Teen Speak 101: A Miserable Attempt at Figuring it Out

Are you “woke“? I wish I were, but my teenager certainly doesn’t think so. Most of the time I’m trying to keep up with what he and his friends are talking about, listening to, or interested in. Sometimes I can get “the tea,” but usually I’m just lost. I’m amazed at how this kid of mine is speaking English, yet “on my mom” I’m lost.

My son’s music is very important to him—and not just because his earbuds are almost surgically attached. He knows a lot about the lives of the musical artists that he listens to. Some of those lives are full of crime, drugs, arrests, and more. Some of those lives include college degrees and activism. He feels that they speak from the streets and have good stories to tell. Kendrick Lamar is one of his favorite rappers. Some of his lyrics have become so ingrained in my kid’s everyday conversation that I have had to take note of his music, like it or not. My son does refrain from the explicit lyrics in front of me; he knows I won’t stand for that. He and his friends discuss which songs are “lit” and which ones are “trash.” He thinks most of them are lit; I think a lot of them are trash. But, surprisingly, there really are some hidden gems in some of that music. “No cap.”

Video games and music both contribute to so much of teens’ lives and vernacular. Dance moves are an example. But these dance moves are not just reserved for the dance floor. Anyone can bust out a dance move, such as “The Woah,” while waiting to be picked up from school. Some of these dance moves come from video games like Fortnite; others originate with musical artists. 10K.Caash, a rapper and Dallas native, graced us with “The Woah.” My son follows him on Instagram, of course.

Clothes are super important to my son and his friends. I never knew boys could be so into fashion. My son pays a lot of attention to shoes. I’ve heard him remark that certain shoes are “clean.” He doesn’t like to have the same shoes as everyone else. But that seems odd to me because I see so many teens in Thrasher t-shirts and Polaroid hoodies. Yes, my son has those. Nevertheless, if an outfit is a cold fit, it gets the recognition it deserves. A$AP Rocky fits this description. This rapper is often in GQ and is collaborating with Under Armour on a fashion line. How do I know this? My 15-year-old told me.

I got another lesson on popular fashion last summer when my family went on a family vacation to Los Angeles. Everyone got to pick something they wanted to see or do. What was the move? My son’s first pick was going to a Supreme store, one of three such stores in the country. To me, the store seemed threadbare: a concrete floor and two industrial metal racks of hanging items with each item enclosed in plastic. What did we buy? Well, since we aren’t “balling,” he got a sticker, a button, and almost purchased a $60 t-shirt of the week. Clothes are “dropped” once a week and some end up popular with a high resale value—as in, one of those $60 t-shirts can be resold for up to $2000. Crazy! Next, we headed to Flight Club, one of two stores in the country, which sells shoes. More specifically, they sell sports shoes that are very expensive. Some of these shoes are well over a thousand dollars, in used condition. Some of these shoes are enclosed in glass. A big, burly employee walked around and wasn’t interested if we needed help. We left empty-handed, but my son was happy to have seen so many “dope” rare shoes.

When my husband and I try to tell my son that good grades and healthy food is “fire,” he shakes his head. When my husband said, “I’m shining,” my know-it-all teen laughed hard. “I’m dead, Dad,” he chuckled before trying to get my husband to promise he’d never say it again.

We know we can never keep up or be as in the know as my son and his friends. But we learn from him, and he laughs at our ignorance and wrong use of all these “cool” phrases. We tease him right back and have fun making him cringe. This is just another part of having a teen in our house. We keep up as best we can so we can decipher a little part of his world. Will we get it all? No, but that’s “ight.”

Texas born, small town girl who always felt like I had lived other lives in other places. I went off to college and somehow ended up in beautiful San Antonio. I met my future husband who had lived other lives in other places. After getting married, we moved out of state. Once we had our little souvenir, we moved back to Texas with a baby boy. Later, we added a daughter to complete the family. I work full-time as a school librarian and, on occasion, find time to do a little traveling and a little sleeping.