Comment: Is Gen Z missing out by growing up too fast?

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: ‘Started from the bottom, now we’re here’ is a phrase I am well acquainted with. At 27, I am much more aware of fashion trends, makeup and what looks good on me and what doesn’t. But looking back to when I was in high school or the years leading up to high school, I cannot help but cringe at myself and wonder how I thought I could get away with what I was wearing! But it wasn’t only me. By far and large, girls my age feel the same. We sit and laugh at our choices and as terrible as we feel we looked, we all revel at how simple life was and how innocent we were. But it seems as though Gen Z has skipped out on that age of innocence.

A couple of years back, while I was in my first year of university, I subbed as a teacher in an all-girls school. A 20-year-old law student teaching 15-year-old girls. Never have I ever felt more conscious of my physical appearance than I did in those two months. Perfectly arched eyebrows, manicured nails and not a hair out of place, I felt like a slob compared to these girls. At 15, I wore glasses bigger than my face, the baby hair on my head had waged a war against me and my nails were stubby, to say the least. So then how did these Gen Z girls go from cute, innocent kids to grown up looking women? How did they skip an entire age of innocence?

To be fair, I probably do sound like a boomer yapping away about “when I was your age” comparisons but it’s hard to ignore how the new generation is in such a rush to grow up that they end up missing the best, most uncomplicated years of their lives. There is always an allure to looking grown up, not that there is anything great about being an adult, but at what cost? We’ve allowed our girls to grow up faster than usual and in doing so, they are becoming hypersexualized without even knowing it.

A perfect example of the hyper sexualization of young girls is at mehendis. Girls, as young as 11-years-old, are suddenly dancing to item numbers. Dressed in clothes fit for adults, moving their prepubescent bodies to provocative dance moves, they are being cheered on by adults who should know better. Did the girls watch these item numbers and feel the need to emulate the moves? Or were they encouraged by their elders? Since when did we, as a society, do away with “age appropriate” standards?

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Girls, because they dress and act like adults, start to believe they are adults and their priorities change as well. Long gone are the days when they would ogle their crushes from afar. Their new agenda will be to experience a full blown out love affair. More dangerous is the fact that they will seek out older men, who have no qualms exploiting young girls, because they think boys their age are too immature for them. The focus shifts from things that are important like studies and the innocence of growing up and instead, becomes about emotions and experiences adults have the capacity to deal with.

As far as the boys in the Gen Z age group go, they too, are convinced that they’ve grown up quicker and so rules and laws don’t apply to them. They start driving at a much earlier age and make terrible road decisions and stay out late hours of the night. They experiment with drugs, all inhibitions gone because they believe they are old enough to be responsible with the substances. This belief that they are “grown up” leads them to rebel against their parents who apparently don’t understand what it is to be a kid in their day and age. But while they might believe they are grown up, their decision making capabilities are still immature and they often make mistakes that are costly.

While growing up is inevitable, it should be eventual and organic. That age of innocence that we all enjoyed should be experienced by each age group and especially by the Gen Z age group today!

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