Fun

No Laughing Matter: What Is Happening to Our Teenage Girls?

A special report about the state of today’s young women, written by an adult man who doesn’t know any.

Illustration by Esme.

Illustration by Esme.

It starts innocently enough: a chortle here, a guffaw there. We’ve all had a chuckle or two in our lives, resulting from biological and social pressures that most of us outgrow, or at least learn to suppress. However, an increasing number of adults are coming forward to express their concerns about a dangerous trend that appears to be infiltrating the lives of teenage girls across the nation—fits of giggles that, in the eyes of this reporter, are no laughing matter.

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes just last week at the movies. A pack of teenage girls sat behind me, remaining quiet through the previews and the first four or five minutes of the film—until someone on screen told a joke, and they broke out in laughter. Laughter! At a film! I was appalled, so I gave them a look, but they continued to laugh at every joke in the film. It was like they thought they had the right to have fun. In public!

Apparently, the movies aren’t the only place where teenage girls have been laughing up a storm. The giggle fits have infiltrated our malls, our restaurants, our amusement parks, and even our schools, where they’re hidden from teachers on their cell phones through the usage of clever, adult-proof textual codes like “LOL” (an acronym that means “laughing out loud”). Teenage girls are laughing with alarming frequency, and experts aren’t quite sure how to pinpoint the cause—or the cure for—their happiness. Frightened but determined, I set out to find some answers.

****

I began my journey at the Cedar Farms Mall, where teenage girls have been known to congregate. I heard the laughter as soon as I stepped through the mall entrance—it was everywhere, bouncing from the glass ceilings to the crooks of the escalators and back again, a cacophony of cackles filling the air just as strongly as the scent of Auntie Anne’s pretzels. The girls traveled in packs, laughing, whispering, and animatedly moving their hands. For a brief moment, I considered reaching out to a few of them to ask them about their hysterics, but recognizing that I was outnumbered, I decided I’d be much better off interviewing the people who really know what teenage girls are up to: adults.

“They’re in here all the time, talking to each other—and laughing,” says Maureen Stumpf, owner of the Blue Bell Diner in Peaksville, where teenage girls tend to gather late at night to drink milkshakes and gossip amongst themselves. “How it usually works is, it will get really quiet at their table, you know, they’re all drinking their shakes and checking those darn phones, and then suddenly one of them will say something completely ridiculous, like, ‘shark butt,’ and the rest of them will just lose their minds laughing. It’s absolutely terrifying. We’d never behave like that in public when I was a girl. If a friend of mine ever laughed like that, I’d immediately call the police and have her thrown in the hoosegow. This generation has no respect for themselves or anybody else.”

Stumpf isn’t alone in her concerns: 30-year-old Jason Astel, who lives in the apartment across from mine, expressed similar thoughts. “Ah, man, teenage girls scare the [excrement] out of me when they laugh. It’s like they’re all sharing the same brain or something. Like they know something I don’t know. I don’t like that, man. You know what it means when teenage girls get together and know something adults don’t know, right? Witchcraft. That’s what it means.”

****

Was Jason right? Could it be that witchcraft is taking over the souls of our teenage girls? Could that explain their unbridled joy? Their ability to find stupid things funny? To enjoy the absurdity of life? Or could it be something else? Like probably drugs? Teenagers are always into drugs. And alcohol. And bracelet parties. And ritualistic behavior. And that thing where they make each other pass out for fun. Could these fits of laughter be a symptom of something darker? Or was the laughter itself some kind of secret high? I had to know.

To get to the bottom of things, to really understand how the teenage girl brain works, I decide to go straight to the source: Dr. Albert Thomas, my podiatrist, who went to medical school and therefore is technically an expert on adolescent psychology because he took that one course when he was an undergrad at Tufts.

“I can’t explain the laughter,” Dr. Thomas admits. “But I can say that teenage girls often get fungus from not wearing sandals when they’re at a public pool, though, if that helps.”

When pressed about the potential dangers of unchecked laughing, Dr. Thomas had little to offer: “I just don’t know if that kind of laughter is harmful or not. I suppose it can strain the vocal cords. It’s not my area of expertise, really. Bunions, I could go on forever about. Or corns! Boy, do I have some stories about corns.”

Hoping for a deeper look into the mind of the teenage girl, I contacted Dr. Stephen Patterson, leading child psychologist, who was unavailable for this interview. However, I was able to contact his son, 32-year-old computer programmer Dirk Patterson, who (full disclosure) dates my second cousin Denise. Patterson, who grew up in a home where at least one person was required to read books about child psychology, had a harrowing story to tell.

“Oh, man. I had to go to this stupid party that Denise’s mom threw for like, Labor Day or something? And her teenage cousins were there? And all they did, like the whole time, was laugh. About what? I don’t even know. I didn’t ask. But if I had to guess, it was probably swear words. Or Miley Cyrus. Or some picture phone thing.”

****

Lawry’s Bacon Barn sits on the edge of a dirt road just off Highway 248, the kind of place you’d miss if you weren’t local, which is just how the customers like it.

Brian Osgood, 34, has been eating breakfast at Lawry’s for over 15 years.

“They make good pancakes,” he says.

We sit at the counter, drinking slightly stale coffee as the small-town gossip buzzes around the shop. I notice a table of teenage girls sitting across the room. They are all eating pancakes. It is only a matter of time, I think, before one of them begins to laugh. Sure enough, within five minutes, the girls are gasping for air, laughing so hard that one of them shoots chocolate milk from her nose.

I ask Brian for his opinion.

“I don’t know, man,” he says. “I mean, they’re loud, and I don’t get it, and I don’t really care, but at least they have decent taste in breakfast food. I mean, for teenage girls, anyway.”

Twenty minutes later, the girls pay their bill and exit the restaurant. One of them hums a song as she passes by. I can’t place it, and ask Brian if he knows the tune.

“Who knows,” he says. “But it’s probably crap.”

Just then, another group of girls arrives, laughing louder than the first. Brian sighs and stares into the distance, and I realize that the world no longer belongs to regular Joes like us—we are simply an audience for a song we can’t quite place, a joke we no longer have the right to understand. I try to take solace in Brian’s wise words: who knows? Who knows why these teenage girls laugh? Who knows what it will do to them? Who knows why they’re so terrifying, all the time?

Who knows? Certainly not me, my friends. Certainly not me. ♦

46 Comments

  • lizams January 28th, 2014 3:19 PM

    is this the old fart version of chill mcchillson?

  • soviet_kitsch January 28th, 2014 3:24 PM

    this is awesome. i was struck by a fit of terrifying teen girl laughter at “scares the [excrement] out of me”

  • loopdeshor January 28th, 2014 3:24 PM

    “we are simply an audience for a song we can’t quite place” i like this.

    When me and my friends are together we laugh at the most random things.

    http://delightfuldreaming.blogspot.com/

  • herdinthehalls January 28th, 2014 3:29 PM

    This is absolutely hilarious :D

    I hate when adults put-down something because it’s loved by teenage girls. Underestimating teenage girls is so passe.

    http://rockpapermisc.blogspot.com/

  • Erin. January 28th, 2014 3:40 PM

    Shark butt.

    • dreamygirl January 28th, 2014 3:51 PM

      i love u

    • GigiCricket13 January 28th, 2014 7:40 PM

      OMIGOD. (bahahahahahahahahaha)

  • unitedreamers January 28th, 2014 3:41 PM

    I REALLY enjoyed reading this. It was a bit funny. I loved it. I know that teenage girls laughing, is true. Me and my sister would laugh for absolutely no reason… like bumping into each other at the mall. We would start laughing like crazy.

    Laugh all the way!

  • dreamygirl January 28th, 2014 3:42 PM

    “I don’t really care, but at least they have decent taste in breakfast food. I mean, for teenage girls, anyway.”

    -said every old male fart EVER on teen girl taste

    THANK U PIXIE THANK U

  • GabbyCat January 28th, 2014 3:50 PM

    had a very terrifying fit of giggles at “shark butt.” this is actually the best thing ive ever read.

  • littlediamonds January 28th, 2014 4:00 PM

    I’m still laughing at “scares the [excrement] out of me”. But serously guys, this was hilarious.

  • WizerdGandalf January 28th, 2014 4:10 PM

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    DAT WAS SO RAD.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    Ahhh…. *dries tears on shirt* .

    The irony tho’ if I was in public laughing at this. WOuld I , scare someone?
    ~ wow, such mystery, very unknown~

    http://carambolians.tumblr.com/

    http://mandingoose.tumblr.com/

  • mangointhesky January 28th, 2014 4:14 PM

    This just made my day great. I couldn’t top laughing.

    http://theconfettireport.blogspot.com

  • painting_the_roses_pink January 28th, 2014 4:35 PM

    I loved this article! On the rare occasion all the members of my gal gang can get together, we have an obnoxiously good time! Sometimes I worry we might be disturbing the peace with out laughter, but then one of us will fart and well, how could we control ourselves after that? Baah!

    http://aroseofadiffrentcolor.tumblr.com/

  • lexilikes January 28th, 2014 4:52 PM

    This is amazing, especially the quote from the podiatrist about the sandals :’)

    http://www.lexilikes.com/

  • becksbubble January 28th, 2014 5:00 PM

    this is the rookie article that killed me
    http://dollygosh.blogspot.co.uk/

  • honorarygilmoregal January 28th, 2014 5:05 PM

    Haha this is great! Hilarious bit of satire, Pixie.

    http://perkstobeinginfinite.tumblr.com

  • punctuationmatters January 28th, 2014 5:10 PM

    “It was like they thought they had the right to have fun. In public!” pretty much every old fart on anything teenage girl ever, love it pixie!

  • nnora January 28th, 2014 5:20 PM

    heheh

  • lollygagger January 28th, 2014 5:22 PM

    Loving on the illo, Esme

  • K8 is Gr8 January 28th, 2014 6:43 PM

    this though….. when my girls and i go somewhere together… well… this describes us perfectly…

  • KatGirl January 28th, 2014 6:55 PM

    Can there pleeeeease be more Chill McChillson?

  • athena January 28th, 2014 7:00 PM

    this is great

  • Barhbie January 28th, 2014 7:04 PM

    This is amazing. You’re amazing, pixie.

    http://www.barhbie.tumblr.com

  • Multidreams January 28th, 2014 7:09 PM

    Today at lunch I was laughing so much I started to choke on some sandwich and then my friends got grossed out because they thought I had just regurgitated a price of sandwich for no reason

    • Amy Rose January 28th, 2014 7:18 PM

      Reading this comment was like looking in a mirror.

    • sloththefifth January 28th, 2014 8:18 PM

      You just made a teenage girl giggle. SHAME ON YOU!

  • ana-holmes January 28th, 2014 7:17 PM

    This is pure gold.

  • GigiCricket13 January 28th, 2014 7:41 PM

    THIS IS FRACKING BRILLIANT.

  • FatedToPretend January 28th, 2014 7:48 PM

    Thank you so much for this wonderfulness

  • Stella January 28th, 2014 8:26 PM

    Pixie, your stories/articles/everything are always glorious.

  • kels. January 28th, 2014 8:35 PM

    love love love this ah

  • rubypowers January 28th, 2014 10:57 PM

    Us teen girls are definitely taking over with our laughing witch magic and smoothies, and I am most definitely enjoying this.

  • katherineviolet January 29th, 2014 12:44 AM

    This is the funniest article I have ever read!!!

  • Thousand Cigarettes January 29th, 2014 3:43 AM

    Flyest classic blue film intro i see in my eyes when i reach …Lawry’s Bacon Barn sits on the edge of a dirt road just off Highway 248, the kind of place you’d miss if you weren’t local, which is just how the customers like it.

    Brian Osgood, 34, has been eating breakfast at Lawry’s for over 15 years.

  • Jott January 29th, 2014 4:54 AM

    damn shark butt, this is GENIUS <3

  • flocha January 29th, 2014 5:10 AM

    This is possibly the best thing I have read all week even if it is a terribly accurate parody of how 90% of middle aged men see teenage girls haha

    http://whimsicalprocrastination.blogspot.co.uk/

  • aikaendi January 29th, 2014 6:25 AM

    This is hilarious! And also, unfortunately, true. I sure remember a lot of these occurrences from actual adult men…

  • Paola January 29th, 2014 10:59 AM

    trying REALLY HARD to not laugh too much in class right now, if i get trouble it’s Pixie and or Rookie’s fault– this was beautiful i’m

  • Cutesycreator aka Monica January 29th, 2014 11:10 AM

    *uproarious standing ovation*

  • onlykhenzo January 29th, 2014 11:17 AM

    I’m glad there are sites like Rookie raising important issues and awareness to the public (Rookie and how to videos on homemade bombs are the only good things the internet has ever brought us): TEENAGE GIRLS ARE A MENACE TO SOCIETY. And what better than a website for teenage girls, mostly by teenage girls to tell those gum popping, Twitter trolling, Topshop obsesed villains.
    I thank you, the world thanks you and, most importantly, old farts everywhere thank you.

    http://www.glitterdaiquiri.com

  • RisainSanFrancisca January 29th, 2014 2:02 PM

    This is so perfect omg, I’m so sick of adults thinking that our generation is just selfish and frivolous! Which does not equal laughing. Cuz laughing is fun :)

    http://manyrisas.blogspot.com
    http://manyrisas.tumblr.com

  • January 30th, 2014 3:38 AM

    I love me some satire. Thank you so much for this piece, Pixie. It made me -gasp- laugh with abandon, as in the free, contagious laughter of teen girls.

    ~How dare the millenials!! etc~

  • Kiana January 30th, 2014 6:21 AM

    I liked that this article highlights our being UNPREDICTABLE and DEEP (unlike adults who are boring and v shallow).
    Thank you, Pixie. And also, congratulations to Esme because the illustration rocks.

  • Maradoll Mynx January 30th, 2014 10:01 AM

    “…and I realize that the world no longer belongs to regular Joes like us…”

    Point.

    (And whom better to blame for this state of affairs? Definitely the FURTHEST, most ALIEN creatures from yourselves. Teenage girls. Of course. I mean, who GETS them? I mean, aside from being sexual objects in porn for your regular average joe, what even is the point of their existence? These…these…these gigglemonsters?!?!?! According to porn videos, these girls should be looking sexy and giving me a BJ right about now, according to logic. Right?…right?)

  • Analisa March 23rd, 2014 5:20 PM

    Promptly inviting friends over for a bracelet party and ritualistic behavior