I turn on the Today Show this morning innocently enough, and discover that teenagers are being admitted to the hospital with alcohol poisoning because they are drinking hand sanitizer.
Back in my day, being admitted to the hospital for alcohol poisoning was something that didn’t usually happen until you hit parties at college, but even if you started drinking way earlier than college you at least had the sense to drink potable alcohol, like Everclear or Zima or Bartles & James wine coolers.
Hand sanitizer. It’s positively Darwinian.
I understand that their little adolescent brains are going haywire and cause and effect doesn’t lay itself out the same way for them, which is probably why most high schools don’t require any kind of statistics class. (Reliable? Yes. Valid? No.) But holy hell, drinking hand sanitizer is just like drinking rubbing alcohol, which every three-year-old can tell you not to do.
Years and years ago I met someone involved in product research for Procter & Gamble, who told me that they’d noticed some strange sales patterns for Vicks Vap O Rub in a small town among the 16-21-year-old demographic. They investigated, and it turned out that the teenagers were using the Vicks as a sexual lubricant.
I’m gonna let that sink in for a few seconds.
This was not some special cooling lotion or a Hall’s bj, this was actual Vicks Vap O Rub clinging to your delicate parts, soaking into your mucus membranes, not easily washed off and lingering for hours and hours. With menthol. And these teens were buying it in enough volume that corporate researchers noticed it.
I know some of you who didn’t like my piece about American parents not being horrible are going to say that probably the children of Tiger parents and les enfants francaises don’t do things like drink hand sanitizer. This may be true. However, Tiger parents don’t leave their offspring alone long enough to access the hand sanitizer, and the French kids are getting crocked on actual wine with dinner from the age of 14 and don’t need hand sanitizer. Plus, the Vicks story was from another country, so it can’t be that only American kids have stellarly poor judgement.
My grandfather used to tell my mother “Keep your head with you” when she left the house, and she used to say that to me. Out of habit, I say it to my own kids, but now I’m beginning to worry that I’m going to have to explicitly state ALL the things they shouldn’t do when they go out as teens: “Keep your head with you, keep your hands to yourself unless specifically asked, don’t drink poison, don’t use poison as a sexual lubricant, don’t text and drive, don’t text dirty pictures of yourself with your head in the shot, don’t set things on fire, etc.”
We used to only do the stupid things we could think up, but now we have an entire internet’s-worth of harebrained teenage schemes to choose from.
How will our species survive?