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The same old story

entertainment Updated: Apr 25, 2009 23:56 IST

In 1954, J.R.R. Tolkien used the word ‘tween’ in The Lord Of The Rings to refer to 20-something Hobbits who were still teenagers at that age. Two years before that, the term was used by an American science fiction writer, Mark Clifton, in his short story, Star, Bright to describe ‘merely ordinary geniuses’.

It’s somehow come to mean something quite different for us humans. According to, tweens are people aged between 9 and 14, in the phase of “finding themselves” and are “very easy to market to and will usually follow any fashion trend set for them”. Marketers claim to have discovered this lot, but of course people have been 9 to 14 years old even before this discovery. And they’ve usually been in a hurry to grow up all along.

Back in the 1980s parents worried about nine-year-olds sucking on ‘Phantom cigarettes’ and 13-year-olds smoking real cigarettes. Rebellious boys grew their hair long, and girls cut it short. The desire to be fashionably cool was no less, though fashion may have been bell-bottoms. Every guy wanted the coolest music system, which may have been a gramophone record player or a cassette player, not an iPod nano.

It’s always been like that. In fact, adult-hood has traditionally come earlier for both boys and girls. The stories of child marriages are not history in our country yet. Three generations back, it was a way of life for most people here. Girls married before they reached puberty; they became mothers soon after.

So what’s the fuss about short skirts and make-up?