I Remember Saying Stupid Shit

I Remember Saying Stupid Shit

This Buzzfeed listicle is currently making the rounds, showing 20 “young people” holding up signs explaining why they are against marriage equality. It’s definitely interesting to see why young people, who we usually think of as being progressive and awesome, believe in something stupid and bigoted that will in time look as backwards as the arguments against interracial marriage or women wearing pants.

But as I scrolled down, I began to wonder (around #4) how young these young people are. The signs are pretty much all riddled with typos and grammatical errors, but we do stereotypically expect to see that when the opinions expressed are so, so stupid, regardless of the age of the person holding them. And some people look much younger than they are, and I’ve never been good at the age-guessing game anyway.

But #6 – I don’t know, maybe I’m off-base here, but that picture looks to me like a 10-year old writing down the thing that her proud, smiling, bigoted parents (see background) have raised her to say. “Its the nature that God gave us. And it should stay that way.” Several other photos appear to show teens who are probably still in high school.

It got me thinking, what if someone asked me at age 14 to write something I believed on a piece of paper, and then they took a photo of it, and then that photo went on a popular website? What are the chances that I would have written something that was head-slappingly stupid, and how many years would it be before I knew enough to be embarrassed and regretful?

Well, today is Bad Chart Thursday, so I did the obvious: I charted the amount of stupid shit I said by age, expressed as a percentage of the total amount of things I said.

Stupid Shit I Said

As you can see, I began life not making coherent statements, and so the total amount of stupid shit I said was zero. As I learned to speak, everything I said for the first few years was a finely polished pearl of wisdom.

Around the time I entered first grade, though, you can see that the percentage of stupid shit I said took quite a leap. It was still at a manageable level until puberty, when the amount of stupid shit I said skyrocketed to over 75%, and continued to rise to over 90% until the day I left home and started college in a faraway town where I had to learn to survive on my own. It continued to drop until it was back down to a manageable 30% or so, where it remains today.

That’s my chart, and I was not raised by ignorant bigots. Imagine #6′s chart! Her parents took her to a protest against love! The amount of stupid shit she says must be exponentially increased due to the particular stupid, hateful fantasies that her parents have filled her head with.

So, I don’t know, maybe let’s not make fun of those kids. In, oh, six to ten years they’ll be facing the ultimate punishment of having visual evidence of the stupid shit they said as kids.

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

19 Comments

  1. Another good chart! This is a wonderful post, despite the disingenuous “Bad Chart” label. This chart is pretty similar to what my own chart would look like… I hope.
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    I think you nailed it with the kids being egged on by their parents, but that doesn’t explain, say, the Young Republicans. (Shudder)

  2. Is it telling that it causes me physical distress that you didn’t label your axes, even though I fully know that this is Bad Chart Thursday?

  3. I have to admit something. In the 9th grade I wrote a paper about how girls were shitty drummers and couldn’t keep a beat to save their lives.

    This chart is spot on as 14 was about the peak of my stupidity.

    • I keep waiting for mine to peak. Someday, maybe … a boy can dream, right?

    • I find that my peak is relative. It’s always set to about ten years ago.

  4. There are only two times I’ve said stupid shit in my life. The first: 1951-1981. Second: 1981-Now.

  5. I suspect most of us are lucky if the y-axis value of our own stupid comments never goes above 100%. If you think about it, there are definitely people who can say things that can suck the intelligence out of their listeners. For those folks, the y-axis can go well over 100%.

    Excellent “bad chart”, Rebecca! Simple concept, but quite thought provoking. And I agree that we should be careful about making fun of kids for stuff like this. Growing up with rational parents is yet another type of “privilege” that we need to be aware of in our own lives. We shouldn’t be too quick to mock people who’ve grown up surrounded by this kind of stuff 24-7, especially if we didn’t.

  6. I agree that everyone says stupid shit, especially when they are young but I also think people should be called on their stupid shit when possible, even if they are young. Those kids up there might grow up to be embarrassed by these words or they might grow up to be proud of them. Those words might even turn into harmful actions if they are never countered. Look at all of the equally dumb shit that continually comes out of the mouths of our own legislators who are well past old enough to know better.

    So while I don’t wish ill on them for saying something dumb, I do hope they have peers that will point out how and why those words are dumb and do it well enough to get them to think about their views, at least.

    • Totally agree. I don’t want to start a “tone troll” argument, so I’ll just say that “don’t mock kids” =/= “don’t call them on their shit”. I do think that kids deserve an extra level of compassion for being stupid, since it’s often not really their own fault. So when you start getting ready to tear someone a new orifice, think about who really deserves your scorn and anger, them or their parents. And also remember back to when you were an idiot. Most of us were lucky enough to escape from that period of our lives without anyone really paying much attention to us.

  7. Yep. Until I was about 12 or 13 I was very vociferously against abortion and for religion (thanks in part to my best friend’s mom, who was a big Rush listener). Then, the internet exposed me to… information! And thinking! And I read, and I thought, and I changed my mind. Good stuff, this “thinking.”

  8. I think the best response to kids is to simply say ‘eh, bring me an argument when you’re an adult’. Sure, it makes ‘em mad, but it’s not embarrassing them. Categorical dismissal builds character. Don’t feed child trolls maybe?

    Thank science for not inventing the (popular, publicly usable) Internet until after I graduated high school.

  9. I think you’re giving the under-8 set waaaaaay too much credit. Sit down and really listen to one of them, sometime. They’re constantly saying things like, “That’s a horsey!” and “I’m wearing blue pants!” Yes, child. We know. We helped you get into those pants. We took you to see the horsey. Honest to god, child, do you think you’re telling us something we don’t know?

    We must demand better of our kindergarteners. The soft bigotry of low expectations must not be allowed to stand, or to run around on the playground. Demand brilliance, and brilliant they shall become.

  10. I used to be an intolerant prick before skepticism then reading skepchick.

  11. i never said stupid things, i just made an exception for this reply

  12. My favorite part is the slight uptick at age 21.

  13. When I was in high school I was a conservative Christian and a homophobe. I would actually have said I hated gay people, and did. I listened to Rush Limbaugh, and believed him. I even read his books. I was pretty much like that until around age 19 or 20. Needless to say I am virtually the polar opposite now. How glad I am that there does not appear to be any evidence of the things I said back then. I believe I’ve destroyed the terrible papers I wrote for my freshman comp class and my old journal. You should be proud of how early your stupid things rate drops.

  14. I was a rabid pro-lifer in high school and wore the ABORTION IS MURDER t-shirt to school and attended the March for Life in D.C. with my youth group twice. I am SO sorry, World.

  15. It seems to me that children really are not capable of thinking for themselves until they hit puberty…..and some people never seem to reach puberty in their minds, even if their bodies grow up.

    How can people assert that they oppose gay marriage because “God made men for women and women for men”, without even trying to support empirically that there is a God? It’s a fundamental failure of logic!

  16. A corollary to this is that as we get older our parents get smarter…

    At least that what my father told me. And I’m telling my kids…

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