My eldest daughter turns16 this spring. In a rather neat reversal of the fashion dictates which have ruled Canadian society from its very inception, the young males are allowed to promenade in color and elegant plumage while the girls shuffle along in a remarkably innocuous looking, lumpen-proletariat herd.

Or maybe they’re taking their cues from the ducks, which populate the river in our neighborhood. With this lot, it’s the girls who most readily submit to buzz-cuts of military severity and purchase baggy wardrobes in dim emulation of the Bob & Doug McKenzie House of Workwear Fashions.

In matters related to sexuality and procreation, this generation (or at least the sample with which I am most familiar) also presents a few new wrinkles. I’m not sure which is more remarkable; the incredibly high number of her associates who believe they’re homosexual (I’m estimating we’re looking at about 25 percent) or this generation’s boredom and exasperation with anyone (such as me ) who might question these figures or speculate on what they mean.

That orientation thing

Sexual orientation doesn’t matter, they claim, and anyone who asks questions or points out inconsistencies between the stated positions and the actual behavior of homosexuals, is a slithering, homophobic, gay-bashing bigot.

Still, the opposite sexes do get together on occasion as reflected in the mini-baby book\m now underway in my daughter’s circle. At a recent screening of a video at a friend’s house, it was realized that all three of the boys present were either fathers or expectant fathers.

Significantly, none of the girls in the room were the respective mothers.

The good news here is that my daughter’s circle has nothing but contempt for the arguments of abortion advocates. “How can you not acknowledge that human life is underway from conception?” they ask. “And that anything which deliberately terminates that life is an act of murder?”

The bad news is that these mostly white, middle-class Canadian kids are now beginning to recreate the pattern which we have come to associate with mostly black, welfare-class, American inner cities. Unemployable rogue males are temporarily useful for the impregnation which will get young mothers onto government relief.

But, in order for those cheques to come through in the most reliable way, the father must disappear from the picture. Usually, these nominal fathers are all too ready to comply with a situation that encourages their complete irresponsibility.

Shortly before Christmas I paid a visit to an open house which was being held at a shelter for single moms here in London. It was an eye-opening occasion for me. In conversation, a counsellor referred repeatedly to the teenaged mothers as “kids.” And indeed, the terrifying impression I received was that, psychologically, these mothers related to their babies like animated Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls who only existed to delight and fulfill them; that these mothers weren’t yet capable of acknowledging or honoring the individual reality and integrity of these new human beings.

Baby problems

The counsellor talked about how personally these kids take it when one of their babies begins to cry during a favorite TV show, or just when they’re expecting a phone call from a friend. “They think the babies do it on purpose, just to get at them.”

One 16-year old mother dandles an infant on her lap who was one month old that day. For this special occasion when the public and media would be coming through and asking questions, this mother had chosen to wear her favorite T-shirt, bearing the stark-eyed visage of Kurt Cobain, her generation’s most celebrated case of suicide. This mother seemed blissfully untroubled or unaware of any conflicted messages that her appearance might send. I’m afraid I stared in visible anxiety at this stark vision of a young and vulnerable representative of the culture of life set against a backdrop celebrating the culture of death.

In times so intractable screwed up as these, it’s hard to not dwell on the possibility that disorder on this scale might be a harbinger of apocalypse. Has it ever been thus? Have earlier generations worried that the human species is in mortal danger of forgetting how to raise our young?

(Herman Gooden is a freelance writer and editor residing in London, Ontario)