Jul. 23rd, 2014 02:40 pm
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
[personal profile] liv
Some of my friends have been talking about how our 14-year-old selves would think about 2014, and that's interesting enough I thought I'd put it in its own post rather than in the comments on a locked journal article.

I was 14 in 1993. I think the furthest ahead I could imagine "the future" was probably about 2010, maybe 2013 at at push. Everything in the mid 2010s, both in terms of how the world would be and my own personal life seemed just too distant to imagine. I sometimes tried to imagine what my 30th birthday would be like, but I don't think I even had a concept of looking back on that date from five years on.

Career-wise, at 14 I was still answering the question "what do you want to do when you grow up?" with "junior school teacher", but I don't think I'd have been surprised that I ended up as a biology lecturer in a university. I had already planned to go to Oxford and read biochemistry, and I was toying with the idea of getting a higher degree in the subject. I was a few years from discovering what has become my actual scientific passion, I might have said genetics rather than cell fate or cancer, but again that would only have come as a mild surprise. I would have imagined the details wrong, but yeah, having a little flat on campus and going in to work and giving lecturers and seminars or into the lab and doing science, that would make sense to me.

On the other hand, if you'd told me at 14 that I would be married by now I wouldn't have believed you at all. I was completely convinced that I was terminally unattractive and completely uninterested in any sort of romantic or sexual relationship. I also regarded marriage as a means of exchanging independence for security, primarily in order to bring up children, and I was completely (and correctly) convinced I never wanted children and had no particular desire for security but a passionate yearning for independence as that was the main thing missing from my generally happy but fairly regimented teenaged life.

I had no idea that being attracted, let alone attractive, to women was an option. I considered the idea I was asexual, though that wasn't really an identity category in those days, more a biological deficiency I suppose, because I was both a late bloomer sexually and also never was and never have been attracted to teenaged boys. I would have been pleasantly surprised at 14 to find I have so many good friends now, but honestly I'm a bit surprised even at 35 that so many wonderful people like me and want to be part of my life. But the idea of lovers, past and present, completely unthinkable. I think partly I had absorbed from my background some disapproval of sex outside marriage, but thought of giving up the possibility of sex as a very minor sacrifice or possibly even an advantage.

14-year-old me, who was just trying for the first time and not very successfully to grow my hair out (I was not allowed to try until I'd had my bat mitzvah), would have been absolutely delighted to know that I now have hair long enough to sit on. At 14 I was also just starting to have some input into choosing my own clothes and trying, again with limited success, to develop a personal style. I can see a path for how I dress now developed from how I was trying to dress then, probably the key insight I was lacking was that with my high-waisted figure, untucked shirts look a lot better than tucked in ones, even though everybody around me considered loose shirts to be non-smart. I wear somewhat less purple than I'd thought I might, but still quite a lot.

What about the broader world? I know it's obvious, but the biggest surprise to 14-year-old me would be the internet and the Moore's law expansion of computers. The only way I could explain my current reality to my kid-self would be by referring to the eponymous Guide in Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. I would have been absolutely bowled over to think that that the technology to make that possible would not only be invented in my lifetime, but would be available retail for no more than a few weeks' wages. I think I could have grasped some of the implications of having comprehensive, highly searchable reference libraries in your pocket, but I would have been completely fazed by the social implications. The fact you can talk to anyone, anywhere in the world at any time, in real time or asynchronously, in text, voice or video, the fact that anyone who has anything to say can publish and broadcast their ideas, and all this is just a part of the infrastructure that you pay a monthly subscription for like you do for a phoneline with no further costs beyond that, would have been incomprehensible to me.

Lots of people have talked about the difference the internet makes to being able to research stuff about sexuality, beyond the control of parents and teachers. I find it hard to imagine how my life might have gone if I'd caught some clue about Queer stuff before I was 20. My feeling is that my biggest problem as a teenager was not that I didn't have access to the internet, it's more that the information simply didn't exist. Almost nobody was talking non-judgementally and informatively about sexual and gender diversity. I imagine myself trying to explain to my 14-year-old self, look, kid, you're not asexual, you're bi, and you just happen to have a very strong preference for fully mature adults. But teenager!Liv had no possible context for this information.

I think the one thing my 14-year-old self would find most shocking, most alien about 2014, is that LGBT people (she didn't even know any other sexual and gender identities existed) would have legally enshrined equality. There would be actual laws prohibiting companies and organizations from discriminating against people attracted to others of the same sex. The accompanying social change is almost more surprising than the legislation that's resulted; the idea that most people would be entirely open about non-straight sexualities and relationships, the idea that it would be considered unacceptable to be homophobic just like it's bad to be racist, just mind-blowing. (I'm not saying homophobia has been eliminated, any more than racism has, just that it's generally considered to be a bad thing.)

Same sex romances being completely run of the mill in soap operas and TV shows, and the plot's not some dark thing about navigating homophobia, it's just the usual relationship drama, out trans celebrities and journalists, obvious, not just sub-textual, Queer content in pop-songs... Male-male or female-female couples getting married, the whole deal, putting on fancy clothes, announcing their weddings in the newspaper, inviting their work colleagues and schoolfriends and random cousins and in-laws, not just a secret group of close friends who are in the know and have carefully been sounded out for whether they're "tolerant", that concept is almost more surprising to my teenage self than the fact that those marriages are also legally recognized.

In many ways the world has turned out far better than I could have imagined at 14. Yes, we're still fighting in Iraq and there is still violence in the Middle East, but I don't think even as an idealistic 14-year-old I really thought that would be sorted out in twenty years. I don't think I would be that surprised by 9/11, I grew up in England not the US and I expect terrorism in one form or another. Indeed, I would have been and was, a few years later, pretty surprised by the amount of progress that was made in Ireland culminating in the Good Friday Agreement. I went and checked the dates and yes, by the time I was 14 I knew communism was over and boundaries were going to be re-drawn all over Eastern Europe, so I would be sad but not surprised to hear about ongoing conflicts. The Rwandan genocide was only a few months away, and yes, I was shocked by that. And environmental catastrophe seems more imminent than it did when I was a kid, though we were already starting to talk about green issues and global warming. Still, socially and technologically, 2014 looks in many ways more futuristic than I would have predicted, even if I had tried to imagine that far into the future.

So, what do you think, what would your 14-year-old self have made of 2014?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 02:00 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
I'm not sure what 14 y-old me would have made of the modern world at large, because I don't really know what the wide world was LIKE when I was fourteen. My experience was so narrowly bound to my semi-rural location, small school, and rural public library. I didn't really discover internet message boards until the following year.

So 14 y-old me would probably be raging jealous of the kids these days, with their tumblrs and their geek communities, but then, if the internet use rules in my house were different, and if something had come along to give me a push (in the end it was a blurb in a Cecilia Dart-Thornton book for her fansite - I'd already checked out Tamora Pierce's Sheroes.com and not clicked there) I could've discovered all kinds of things, and people (including my now best friend, if i'd gone to harry potter sites instead of LOTR!) many years earlier.

14 y-old me's eyes would bug out to discover how many queer people there are in the world, including me. But the fact that queer people exist was presumably a readily available fact (as opposed to a hypothetical and cause for theological debate, in which I am proud to say I took the side of justice, on the grounds that things opposed by my school were probably good things) to kids in the early 2000s, either those who lived in more cosmopolitan surrounds or who went out of their way to find out.

Aside from the question of sexuality & relationship styles (oh, and athiesm, that would be a shock), though, 14 y-old me would, if given a precis of my life now, feel smugly validated. And probably high-five me. And want to talk about Arthurian lit. As I said to my class, the first time I taught an Arthur specific course: I have achieved the apogee of my teenage ambitions. I have found a place for teaching without dealing with highschoolers. I get paid to read and talk about literature. People tend to like this about me instead of picking on me for it. The strategy of picking prestigous but not inachievable educational goals and going after them like a terrier after a rabbit has been repeatedly successful. If 14-year old me were shocked about this, it wouldn't be about what's become of *me* so much as that it turns out to actually be true that people can do things like major in medieval studies, or move to europe to do more medieval studies.

And 14-year old me would probably be quite relieved to hear I'm not married and don't plan to be, even if the alternatives chosen would boggle her. (On the grounds that my schoolteachers would disapprove, she'd probably gamely congratuate me, despite total incomprehension.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 02:03 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
Actually, the one thing about my life that would be most surprising to my fourteen year old self: I have friends. Many of them I've had for years. Some of them stay friends with me after I move away. I have dinner parties and people come to them. People voluntarily interact with me outside of school.

But then *I* still find that surprising.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 02:47 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
Hah, yeah, the progress from 'fellow outcast bonding' to 'diverse friends' is a great one. And probably the real factor here: I *had* friends at 14, but not ones who really clicked, we just fell out as default equals on the social ladder. We had progressed to meeting up over school holidays, but few (or rather, few PARENTS) were interested in driving the distance to my house/town, and I was very hesitant about organising things lest it all fail.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 02:37 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
On reflection, my 14 y-old self would be very surprised to discover that it is my *intellectual* positions, the capacity for critiquing myself and the culture around me, that leads me to a state of non-conformity. I was very clear that it was a bad idea to adopt my school's moral-religious outlook uncritiqued: I had been raised with a soft-skeptic outlook, I guess, from a liberal christian mother and fairly conformist athiest father, but in the context of my school, I had come to understand myself as she who adopts radical, rational positions such as 'dinosaurs, they're a thing' and 'damn right my church has gay ministers' (this was just *before* the big early 2000s round of denominational angst about gay ordination, so the idea had not been raised in my congregation, but I abruptly discovered that we were considered not real christians by certain of my teachers).

For all that, I thought of myself - still do think of myself - as boring, conformist, rule-abiding. The fact that in the adult world, the capacity to go "mmmm... marriage-like-pair bonding... nah" and work out an alternative is much more non-conformist than whether or not you always do your homework, or enthusiastically engage in class. Wow.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 02:41 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
And it was a great shock to me that the adults who give you cookies for critically thinking about such things as dinosaurs do not necessarily give you cookies when you explain that no, you're not uncomfortable sharing rooms with your bisexual friends, because, what, that's illogical! That was a sad disappointment, because to me, those were similar intellectual processes: yup, dinosaurs. Nope, nuffin' inherantly wrong with sex outside of marriage. Huh, bisexual (after rapid calculation of etymology on first hearing), cool, that's nice for you.

Fortunately I'd discovered that the authorities I liked were not as keen on bisexuals as on dinosaurs BEFORE I came out.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 02:44 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
I wasn't quite ready to articulate to myself that it was directly applicable to me but I somehow sensed that it was really important for the pro-gay arguments to prevail.

I had absolutely no idea that the gay ordination notion might apply to me, except in a 'could be leading my congregation' way, but my god, I was not going to stand for exclusionary logic. I got completely stumped, though, by my mother's assertion that she supported Resolution 84 (qualified approval) but would not want a gay man as minister, because that's *creepy*. I always had the impression she thought gay men were particularly a threat to women and girls, which makes no sense at all. The concept of lesbians was not raised. I'm pretty sure mum still doesn't quite believe that two women would voluntarily have *sex*.


Date: 2014-07-24 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you.

I hope my acceptance of non-heterosexual relationships is supportive and not just a passive tolerance. At the same time, I still do a slight double-take at the physical side of male homosexuality but not female. Otherwise, my only reaction to gender identity issues is a very deep sympathy if (while) they cause problems.


Re: Non-heterosexual

Date: 2014-07-28 08:29 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
At the same time, I still do a slight double-take at the physical side of male homosexuality but not female

Slight snort :) This is not uncommon, and amongst the things that amuses me is that most anal intercourse - which is what is usually meant by this - involves a woman.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-29 10:57 am (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
I think it's partly the 'gay priest>pedophile' thing, but also, some women are particularly threatened by effeminate men. My mother's report on her experience of having a gay colleague in her youth focuses on his handbag-carrying ways, and I think this might connect to the germaine greer style 'gay men/drag queens/etc co-opting women's oppression' objection, only not thought out in any clear way in the case of my mother.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 04:46 pm (UTC)
vatine: Generated with some CL code and a hand-designed blackletter font (Default)
From: [personal profile] vatine
I think the thing that would have surprised 14-year-old me, back in the dark mists of 1985, is that we're still alive in 2014. It would have been an even bigger surprise to 7-year old me, being as it was that I was sure there'd be an all-out nuclear war, any day now.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 05:49 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Meeeh. West Antarctic ice sheet going means "sometime in the next few centuries, likely this century, there will be a decade in which sea-level rises by a number of metres which may be as low as 1.2 or as high as 10". Greenland, if it goes, which is far from certain, would be of the same order or somewhat more. Both of those are disasters on a colossal scale, but "rendering the planet uninhabitable" strikes me as excessive. The East Antarctic icesheet, which is iirc about 70 metres worth of sealevel rise, would take a runaway greenhouse feedback loop on the scale of centuries to happen. Conflating this with plausible climate change concerns in the current conditions is worrisome to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 05:54 pm (UTC)
rysmiel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rysmiel
I felt I could believe in the future between 1989 and 2001, fwiw.

There are times when I wonder whether the Cold War might not yet turn out to have been better for our long-term viability as a species than the scale of instability we have had since, which tends to mean my blood sugar is running low.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-23 10:02 pm (UTC)
ewx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ewx
I would argue that the Cold War was extremely violent and unstable if you happened to be in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos[1] or Afghanistan. Maybe Iran or Iraq though given that the USA and USSR weren't the primary combatants it feels less safe to attribute that one to the CW. Maybe also Yugoslavia on the grounds that it was an after-effect of the CW.

[1] which AIUI is still suffering casualties as a result of UXO

Far more so than the 2000s, at any rate, though how this decade compares I'm not so sure, it's late and none of the convenient war-deaths-per-year graphs I can easily find go up to this year.

Compared to an all-out nuclear war with the arsenals of (say) the 1960s onwards this is all small beer of course. I'm not convinced that's the only route to not having the CW though.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-24 08:03 am (UTC)
vatine: Generated with some CL code and a hand-designed blackletter font (Default)
From: [personal profile] vatine
My understanding (imperfect as it is) is that both Iran and Iraq were variously sponsored by the Soviet Union and the US, to battle for/against communism/capitalism and providing a bastion of stability in the region for whatever block happened to sponsor them. I suspect (but cannot prove) that there would still have been antagonism between them, so it was just something the two blocs exploited.
From: [personal profile] daharyn
So I'm 2 years younger than you and I definitely have the same optimism--but I don't think my sibs do, and they are two and four years younger than me. It was a reeeeally tiny window.

I turned eight in '89 and I learned about the wall for the first time as it was falling, as we didn't talk much about other countries in school before that year. My childhood idol/hero was Samantha Smith--though my parents shielded me from the details of her early death and focused on her travels to the USSR. When I was about twelve, my younger sister actually got to travel to post-Soviet Russia for a couple of weeks, and we later hosted the young Russian girl she'd stayed with, in an international exchange. So I never had an understanding of the Cold War as anything other than an archaic thing on its way out. Now in fact, I was born into an era of heightened paranoia and nuclear standoff in the early Eighties. But when I was conscious, and able to retain memory, everything looked like it was on the way up.

In the US the 90s were a time of economic prosperity and stability that has since gone extinct--people are now too entrenched in a fear-based politics for that to ever happen again. And yeah, global capitalism is kind of wretched if you're living outside what I learned to call the "First World" back then, but as a teenager in what was then considered the lone remaining superpower, I had it pretty good. When I went to look at colleges and make a decision about where to do undergrad (as most people do in the US I chose the school long before I decided on my course of study there), all I heard about was how people were graduating into a world of competing job offers. And in my case, the myth of meritocracy was prominently at work--this idea that I could so totally go from subsidized housing for the poor to an Ivy League school, that I could do anything or be anything I wanted. There was a tangible sense that the world was mine for the taking.

Then I went to college and by the time I graduated there had been a terrorist attack and we were going to war in an extended fashion for the first time in my life. (Gulf War I was a blip on my radar in Grade Four, but no one had the sense that that war was going to change American culture--it was promoted to children, certainly, as a humanitarian intervention.) The truth is, of course, that American military power and economic forces were at work in the world throughout my life, often in ways that had negative consequences for people in other countries, but I was the embodiment of what those efforts were designed to protect. Then I woke up one day in September as a college student in NYC, and I went to a French exam and heard all these sirens zooming down Broadway for hours and hours and hours... I've never again been as scared as I was then.

You know, it's funny, but I do think that in the end, I get more optimism than cynicism from my experiences in 2001. I thought of myself as a peaceful person before then, but I reacted strongly against the military actions of the next decade from the very beginning, and became much more emphatically anti-war. I don't know how anyone could experience the NYC of September 12 and not be optimistic about the future. And yet I know that tons of people became more security-focused, scared, went and enlisted--people had all sorts of reactions, as they are wont to do. Still, I just kind of can't help but feel like there's hope, and that's a big part of how I view both the world and my own individual life. And I feel like the inevitability of my belief is largely because of that tiny window, when you could, if you were in the right situation, truly be born into a world that was designed to enable you.

(NB: I'm white, cis, have had uncommon access to education my whole life, and experienced more class mobility than many. I don't discount any of those advantages here.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-24 09:58 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
14 year old me had the internet (at school, and I think also at home on the awful dialup) already, but would probably be amazed at how much faster and more awesome home internet connections are now. 14 year old me had surprisingly unfiltered internet access at school and would probably be horrified at the amount of "for the children" filtering that is now fashionable :(

At that age I was very into fanfic, which introduced me to LGBT issues in a roundabout sort of a way. I'm still sorta surprised that "mainstream" society has got it's head around these things at least a bit, and that we can now have same sex weddings.

By 14 I'd made some geeky friends, and had the notion that "my people" were out there... I don't think I'd be so surprised to learn that once I was free of parental restrictions on my social life that I found nice people to be friends with. I think I might have been surprised to know that I'd find some nice men to be in relationships with.

I think I'd be disappointed that I turned out too stupid to be a physics researcher, but not amazed that IT was a good back-up career option. Much less surprised than my parents that a Cambridge degree is not a ticket to untold riches.

The world has been going to hell in a handbasket for as long as I remember, I don't think any of the current news is something I would have specifically predicted at 14; but I think it would surprise.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-26 03:58 am (UTC)
geekosaur: orange tabby with head canted 90 degrees, giving impression of "maybe it'll make more sense if I look at it this way?" (Default)
From: [personal profile] geekosaur
I was 14 in 1978. Pretty much everything I do or am involved with now didn't really exist back then; yes, there were computers of a sort, but if you had presented our world today to someone, they would have assumed it was a century or so in the future.

(As for what I thought of it, well, perhaps the less said the better. I got to spend my childhood wrestling with a fairly severe form of what would eventually come to be known as Asperger's.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-26 08:01 am (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I was 14 in 1994/1995. I realized my bisexuality within that year, and had just started the process which would lead to acquiring a relatively large and viable group of friends.

Once I had wrapped my head around the idea that same-sex relationships were a thing which could happen to me, I assumed that same-sex marriage would be a thing. It was only when I reflected on it a little more in-depth some years later that I fully realized that it was not actually legal.

I had no clear career plan, but I would have been pleased that my job involves solving interesting problems and spending time on the computer. I would have been pleased as punch that it involved running an office, and having fellow Star Trek fans around. I would have fainted from glee at learning that I would get to meet real Star Trek actors in 2014. (I nearly fainted from glee in 2014, so that hasn't changed much.)

I would have been angrily envious of modern ease of communication. I'd already basically lost my best friend from when she moved away -- twice (same friend) -- and I would have given nearly anything to be able to send letters as fast as I could type them, talk on the phone nearly as long as I wanted for an affordable price, and talk on the phone from nearly anywhere.

I would have been surprised at my actual skill with computer administration and troubleshooting. Mostly I viewed them as convenient tools to produce writing and art, and the idea that I could trade my easy way with setting them up and fiddling with the settings into an actual thing that people paid me for would have been startling. Despite being raised by a programmer.

I would have been surprised that I was not married. I discovered a propensity for pair-bonding early, and expected that upon finding a suitable partner, I would tie the knot post-college.

I would have been very surprised that I did not finish college. It was expected of me. I had not yet discovered that there were many more things I liked better than school, although I still love learning. My dislike for schoolwork is no surprise.

I would have been surprised and delighted that I learned to fluently sit down and pour out nonfictional reflective words on arbitrary topics.

No one promised me a rose garden, but they did promise me a moon colony. The wonder and glee of watching a live video link, or instant replay video recording on a portable wonder box that barely weighs anything at all, of an astronaut singing from a space station, and instant communication on a widely-adopted global communications platform where nearly anyone can talk to nearly anyone else, and there's the chance to be heard and responded to -- would that have made up for the lack of moon colonies? I certainly couldn't have imagined it. The regrettable telepathy which was a plot point in the novel I was working on -- text messages can nearly fully replace that.

I was remarkably politically unaware, so the realities of life outside my little bubble all came as surprises when I encountered them. I had heard about many things, but they didn't really dent my reality.

But communication. The ease and global adoption of communication is really the big thing. It was so amazing that my father had friends in Russia, and the grad students he adopted had come from China. But voice was so expensive, letters were so slow, and telegrams were dodgy and very short. And now there is Twitter and astronauts tweeting FROM SPACE.


(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-28 04:38 am (UTC)
umadoshi: (tea - mug with heart (iconriot))
From: [personal profile] umadoshi
This is a somewhat random reply (and also meant as a hello, since I've just subscribed to you!), because I'm trying to consider the actual question but only getting back thoughts on what my 14-year-old self might have made of my current self (at 36).

Very interesting discussion topic, though!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-28 08:25 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
At 14, I had had the sense to get a good sex ed book, Boys and Sex by Pomeroy and someone who wasn't a collaborator of Kinsey (actually also the Girls and Sex companion volume as well!) So I knew that various behaviours were much more widespread than society let on.

The effects of Moore's law continue to amaze and delight. I am still in awe at the power of my four year old smartphone. In 1976, microcomputers were new, but I wanted one. Knowing how many I would have, that I would actually build (more than) one, and how they would change, would have been nice.

"You'll still have the copy of the Terrible Swift Sword board wargame in 2014, although you won't have played it in a while."


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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