Smells like teen spirit
Criticised for looking bored on their visits to a library and a lake this week, Malia and Sasha Obama were just being teenagers
Can we go now?: Sasha and Malia Obama, with their mother, Michelle, fight off boredom and midges at Glendalough this week. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA
‘Oh man, we have to have lunch with Bono again!” The anchorman on Good Morning America is one smart guy: rapier-sharp wit, sculpted locks and shiny eyes that can roll backwards in mock horror. He fairly well eviscerated the Obama girls, 14-year-old Malia and 12-year-old Sasha, for their apparent display of boredom during the family’s visit to our shores.
Well, he didn’t actually; he made a lame attempt to impersonate a bored teenager. His imagined line about Bono came at the end of an innocuous report focusing on Michelle Obama and her daughters’ tours of Trinity College Dublin and Glendalough, in Co Wicklow.
The report included a series of images that showed the girls having the temerity to look like ordinary, occasionally sullen teenagers rather than a couple of Shirley Temples with plaster smiles and an agent for every ringlet.
Monastic settlements and dusty archives are unlikely to light many pubescent fires, whether the hard-pressed US taxpayer is footing the bill or not, and it’s probably fair to assume that trailing around after famous parents in the glare of the media is tedious enough without the added joy of watching dust particles dance in shafts of sunlight at an ancient library and listening to the enthusiasms of a bespectacled academic. It’s cheap to accuse those teenagers of boredom when all they displayed was a refreshing lack of affectation. They seem like demonstrative children: they slouch around in big sweaters and eat their own cuffs.
Give them a break. You can’t climb a family tree. You can skim stones on a lake, though, which was what they did when the history lesson in Co Wicklow was over. And I’m sure the fish and chips in Dalkey were most welcome, even if the vinegar had to be shared with an ageing rock star.
Anyone casting aspersions on the behaviour of the Obama brood has obviously never travelled with teenagers. They certainly haven’t travelled in a six-berth carriage on a sleeper train out of Paris with two male offspring who simultaneously decide to cultivate the art of farting at will. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to those two Danes with cushion-sole socks, prudent sandals and sensible haircuts.
There are lots of trips on offer for people who fear holidays with their adolescents – who fear the acres of silence, the caustic eyebrow, the stubborn refusal to co-operate until you dangle food in front of them.
Travel websites are full of helpful suggestions that make one chortle up one’s remortgaged sleeve: cycling in Bangkok, birdwatching in Madagascar, film-making in Alaska. Or how about New York, where, apparently, no teenager will be able to resist the allure of all that cut-price gadgetry?
And if you’re really in big trouble and can’t crack open your glowering teen with a prawn piri-piri or unlimited phone credit, you can always them to a bank-breaking Australian boot camp in the outback.
When I was growing up nobody ever went anywhere. No one on my street knew what delights lay west of Kinnegad, let alone the smell of a Parisian morning or the shriek of a churros seller in the early-morning Madrid streets.