There are many great songs in the Hollywood movie, The Sound of Music. Many urban middle-class people of my generation saw the epic musical more than once when it was released here in the mid-1960s, and some of us would know the songs by heart. One of my favourites is the one sung by the courting teenagers Liesl and Rolfe. The song is a series of loving warnings from Rolfe to Liesl about what men would want to do with a lovely innocent such as her. “You are sixteen going on seventeen, baby you’re on the brink,” Rolfe informs Liesl, before warning her—“timid and shy and scared are you, of things beyond your ken”—and alerting her against “eager young lads, and roues and cads” before delivering the inadvertent punchline that was obvious even to us six-year-olds: “I am seventeen going on eighteen,” boasts eager young lad Rolfe, “I’ll take care of you!”
The pomposity and arrogance of the late-stage teenager is something to be marvelled at, something which one can call truly awesome, in the ‘awesome 1.0’ meaning of the word, i.e inciting of awe and boggling of mind. Even though youthful delusions change with different cultures, what is consistent in 16- to 18-year-olds the world over is the cocktail of cockiness, the deeply installed belief that a) they know everything there is to know, b) that they can already do things differently and better than all the old fuddy-duddies (that is, all those geriatrics from age 28 to 98), and c) that, with their freshly forming bodies and still unjoined craniums they are somehow entitled to take over the entire universe, visible and invisible. In the old days one could slap them. Now educationists and shrinks advise against this and the only people who still slap 18-year-olds are Indian policemen.