By Lisa Earle McLeod www.forgetperfect.com
“This is a total nightmare. The flowers are the wrong shade of papaya, the dwarf missed his entrance cue and now the band’s security detail is blocking my entrance to the stage.”
The First Lady sweating the details of this state dinner? A bridezilla agonizing over her wedding arrangements? No, it’s the most spoiled teenager on the planet, spinning out of control as she barks orders to the team of professional party planers hired to make her over-the-top, $350,000 Sweet 16 party absolutely perfect.
I have a new favorite TV show, “My Super Sweet 16.” Yes, a grown woman is addicted to a reality show on MTV. And yes, there are enough crazy, rich people out there spending six figures on a Sweet 16 party to make a series about it.
Each week, the show profiles one overindulged teen after the next as they plan a mega-budget, coming-of-age bash. Or I should say, viewers watch as a hormone-crazed, cash-flush teen pouts, whines, demands and spends as much money on a party as you would an Ivy League education. (Which might be appropriate, because I don’t think too many of these kids are headed for a career in academia.)
It’s like a train wreck: I know I shouldn’t watch, but I can’t bear to look away. These kids are so awful; they’re mesmerizing. And their parents, people who seem to have more money than God, make me feel as virtuous as Olivia Walton.
Cameras capture the behind-the-scenes drama as the teens and their families lurch from one so-called crisis to the next. A girl’s couture dress from Paris might not make it in time for the party: “Daaaaddy, (foot stomp) do somethinnng.” The event planner can’t get a raised platform large enough for the music executive’s son to cavort with his 25 hired dancers: “Man, this is my big night. If you mess up, heads are gonna roll.”
It goes from fully loaded MP3 players as invitations to princess-like entrances, where the star of the night – a child who has achieved the grandiose feat of reaching driving age – is carried on a silk chaise lounge by a crew of shirtless, gladiator-costumed young men. It’s one part gross consumerism, two parts payola parenting and three parts spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. (Lest you think I’m exaggerating, visit mtv.com.)
My daughters and I spent last Sunday parked on the couch for an all-day marathon of the show where they counted down the 10 Blingest Bashes. As I watched parent after parent lavish riches upon teens who only asked for more, I realized that my grandmother’s wisdom was right: You don’t do your children any favors by spoiling them.
These kids are never happy. And they make everyone around them absolutely miserable. Their friends live in fear of being cut from the guest list, the eager-to-please party planners roll their eyes behind the kids’ backs, and their parents are so worried about pleasing the teen, they never enjoy the actual experience of loving them.
There’s no inherent virtue in being middle-class or poor, either. There are plenty of whiney brats pestering their parents at Wal-Mart. It’s not wealth that’s making these kids so unhappy. It’s their sense of entitlement and their inability to be satisfied with anything less than perfection.
Unfortunately, their parents never gave them the gift of learning to take responsibility for their own happiness. I was feeling like an over-indulgent mom myself for letting my kids watch such trashy TV, but after seeing one teen agonize over designing her $50,000 Sweet 16 tiara, my 14-year-old daughter said, “Boy, I sure do feel sorry for her future husband.”
God, I love television.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.ForgetPerfect.com. .
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