Of youth, trends and the Malaysian threat

October 31, 1999|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder/Tribune

YOU PARENTS out there should be aware that the young people have invented yet another alarming trend. I frankly wonder why we, as a society, even allow young people, inasmuch as all they ever seem to do is think up trends that we do not approve of, such as sarcasm, tattoos, and referring to pioneering rock- music geniuses of the '60s as "old" just because they are dead or in comas.

I found out about the latest alarming youth trend thanks to several alert readers who sent me an article from the Straits Times of Singapore. This article, which I am not making up, begins as follows:

"TAIPEI -- Some young Malaysians are sniffing cow dung to get high, according to a lawmaker. 'They look for fresh cow dung and, on locating it, put a large tin can over it, pierce a hole at the top and sniff through it,' Perak state assemblyman Mat Isa Ismail said on Saturday. He said that this was becoming a trend."

Did you hear that, parents? Young people are sniffing cow dung, and it is becoming a trend.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself: "What do I care what goes on in Malaysia? I'm an American! I don't even know where Malaysia is, nor do I care, unless there's a mall there."

You pathetic fool. Do not be casually dismissing Malaysia just because it is a foreign country located abroad. Today we live in a global village, which means that if young people on one part of the planet come up with a stupid idea, they can communicate it to all the other young people in the world instantly over the Internet, or rap music, or wearing their baseball caps at a certain angle. Believe me, your children know what's going on in Malaysia! It just so happens that many youth trends come to this country from Malaysia, which is considered by young Americans to be a very happening place. In fact, when modern American youths wish to express generic approval, they often use the slang expression, "Whoa, that is so Malaysian."

So do not be one of those naive parents who go around saying, "My little Courtney would never sniff cow dung!" Instead, watch your child closely for the Five Warning Signs of Cow-Dung Abuse:

1. Your child constantly pesters you to drive him or her to a farm so that he or she can "do some chores."

2. When you go to the supermarket, your child asks you to bring back 1,600 pounds of hay.

3. At night, you hear loud mooing sounds, which turn out, upon investigation, to be your husband using the bathroom.

4. But then, when you look in your child's bedroom, you find: a cow. When you demand an explanation, your child says, "Oh, that belongs to Stacey."

5. And your child does not know any "Stacey."

In addition to watching for warning signs, you must keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your child. Take an interest in the things your child is interested in so that you can develop a rapport, as we see in this dialogue:

Father: What's that music you're listening to, son?

Son: It's a band called "Limp Bizkit," Dad.

Father: They stink.

I always made a point of communicating with my son as he was growing up, and it has really paid off. Now that he's away at college, he often calls me up when he needs advice or counsel.

"Dad," he'll say, "I have to make a decision that will affect the whole rest of my life, and I want to be absolutely sure that I choose the right path. Do you think you could send me some money?"

You should strive for this kind of closeness in your relationship with your child. And remember: If worse comes to worst, there is no parenting tool more powerful than a good hug. If you sense that your child is getting into trouble, you must give that child a great big fat hug in a public place with other young people around, while saying, in a loud, piercing voice, "You are my little baby and I love you no matter what!" This will embarrass your child so much that he or she may immediately run off and join a strict religious order whose entire diet consists of gravel. If one hug doesn't work, threaten to give your child another.

You must be tough, because research shows that children who experiment with so-called soft dungs will eventually want to try something harder, and I don't have to tell you what that means. It means snakes. So let's nip this problem in the bud, parents. Let's talk to our children, and let's write letters to President Clinton urging him, next time he has a scandal and needs an international crisis, to shoot missiles at Malaysia. But most important of all, let's scrape this stuff off our shoes.

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