MARCH 29, 1958
HYDE PARK —I went to see the Broadway play "Blue Denim" Wednesday night. It is well acted and holds your interest throughout.
It is a distrubing play because most of us who are older, whether or not we actually have had the experiences of the parents and children in this play, can find echoes here and there of misunderstanding and unfair treatment and a lack of perception of what is really going on in the heads and hearts of our adolescents.
The truth of the matter is, I think, that too few older people have the patience to give the time to young people which would allow them to slowly dig out of themselves the strange experiences and developments of the adolescent period.
I am sure that adolescents find it just as confusing and difficult to understand themselves as their elders find them difficult to understand, so we should help them to talk out loud to a sympathetic and silent audience, but I am afraid we rarely do.
Someone said to me in connection with the play that there are two ways of being brought up. One is the way that predominated for many generations, with strict mental, moral and physical discipline and very strict "do's and don'ts" in which the enforced standards perhaps were some protection.
The other way is the freedom that is given young people today to talk more freely, to think for themselves, to decide for themselves. There is one exception to this, however—i.e., they are told very little about sex, with certain of the old disciplinary attitudes being retained in the approach to sex questions. This is a kind of hypocrisy which breeds confusion and misunderstanding among the young people.
"Blue Denim" actually gives no answers as to how the generations should handle their problems differently. The one thing that seems to come out of it is that a "good family," under real difficulties, even tragedies, sticks together and grows closer, perhaps really gains understanding. At least they learn to talk.
The one other thing they learn is that real love accepts people with their weakenesses as well as their strengths. You like to respect and admire someone whom you love, but actually you often love even more the people who require understanding and who make mistakes and have to grow with their mistakes.
Sometimes I think that the younger generation has seemed to make more mistakes than the older ones for the simple reason that they have not been given such black and white values.
I can remember my mother-in-law saying, "Why don't you tell the children that that is wrong?" And I weakly respond, "Because I am not quite sure that in certain circumstances it is wrong."
There were no shades of values for us, and we were disciplined in those days to make the best of whatever life turned out to be. Our younger generation, however, has often had a vision of perfection and tried for it and failed because perfection rarely exists and it is only through real effort that one grows to approximate a realization of one's dreams.
(COPYRIGHT, 1958, BY United Feature Sydicate, Inc.)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 29, 1958
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007
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