Where's the party?
I was talking to a mother recently, who was recounting the travails of the group of boys her newly high-school graduated daughter was palling around with.
"Most of them are just pulling bongs, playing video games, drinking too much. It really worries me," she said (and yeah, I'm paraphrasing).
These boys are from good, upper-middle class homes, and some of them are "criminally bright" said the woman, but she said they seemed to be wasting away, bombing out at university and generally not giving a shit what came next.
I didn't know how to reassure this woman, because pulling bongs, watching Jean-Claude Van Damme's Bloodsport 237 times and drinking to excess just about covers my days as an 18-year-old.
So I muttered "they'll be OK" a few times and moved the conversation on.
Yesterday, however, I found my words flashed back at me by Celia Lashlie's international bestseller, He'll Be OK, Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men.
Lashlie, as I've mentioned on this blog before, was the first female prison officer to work in a male prison in New Zealand and, after years of service in jails, "she knows what can happen when boys make the wrong choices".
"In 2004, she completed the Good Man Project. The project, which facilitated discussion within and between 25 boys' schools throughout New Zealand, aimed to create a working definition of what makes a good man in the 21st century," her bio says.
Anyway, Lashlie spends a lot of time in her book stressing the wisdom and insight of year 12 boys, their pragmatism and intuition.
"When in discussion with students at this level, I was often taken aback by their ability to talk in-depth and with amazing insight about some of the hard issues," she writes.
"I'm not suggesting they had totally become mature adult men as they crossed the boundary from year 11 into year 12. This was definitely not the case: they were still boys at heart, taking any opportunity that arose to join in a game, play a trick on a fellow classmate or inject fun into whatever was happening."
These boys had a strong sense and understanding of the world around them but Lashlie added a word of warning.
"While it is true that the year 12 student is a gorgeous and apparently mature man, moving confidently towards the end of his school career, there is a strong chance he'll take what will seem to be a backward step during his first year away from school," Lashlie writes.
"He may become a moron who is focused on getting drunk and/or laid and little else."
Anyone who's been to university or TAFE would be able to back up the veracity of this statement but it's Lashlie's conclusions about this behaviour that made me nod in agreement.
"That he becomes such a creature does not make a nonsense of my description of year 12 boys as wise and insightful young men. It's simply that in year 12 he reaches a plateau and pauses," she writes.
And pulls bongs and plays video games.
"In the first little while, unaccustomed to the sudden and complete freedom involved, he takes a few backwards steps. In time, he'll steady again - it may take a while, but it will happen," writes Lashlie.
I wish I'd read this before my conversation with the woman I mentioned above, because it perfectly articulates what I wanted to say about the boys her daughter is running with.
They may look like stoners and cock-ups at the moment - and some of them may well stay that way for life - but most will soon see that if you want to make progress in life, you have to move out of the green water and into the white.
In other words, "They'll be OK."