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From Barbie to Bop, the trouble starts

Going into a teen-ager's room is dangerous. It should be listed on life insurance applications along with sky diving and other activities that put you in higher premium categories. Then parents would have an excuse to stay away from the room until the kids move out. "I'd like to help clean her room, but you know how those insurance companies are .


." Our 13-year-old daughter, Kelly, recently made that seemingly instantaneous metamorphosis from Barbie dolls to Bop magazines. One day you are finding doll furniture with your bare feet, tomorrow you get to skate across the room on the slick surface of the latest teen heartthrob's 8-by-10 glossy. "Smooth move, Dad. I give you a 9.5."

Against my better judgment, I accepted an invitation to her room.

"Sort of early gerbil cage," I smiled as we shuffled through the magazine clippings on the floor.

"Someone will pick those up later. Look at the walls."

"Very nice. It's not easy to cover a whole room with pictures of the same five boys and not use the same picture twice. Are these the ones called the New Squids?"

"New KIDS, Dad, The New Kids on the Block!"

"Well, I like it. I think you made the right choice in not covering every window. A little natural light brings out the color in the photographs. I see you left some ceiling bare, too."

"The tape won't stick to those little popcorn thingies on the ceiling and Mom said I couldn't keep using nails."

"Well, that's life. Just when you get a nice obsession rolling, you run smack into a Mom or uncooperative thingies."

"How does it look?"

"Awesome. Kind of an Andy Warhol thing. You can call it "Temple of the New Squids.'


"KIDS, Dad, new KIDS."

"This guy's got an earring and this one is raiding Liza Minelli's wardrobe. In my book, that makes them squids."

"So, Jordan wears earrings and Joe wore a sequined jacket on a telethon. They're a pop group. The New Kids on the Block from Boston."

"Ah, I remember. The ones with the 900 number you kept calling."

"I'm not doing that anymore."

"Why not, it's such a good deal. Where else can you spend $2 to hear a recording of adolescents with conspicuous regional accents in sequined jackets .



"Dad, the others don't wear sequins."

"No, this one is wearing jeans that are more holes than material."

"That's Donnie. Ripped jeans are stylish."

"Let's call him up and ask if he lost a fight with a weed eater. Isn't it 1-900-I'M-A-JERK?"

"You don't have to be a jerk to call! Relax, I don't call anymore, even though I know you really didn't mean what you said about gnawing my fingers off so I couldn't dial the phone."

"Then why did you stop?"

"I didn't think it was good for someone your age to turn those kind of colors."

"You're right. Let me know when I regain the proper shade for someone my age." I sat down and began thumbing through a Big Bopper magazine. "Why are the faces of these girls scribbled over?"

"I do that so other girls won't be in pictures with The New Kids."

"Sometimes you just give the girls moustaches and pimples. Nice variations. Well, don't worry, it's probably okay unless you start cutting their heads off and pasting in your own picture."

"Uh, Dad, I don't think you should keep turning the pages."

"Why not? Oh. Are these heads from your school pictures?"

"Most of them."

My wife put this in perspective for me. "Don't worry. Remember how you were the night we pulled that Barbie chair out of your foot? How the house was "unsafe' to walk through without combat boots? Before you know it, the pictures and magazines will disappear, too. Then you get to start all over by stepping on Bryan's toys."

"Boys are different."

"And how can my mother say you're such a slow learner .



"I mean that boys don't get obsessed with pictures like this."

"No? I suppose Sports Illustrated doesn't sell more of the swimsuit edition than their regular editions? Girls paste pictures up. Boys hide them in the bottom of the sock drawer. That's the only difference."

"She got out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to stand in line for tickets to the New Kids concert."

"She sees in them what generations of American girls have always dreamed about _ cute boys who aren't too shy to dance in public. Which is why you better see that she gets to that concert if you expect any girl in this house to ever speak to you again."

Which all proves that I'm right about staying out of a teen-ager's bedroom. You go in wary about stepping on doll furniture and come out knowing your real worries are just beginning.

Tom Lange is a St. Petersburg Beach resident. My View columnists, invited to contribute on a regular basis, write their own views on subjects they choose.