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The Death of Meh

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Daughter,

We’re a couple weeks into the new year. Everything feels bright and shiny and new, right? Totally. When I asked you if you had any resolutions, you said: “To be more awesome.”

I like a kid who thinks big, if a bit on the abstract side. You’re 11.

But if you don’t have any concrete resolutions for yourself, perhaps I could be so bold as to suggest one for you. Far be it from me to foist resolutions onto someone else… but there’s this thing you’ve started doing that really, really bothers me. You’ve only done it a few times, and I know it’s just the result of some Middle School peer influence, but I want us to nip it in the bud before it takes a stronger hold:

Please retire the word “Meh” from your vocabulary.

Increasingly, I’m hearing more and more people, adults and kids alike, using the word, articulated in a bland, emotionless tone, to refer to something they have absolutely no feelings about. No reaction. Pure non-response. (“How was school today?”  “Meh.”  “So did you like the movie?”  “Umm… It was Meh.”  “Hey, how’d you like the lasagna I spent two hours making for us last night?”  “I don’t know, it tasted sort of Meh.”

It’s the verbal shrug. The audible deadpan look. The one-word blank stare.

I gotta tell you: I hate “Meh.” I HATE the apathetic, Whatever-ishness of it. I feel like Meh became a touchstone piece of jargon a couple years ago, and permeated the culture quickly. If someone can’t conjure up an opinion, or they don’t want to spend any amount of time thinking about something to figure out how to have an opinion about it, they issue this single non-syllabic word. It barely even requires any facial muscles to to say it. Meh.

Generation Meh is unemotional about everything. They walk around with the belief that they’ve seen it all, done it all, and are subsequently bored. Generation Meh stands on the edge of the Grand Canyon, looks around at the blazing color, the prehistoric majesty, takes it all in… and then sums it all up:

I get a lot of Meh in my classes at Oversized State University. I’ll assign some reading about a current issue, one that actually affects their lives, something I’m convinced everyone will have an opinion about.  I’ll tell everyone that we’ll be discussing the article next class, so it’ll be important to read carefully and really think about what their opinion is, how their opinion was shaped by their experience or upbringing.  Just think about it, I urge them, and come to class next time ready to share some thoughts.

But when they shuffle in the next day after having read it, and I ask them what their response to the article was, I get a big, collective… “Meh.”

No! I tell them. No meh!  How can you go all Meh on this article?  It’s about gun control!  Are you saying you have no opinion about this?  About the tragedy in Newtown?  About the second amendment?  About gun laws vs. gun education?  About, about, about… anything?

Meh.

It doesn’t happen all the time. And even when it does, I can usually ask enough open-ended questions to stir up some semblance of a response. But Meh happens often enough to frustrate me. Even scare me, sometimes. Apathy is frightening. Apathy can destroy cultures. I do understand where it comes from. It’s not cool to care about stuff. I get it, I lived it when I was a kid. Showing enthusiasm is a crime, especially in high school. But you, my girl, are 11 years old. You’re too young to cultivate such a blasé, seen-it-all attitude, shrugging your shoulders, telling the world, “Nope, not impressed.”

The other day, you used it to refer to a book you’d just finished. I asked how you liked A Wrinkle in Time. You thought about it for a second, and said, “I don’t know… it was sort of meh.”

No big deal, some say. Sometimes, we just don’t have much to say about something. But I disagree. If the book didn’t do much for you, that’s fine. Just figure out what your response was, and why. Just think about it before summing it all up with a collective nugget of emotionlessness.

It’s hard not to become a little jaded as we get older. The more you see, the harder it is to be impressed. Or outraged. At least, that’s what some people believe. Personally, I never want to look at a beautiful ocean sunset and have its beauty be so typical and unremarkable to me that all I can say about it is “Meh.” I don’t want to read about a legislative decision that affects all our lives, and just shrug it off: “Meh, that’s the way it goes.”

I don’t know how to keep you from becoming a member of Generation Meh, O Daughter of Mine. But they’re not going to get you without a fight.

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