. There's no thrill left in them. They are just there. Why go for a walk in fresh air if you can slouch in your computer cave? Why socialize with a group if you have two and a half buddies who know how to play video games? Why read if you're smart enough to guess the answers?

As I recall my younger days and that simple life, I am filled with a deep compassion for the new generation. Technology has given them the tools in exchange for their imagination, entertainment in exchange for their time. A generation who has come to realize that success doesn't necessarily come with knowledge, better education, or hard work. Who was this Bill Gates who managed to single handedly change the rules?

I feel for every one of these young people and see why they are bored. When there is no attraction to beauty, nature, books, good music or poetry, when all of what used to be beautiful is saved for the nerds, life can be boring.

I ask myself, "Do I want my son to be a nerd?"

Considering how "nerds" continue to listen to their parents, I'll have to think about that.


Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a freelance writer, poet and artist. She lives in San Diego, California. Top

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By Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani



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