Our first official Ask a Teen 2016 Column is here and we could NOT BE MORE EXCITED. Up first: 17-year-old Kate Glavan of Minnesota on Crocs, personal style, the one thing she wishes grown ups would stop doing and, because she brought up politics in her Ask a Teen application video, the upcoming presidential election.
What’s the “cool thing that everyone has” at your school?
Crocs! I don’t know why. Everyone wears them, including the popular kids. Everyone has the Jibbitz that go in the Crocs. I told my dad that there were Crocs on the runway this season and he was like, “I’ve been telling you this for years.” He wears them around the house. I don’t wear them anymore because everyone else wears them, so it doesn’t make me feel as creative when I do. But I used to. I have the Jibbitz, too.
What word do you hear adults saying that no one says anymore?
“Lit” or “Yaas.” A lot of these phrases originate in black culture and then all teens appropriate them after seeing them on Vine. A lot of teen culture comes from Vine. I can quote so many Vines off my head. People say “bet” at lot at my school.
It means “yes” or “I agree.” An example would be:
“Oh my god, I’ll meet up with you at the party to watch it all go down.”
It’s hard to explain but you use it when something’s outrageous. It’s like of like, “Lol, so true, I agree.” It’s also like that “Yeah, no” means “no” and “no, yeah” means “yeah” thing. The word “extra” is also used when something’s outrageous.
I kind of get that. “Hella” was big where I grew up — it still is — and it can mean “very,” or “yes,” or just that you’re agreeing. What’s your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
It all depends on the company. My friends and I always have a good time whether we’re looking at clothing or art. We’re on a similar wavelength, we all read Rookie Mag and do that sort of thing. We like to go thrifting.
Describe your ideal outfit, even if it only exists in your head.
A black, red and white-striped turtleneck sweater with a sheer white glittery blouse layered over (very Valentino-esque, with floral embroidery); high-waist, light blue cropped trousers (in that Rosie Assoulin silhouette); a long brown Saks Potts fur coat with red sleeve accents and oversize vintage crystal jewel earrings. It’s cold here so I’m always thinking about layers.
Let’s talk about the election. Are your peers discussing it at school? What are they saying?
They are talking about it. Last year some of my fellow peers and friends helped kick off a political club to talk about the presidential election and local election. (I miss being able to vote in this election by one week because of my birthday. It’s frustrating.) The club is framed as a young liberals club, but anyone can join.
One friend of mine in the club took part in door knocking to get people registered. He had an interesting conversation with a man who’s been a registered Republican for every single election, but he’s not voting for Trump in this one. You get a lot of insight from the older voters on why voting matters.
Why do you think it matters?
It’s the most fundamental human right. Everyone is equal on Election Day. Everyone has a voice on Election Day. It’s important because it will affect all of us, especially millennials, long-term. I think having a specific issue that you really care about can help get people to vote. And local elections are important because that’s where things actually happen and impact you directly.
Do you have any friends who are 18 who will not be voting?
I know some people who are old enough to vote but won’t as a way to protest that we need a better system. I, however, think this election is unique with the options presented. I would feel obligated to vote. When I try to explain why voting matters, I tell people to look at the issues. Look at how it will affect one or two issues that the House or Senate are already working on.
How are you getting your information about the election? Are you talking about it in class?
Some classes are geared toward it. If you take AP Comparative Government then you start the day talking about the election. I get my news from Twitter. I like Twitter because you can follow whoever you want, read concise summaries of events and dive deep into issues that you really care about. I watch the news, I watch CNN. My mom and I stay up late to watch it. If there’s a viral video on YouTube or Tumblr, that will get shared around school.
Do you guys share political opinions on Facebook and Instagram?
I don’t have a Facebook. People my age usually get a Facebook to post their senior pictures and use it to find college roommates. It’s a rare breed who will actually put their own opinions out on Instagram or Twitter — especially the silent majority of people voting for Trump who don’t want to isolate themselves by posting about it. But people will retweet stuff on Twitter if it’s already out there.
What’s it like not being able to vote in this election?
It’s frustrating. If I could vote, I don’t think I’d care as much about what other people are doing or who they’re voting for, but since I can’t, I care if my friends are voting. If I could vote I’d be concerned about the local election. I don’t like that I can’t, but you can still be involved in other ways, like getting people registered.
I think high schoolers under 18 know they can be imperfect in their opinion since they’re not registered Democrats or registered Republicans yet. I think more kids are growing up as Independents, whether or not they identify with it. It’s hard to find a teen who doesn’t support gay marriage, or who isn’t pro-choice. I think it’s because we’re growing up with a more responsible media that showcases marginalized voices. There’s more exposure to the struggles of historically alienated groups.
If you were able to vote, what are issues that you would want to hear your candidates address?
A woman’s right to choose, and the environment. It’s really personal for my generation to care about that. When you hear about new animals becoming extinct, it’s very depressing. Yes, you can shower for shorter periods of time and do small things like that, but if a candidate is willing to support climate change instead of saying it’s a hoax, that’s important to me. College affordability is also important. I know people who have gotten into their dream colleges and couldn’t go for financial reasons. I think that’s so sad, when you’ve gotten into your dream school and can’t go.
What are you most looking forward to when it’s your turn to vote?
Really holding the candidates accountable to what they’re saying. I’m in the Model UN, so I’m a policy nerd. I like to do research to make sure the policies will actually work for people. Will it actually finance out properly?
What do you hope adults will consider while voting?
Empathy. Your life may not be in danger by Trump’s presidency, but I have friends who aren’t U.S. citizens. Stop and Frisk: have empathy that your neighbor could suffer from this. If you’re a woman, you might lose the rights that your grandmother worked hard to get for you.
It all depends on what happens in Congress, though. It all depends on whether or not people get out to vote in large numbers for Hillary and if either the House or Senate shifts to Democrat.
How can teens find ways to speak their mind and make changes in the community without a vote? And what can adults do to help?
Adults should realize that their words have an impact. I think a lot kids grow up feeling polarized by the opinions of their parents.
One thing that’s important: Teens need to find people who they feel comfortable talking to about this. If we don’t understand something, we need to have people who will respond positively and help explain them.
What do you wish adults would do — in general, doesn’t have to be about politics — and what do you wish they would stop doing?
Stop doing? There is a common misconception that [people] my age and younger are the ones who are taking all the selfies. You hear, “I hate that teens are always on their phones.” But it’s rarely the 16-year-old taking the selfies in public. It tends to be the people your age, always on their phone using editing apps to Photoshop selfies from weddings or their nights out. Maybe the people who do this are younger than you, though. Power to everyone’s selfies, but I’ve gotten annoyed with the “selfie-obsessed millennial” stereotype.
What adults should be doing: recognize the insurgence of creative people like Amandla Stenberg and Tavi Gevinson. Listen more to younger voices. Also, guide. I don’t think anyone realizes how much teens respond to older girls and how much we respect older girls and look up to them.
What’s the one question you want someone to ask you but they never do? And what’s the answer?
At school, I’m alienated for dressing a certain way or caring about different things than everyone else. I mean, my friends and I care about a lot of the same things. But I wish someone would ask me, “What are you passionate about?” Because what I’m passionate about and care about, you know, there are a lot of intersections: I care about fashion, and I’m passionate about the environment and politics and feminism.
I think high school mimics adulthood so that you can understand it better, even when you’re not there yet.
Follow Kate Glavan on Instagram @kateglavan. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.