Scott Hardie | July 23, 2005
Forget Tragic Comedy. I think this is the right attitude with which to be discussing current events: (link) Anybody want to add a few new awards to their tally?

Amy Austin | July 23, 2005
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter won the award as Stupidest Man of the Year.

HAHAHAHAHA... thanks for a moment of mental laughter there, Scott. ;-)

Jackie Mason | July 23, 2005
[hidden by request]

Scott Hardie | July 24, 2005
My nominee for stupidest teen trend of the year: The "pass-out game" (which even has a stupid name). (link) I thought huffing was the dumbest way to get high until I came across this. I guess I've been an adult for too long, because I can't remember being dumb enough to think this activity wouldn't be life-threatening.

Runner up: Anorexia-promoting web communities for teen girls. shudder

Jackie Mason | July 25, 2005
[hidden by request]

Scott Hardie | July 29, 2005
All teens do dumb things, some doing more dumb things than others. I was luckily interrupted during a few forehead-smackers of my own back then. But hanging yourself from a noose to get high? With no other kids around to help you? This requires a spectacular amount of poor judgment. My kids can play all the Grand Theft Auto they want if they promise not to hang themselves.

Jackie Mason | August 9, 2005
[hidden by request]

Amy Austin | August 9, 2005

I can't help but think that you may be going a bit too hard on your co-worker -- did she actually confirm that the purpose was to "get high by hanging yourself"... I mean, did she really present it that way??? And was it a regular thing, or was it really just "one of those stupid teenage moments" that she learned her lesson from?

Jackie Mason | August 11, 2005
[hidden by request]

Amy Austin | August 12, 2005
Well, I suppose it's true that you know her better than I do... maybe she did it a few too many times after all and killed some crucial brain cells. ;-)

Scott Hardie | August 12, 2005
Based strictly on the facts shared, I don't think Jackie was being too hard at all. It really is a foolhardy practice. I hope that if there's anyone here who engages in the practice, they don't mind me calling it like it is. Someday I'm going to die from overeating, but that stupid practice takes decades to kill you, not seconds. :-\

Amy Austin | August 13, 2005
Well, I suppose that this may be one of those times that I should just nod and keep my mouth shut, thus preserving my pride in being an “intelligent” woman! But I guess that for me, the memory of having participated in such a ridiculous “game” is more indicative of my naivete as a teen than of anything else. Forgive me, if I seem to be “getting nostalgic” in places – I assure you that reminiscing is not the point of sharing one of my life’s more embarrassing moments here – but memories have a knack for complexity of emotion and a way of being far more intricately woven than the surface retelling of them can present. There is an element of humor, yes, but also a humiliation factor… and it's more of the "Pathetic Geek Stories" variety than of the semi-sinister “do-anything-to-get-your-buzz” (a la autoerotic asphyxiation) kind.

See, I wasn't searching for a cheap high... and it wasn't even really presented to me as such. I was only 12, or perhaps *just* 13, I think -- and really quite pure and innocent by any generation's standards, let alone today's! But I had a friend... who, of course, was just a bit of a bad influence. (She introduced me to The Cure when they were still considered pretty dark & underground in the US... ooohh! But, seriously, I think she was also a little more of the "sneak-out" type of girl, too...)

Anyway, we were having a sleepover at my house one Friday or Saturday night -- and my folks were going to be dining out that evening. My father, who trusted me implicitly (and had never been given any good reason not to), had no trouble at all with leaving us unattended for a couple of hours, but my "evil step-monster" was annoyingly suspicious of us and "had a bad feeling about it all along", he later revealed to me. It was annoying because, like I said, I had no prior history of misbehaving, and she (having just been married to my dad for a mere matter of months) did not know me at all well enough to make such judgments – I was about as much of a troublemaking teenage girl as Jan Brady. However, on this particular occasion she had good reason to suspect.

Because somehow, my friend had convinced me (and make no mistake, she had to work at it -- I didn't think it was a good idea at all -- but of course, I wanted to "be cool") to let her invite her 16-year-old! model (fashion, not role) boyfriend over while my parents were out. I had only seen his picture, and he was indeed *hot*... and -- of course -- he also wanted to bring over "a friend" (“not cool”, I thought, and -- as it turned out -- *not* hot, either!!! :-p) But I relented to the peer pressure. And it would seem that not having a history was likely key in arousing the suspicions of my step-mother, since I think I gave her the third degree (okay, maybe only the second ;-D) about their plans that night, which – in the end – was what caused her to persuade my father to call it "a night" early.

Well, "Tom" and his friend "Joe" (who looked even older, in a very delinquent kind of way) showed up at a pre-arranged time, and they behaved themselves well enough. We put on some Cure, and I trusted them enough to go and shower while they socialized. When I came back out, everyone was looking very distinctly bored… especially for kids involved in illicit behavior. Not wanting to chance my parents’ early return, I was rather ready for them to leave… but they were all like, “oh, we’ve got time!” I was hoping that Tom’s friend certainly didn’t have any expectations (I had only recently been kissed for the very first time and was definitely reserving judgment on that), and I wasn’t really enjoying the feeling of “being cool”.

I can’t remember whose bright idea it was – I think it was Joe’s – but I do remember how it was presented. “Hey, let’s play that game we saw at that party…” “Oh, you mean ‘pass-out’?” “Yeah!” I didn’t know what it was all about, but it was basically put to us like this: it’s like a voluntary sleeper hold, and when you start to pass out, you’ll feel all weird and dreamy… or tingly, or something. I hadn’t enough worldliness at the time to realize that this essentially meant “an artificial high” – I had never done any substance experimentation at that age (didn’t try pot ‘til I was almost 21, thank you very much!)… about the worst thing I’d ever engaged in by that point was letting another more JD-esque friend of mine talk me into sneaking one of the leftover bottles of champagne from my folks’ wedding over to her house, where I gave myself the absolutely most worst instant hangover ever by having a Big Gulp-sized Mimosa (which I didn’t even know then was the name for champagne and orange juice, haha), and I never drank again until college (the up side of allowing your teens to make their own mistakes, I think). (Incidentally, I think it was actually on this same visit that I got my first kiss from her older brother the night before. He smoked and was a terrible kisser… I would have sworn that I had just licked an ashtray, and his pucker was what I imagined to be the equivalent of kissing a duck’s bill! Didn’t do that again for a while, either. ;-D)

So, naturally… my friend went first – I was still a little skeptical about the “fun factor”. I watched as they stood in front of and behind her, with two hands around her neck. She was instructed to take a deep breath and hold it, which she did, and it was only a moment later that she seemed to faint to the floor. She didn’t really “pass out” like they had intended, though, and she said she felt all weird and tingly. It didn’t appear to be a totally pleasant sensation for her – just “weird”. So at this point, my curiosity kicked in. I said that I would try it, too, but that they had better not just let me hit the ground… they had better catch me if I really did “pass out”. They agreed to do so and stood ready to catch my fall. Having just watched my friend do it, I felt surprisingly trusting, and the potential danger of it – also surprisingly, I guess – never even entered my mind.

I say “I guess” because I really don’t know that I knew any better at that age. I don’t recall ever learning about the effects of hypoxia before this event. I mean, I think that this is what is really eating me about this discussion… I find it just a little bit odd how it seems to be assumed that we should all “know better” as pre-teens and teenagers, that we have all learned and assimilated the same things at the same points in life. Isn’t this really what we mean when we say that someone must be “an idiot”? Isn’t it just a bit hypocritical for us to judge the behavior of those 5, 10, 15, or more years our junior, with our “wiser” eyes??? With all the advantages that time and experience bestow upon us, how fair is it to assess the normal curiosity of youth – especially one who may be quite sheltered – as pure dumbass behavior??? Maybe all those moments of condescension that we have all had to endure from our elders (“one day, you’ll understand… one day”) really are flashes of insight into the next generation – it’s just a shame that, like an electrical current, they only seem to be capable of flowing in one direction… and an even bigger shame that they are so fleeting.

Jackie Mason | August 13, 2005
[hidden by request]

Amy Austin | August 13, 2005
Oh, man, Jackie... you are so right, you have no idea -- every time I see those stupid actinic keratosis (AK) commercials, I start freaking out... I swear I have these discolorations on my forehead! They aren't rough/scaly/red like the info describes, but it is sort of patchy-like scarring or something -- enough to make me regret my sun-worshipping days! I wasn't as bad as a lot of women can be, but I do remember mixing up the iodine and baby oil to hang poolside in junior high (with the same JD friend, in fact!) Shit, this photo right here was right after a pretty good toasting just a couple of years ago in Guam (click on the full pic, and check out my chest!) -- tropical sunburn there, baby!!!

I don't mean to make it sound like I ran with a bad crowd or anything -- these are very isolated instances during one year of junior high, really... not a regular group thing. My first friend (the one whose brother kissed me) found her little group right after us, actually, and I know they were a bad crowd (parties, drugs, etc.) -- we starting falling out when she started hanging with them and totally lost track of each other through the rest of high school. I was kind of tired of being the "goodie" next to her, anyway -- you know, the one that guys always passed up because she was cuter (and put out).

My other friend (Tom's girlfriend) tended to have a smaller circle, I think. We only used to have one or two classes in common -- I think we met up in an algebra class. Like me, she seemed to favor having one or two good friends at a time -- and she sort of went in the direction of the Goth loner, I think. Not all out make-up and shit, but you could see the influence was definitely still there (sort of an Emily Strange kinda' chic... maybe like Janeane Garofalo). I don't think she was a real bad egg, just eager to grow up, maybe... like most of us who can't stand our parents.

Primarily, though, I lost contact with most of the girls that I was friends with earlier on due to academic segregation: I was in more advanced classes than they were. I even lost one friend after the 5th grade, because she was held back that year... the next time I saw her was in a shared art class when she was a sophomore, and I was a junior! Is it just me, or do the kids that get held back really go to seed?!?!

Anyway, yeah... like Scott said, "all teens do dumb things..." (Sigh) I guess that includes me, too. ;-D

Scott Hardie | August 13, 2005
Well, I think the problem with teenagers is not that they lack good judgment, it's that they simply don't use their judgment when they should. As you wrote Amy, it never crossed your mind whether the act might be dangerous, and the dangers of getting high are something your parents and teachers should have made you do a lot of thinking about. I really do think any educated teen is capable of recognizing the dangers of getting high if they stop to think about it, but most don't/won't.

Besides, most drugs won't kill you unless you overdose; I'm not talking about smoking a joint here. And I'm not even talking about strangling yourself with your bare hands until you feel a little tingly, which isn't really dangerous either. I'm talking about making a noose and hanging yourself from it, especially when there's no one around to help you get down: How young do you have to be not to realize that's dangerous? And we're not even getting into erotic asphyxia here; having your lover choke you is bad enough, but doing it to yourself while alone? Putting a bag over your head or a tight noose around your neck until you orgasm? I don't think there are too many morticians who engage in the practice after seeing people die from it.

Amy Austin | August 13, 2005
Oh, I didn't say that I wasn't "educated" about the dangers of "getting high" -- there was plenty of anti-drug propaganda around at that time, and I knew all about hallucinogens and narcotics... and inhalants, too -- those were the Reagan years! "Just say 'no'!" was Nancy's pet mantra!!! I'm saying that I never drew any correlation between the ability of smoking pot to kill brain cells and a momentary lack of oxygen to the brain -- after all, people survive drowning with much longer periods of hypoxia! (I'm not advocating it here... I'm just explaining the so-called lack of judgment -- or ill use of it -- in the mind of a 13-year-old.) I suppose that it may also be part of the danger of using inhalants... although, at the time, I thought it was more about the chemical contaminants and their effects -- I never would have "huffed" glue or aerosols then, either. Let me reiterate once more -- I wasn't in pursuit of what I thought to be a "high" when I decided to play "pass-out"... I never equated our non-chemical behavior with any of this -- the link just wasn't apparent to me at the time. Do you honestly remember when you first had a full understanding of such a thing?

As for the nooses, plastic bags and such... of course, I would never have thought to engage in such bizarre behavior -- I don't even think I ever really heard of it until a couple/few more years later, and I thought it was rather kinky and *really* stupid for the obvious reason of items of strangulation that you wouldn't be able to remove from yourself. (And yes, I am certain that both morticians and ER techs are privy to the some of the darkest and deepest eccentricities of human behavior... I've heard some real gems in my adulthood, many from my own husband.) But that doesn't mean that bare hands aren't really dangerous, either... especially if they aren't your own. I guess I didn't really finish the story, but my "pass-out" was real -- I was knocked out.

The next thing I knew, I was being shaken awake by the three of them, all wide-eyed and full of concern. I couldn't understand it, because I felt as though I was being awoken from a deep sleep... one that I had been in for about 2 or 3 days -- it took me a moment or two to fully recognize what was happening, and then I remembered what it was we were doing there. I had a tremendous headache, but it's hard to say if that was really a direct effect of the hypoxia, because as I drew my hand over my wet head (just showered), my friends *really* became frightened. Yes, I had quite the little goose egg there, along with the tiniest of lacerations -- not even enough to qualify for stitches -- but that doesn't matter when it's a head injury. I smeared blood across my face without even realizing it. When I saw their shock, however, I looked at my hand... and then I became angry that they had let me fall and hit myself on the fireplace hearth (one more failure in risk management). But they all insisted that I was caught gently to the floor and that I had actually convulsed myself into hitting the brick hearth. I was skeptical for quite some time and had no choice but to believe them, but I've since come to think that it probably was the truth. I don't know, and I never really will -- I was PASSED OUT.

So, immediately, the scramble became about stopping my head bleed -- which involved the bloodying of a blanket and many towels, washcloths, and dishrags... all of which I was going to have to explain to my folks when they came home. I remember feeling so extraordinarily sleepy and begging my panicked friends to just let me sleep it off, that I would be fine if I could just get some rest. They were adamant about keeping me awake, though, under the premise that I could slip into a coma if I fell asleep with my head injured (another new thing I learned that day... I guess I was rather ill-equipped to be a risky youth, heh). Tom especially went out of his way to amuse me and keep me alert, even offering to let me keep this really cool little shiny, almost heart-shaped, pocket stone of his that I had been admiring earlier in the evening (one more first for me -- I had never seen hematite that I knew of -- and I still have that piece, too)... if only I promised to stay awake. I did... I was enthralled and entranced by the magical stone.

Once the bleeding abated, I guess we all decided that this would be the best time for them to take their leave of us, and we thought we had fashioned a good teenage lie to cover up all our stupidity: my friend and I had just decided that we wanted to listen to some music and do some dancing in our den, where I clumsily tripped and fell onto the hearth. Case solved. My parents arrived about another 20 minutes later, I suppose, and by then I was pretty okay. Only (because of my step-mother's suspicious nature) they didn't buy the lie. They grilled me and my sister -- who was only about 9, almost 10, and witness to it all -- separately, PD-style... with good-cop/bad-cop tactics, even! It was the first (and last) time that I ever felt bold enough to attempt an outright lie to my parents, because the failure of it convinced me that I was a horrible liar ever after. (In reality, though, the combination of my step-mother's tenacity and my sister cracking under interrogation was what killed the cover.)

So there you have it -- that's the full story... and the last time I really ever hung with that friend outside of algebra and the school lunchroom. Having your parents talk to someone else's parents really does something to awkward up a friendship. I don't know what ever became of Tom & Joe, whether she stayed BF/GF with him or not (I suspect that it wasn't much longer, though, really -- she was grounded after it, and he probably had himself a pretty good scare). I suppose that was probably one of the better things that came of it -- aside from my own personal lessons -- because I somehow doubt that the "pass-out game" was ever suggested by either of them again (well... I don't know about Joe -- he may have already been playing for too long, for all I know!) ;-D

Patrick Little | August 15, 2005
By the way I do not think that people are strangling themselves to get high. I think the following is more likely the case.


Scott Hardie | August 15, 2005
They're two different things, as I already mentioned.

Amy Austin | August 15, 2005
Good Lord... apparently it's true what they say about masturbation and blindness!!!

Scott Hardie | August 15, 2005
Good story, Amy, and very evocative of your points. It definitely helped me remember the dumb things I did as a teenager and lied (often unsuccessfully) to my parents about. Where's that Pathetic Geek Stories discussion when we need it? Anyway, I don't see how we're in disagreement about why teenagers do what they do; apparently our only big difference is that I call such behavior stupid and you don't. :-)

Amy Austin | August 15, 2005
No, that wasn't it, really... although I was using a specific context to distinguish between "stupidity" and "naivete".

I was once pretty naive (and perhaps may even still be, to a very slight degree), but I would never say that I am -- or ever was -- stupid. (And I realize here that probably very few people in the world would call themselves "stupid"... even though many do exist -- making this a somewhat subjective qualification where something like a "vouch vote" may be necessary... ;-DDD)

Was the behavior itself "stupid"... then and now? Sure, but I think that exposure to/of such activities -- once seemingly held secret among youth (as the original article you posted tells it) and then somehow forgotten by the previous generation as a pointed tale of "don't do that!" -- is much greater "now" than it ever was "then"... so yes, I suppose that it does sound as if I may be positing that it isn't, in reality, "stupid behavior". Not so.

In my somewhat sensitive defense of -- not only my own intelligence -- but that of the stranger to me that Jackie mentioned as "being a complete moron", my only objective was to point out that yes, indeed, this might have only been "one of those stupid teenage moments" as was being discussed earlier... not that this poor woman is, in fact, "a complete moron" as was suggested. The frequency of said behavior also had a lot to do with this... if it was only a one-time experience (as was the gist of my own story), then how could it possibly be any stupider than another instance described as just "one of those stupid teenage moments" (smoking pot in the forest preserve) if, in fact, far more discovery of knowledge specifically relating the risks of other such behavior admittedly exists and is *much* likelier to be an activity engaged in regularly by a teenager??? (Or, at least, it once was -- my story was actually the first and only time I had ever heard of doing such a thing... I was never exposed to it again -- except in hearing of the auto-erotic asphyxia years later (freshman or sophomore year in college, I believe), which is a separate, but not entirely unrelated, thing.)

Once Jackie had replied with an indication that she had given new consideration to this possibility, I backed off of the total possibility that the co-worker mentioned is, in fact, "a complete moron" by saying that she also does know more of her daily behavior ("vouch vote!") and whether or not it was actually a regular thing for her to do back then better than I do, and so she is better qualified to judge... but only independently of this past behavior, if it really was only "one of those stupid teenage moments". (I wasn't even holding the generational age differences that I already mentioned against the poor girl... only assuming her "innocent until proven guilty" -- but Jackie was probably right all along, if it really was for her and her friends "the cool thing to do" and she spoke of it that way.)

Get it? ;-)

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