Teens these days.


(Photo: Carol Kaliff, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Today kids across America walked out of school to protest gun violence and the inability for our government to pass common sense gun control.

That’s incredible. I can only imagine being a government & politics teacher, or any other branch of history/American studies, and witnessing your students actively participating in and organizing peaceful protests. Or deciding not to participate because they didn’t agree with the protests. Either way, it’s a teach by doing moment. It’s teaching kids to be actionable instead of simply memorizing facts or spitting out theory.

Facebook is flooded with posts of alum, teachers and parents talking about the school walkouts or walk ins, where assemblies are being held in memory of the students killed due to gun violence. CNN is live-streaming the walkouts and the words of our CT Senator Chris Murphy. Across the nation kids are holding up signs stating their beliefs and desire for the adults in charge to be actionable. They are no longer complicit and trusting that adults will get the work done. The Parkland students showed them that their voice matters even when they are unable to vote. That you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to voice political opinions.

I was young for my grade and didn’t turn 18 until I was in college. I remember being furious that I couldn’t vote in the primaries that year, even though I would be 18 by the general election. I was always highly opinionated when it came to politics, thanks to my mother who was always a well-informed citizen and my brother, who walked into the Democratic Headquarters at 16 to start volunteering. I would tag along with him, making calls to remind democrats and independents to vote, checking in on our elderly residents to see if any needed rides to polls, attending Chris Murphy’s debates when running for Congress, joining the Young Dems chapter my brother helped start and my favorite part of the process: going from poll to poll on election night to watch them count then ending back at Headquarters or a restaurant to hear the results roll in. I couldn’t vote, but I was more engaged in the political process than most adults.

Which was why I was furious when adults would undermine my intelligence in my teenage years. I would often hear that my opinions, and the opinions of my peers, were just echos of my family’s beliefs. I understand the thought, and recognize that may be true in some cases, but I could never understand why my civics teacher would take so much time explaining our nation’s workings to us, only to tell me that my opinions were just something I inherited from my parents when I got in a fight with a classmate over Bush’s reelection. Of course my family influenced my beliefs, but I was also smart enough to research and act on my own. I was old enough to hold opinions.

I remember a car ride where my mom and brother were talking a politics. I listened without much input, thinking instead of my recent civics lesson on political parties.

“What if I’m a Republican instead of a Democrat?” I asked my family.

I was constantly the lawyer of the family. I always wanted to think about situations from a different angle. A contrarian, always thinking of the other side before agreeing with my family.

“Your beliefs line up with the Democratic Party,” my mom replied.

“But what if they don’t? What if I’m a Republican instead?” I asked.

“Then you can be a Republican.”

I went home and did all the research I could on both parties. I spent hours trying to understand the difference and political platforms. I weighed policies against my moral beliefs and found that I did side with the Dems.

All of this was done my freshman year of high school. Clearly I was already intelligent and thoughtful enough to question my beliefs and recheck them against my political affiliation. My thoughts and opinions haven’t changed much. They evolved slightly with the times and my maturity. Whereas I used to think we should eliminate marriage entirely, calling everything a civil union, so we can eliminate the religious context of marriage, I’ve realized that battle gets misconstrued and calling everything a marriage is a better angle. I used to be much more fiscally liberal that I am today. I used to be pro-choice under medical necessity but am now entirely pro-choice. Tiny tweaks, but my adult mind is still in line with my teen mind.

So I still get angry that I was always underestimated. That adults did not believe that I researched my policies enough. To be fair, this still happens. I was constantly accused for siding with Hillary instead of Bernie because she was a woman, when in reality I thought she was the most qualified candidate we ever had and her fiscally moderate policies enabled me to reap benefits while still covering costs of social security and welfare.

People may say that I was a different type of teen. That not everyone was as mature. Well then, why not teach them to find their own opinions instead of dismissing them?

I think adults fall into an awful habit of thinking kids don’t know enough. We talk down to them and assume they can’t possibly understand. But clearly they do.

Today’s teens are living in a world where any question they have can be answered in a matter of seconds on their phones. Teenagers are actually MUCH better at recognizing “fake news” than we are. Aside from their obvious increased technical literacy, they’re also taught how to seek out information. As students, they have access to online encyclopedias and academic research. They’re constantly being told not to trust sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, and instead fact check every piece of information they want to use. They’re writing research reports and getting graded on whether or not their facts are confirmed. They’re much better at finding the truth than we are.

Without the ability to vote, I believe they’re getting antsy. I remember talking to my cousins, just shy of 18, about how much it sucked to be unable to vote in such an important presidential election. And now here we are, with massive school shootings happening at levels that I can’t even comprehend, and they’re done with us adults. They can’t vote, but they can speak for themselves and remind politicians that they’re voting very, very soon.

We need to stop underestimating kids and instead listen to them. That’s how I treat the kids I babysit. I never want to influence their own moral and political beliefs, so I just listen to them and encourage them to think about where they stand. The other day a kid I babysat was doing a project on trans kids and I found that she knew way more than even I did. I offered no opinions and instead just let her inform me on the topic. When I was watching some younger kids, someone came to the door who was running for local office. What followed was an hour long conversation with the kids about what their platforms would be and how they can run for office within their school. While I would steer at times, like suggesting they invest in scientific research when they said they wanted to stop all hurricanes, I let them carry the conversation.

We invest so much time and money into our kids and their education. But often when they want to show us the results of that investment, we don’t listen. While what happened at Stoneman Douglas was horrific, it is inspiring to see the students use their voices and speak up for themselves when a politician is dismissive of their question. Unless you’re a teacher or school employee, the topic of school shootings will ALWAYS impact the kids in your life more than it will ever impact you. Empower them to use their voices, especially if they’re teenagers. I’m so proud of these teens who are speaking up for the students in Sandy Hook who are still too young to speak for themselves. There are no longer only parents representing their students, but students themselves being actionable.

Keep going teens. Stand up for what you believe in and know that your mind is worthy of respect and your opinions are worth being heard.

Closet feminist.


I’m a feminist. For a very long time I denied it. I said that I didn’t care and honestly didn’t believe that genders were unequal. My mom is one of 8 kids… 7 of them are female. My grandmother has 16 grandchildren… 13 are female, 3 are male. Females dominate our family. I just didn’t think gender inequality was a thing.

Why did admitting I was a feminist scare me? Here are a few reasons:

  1. I love men… and not just in a sexual way. I have so many incredible men in my life who love and care for me in the most genuine way. Friends, family members, teachers, coworkers… there are a lot of guys in my life who I really care about. I had this fucked up feeling that admitting to being a feminist meant that I hated men… or that somewhere along the line, some guy screwed me over and I was jaded.
  2. I am so far from what I thought feminists think a woman should be. I am very feminine and really love dressing up and being girly. I was in a sorority for God’s sake. Above everything, I want to be a mother and wouldn’t mind being a stay at home mom. I love to cook, grew up cheerleading and spend a ridiculous amount of money on anti-wrinkle cream and agave hair oil. I thought that feminists wouldn’t like me because I’m so feminine.
  3. I didn’t really understand what the fuss was all about. In my first job, which I held for five years, I made more money and was promoted faster than many of my male coworkers. I had a good amount of self-confidence and thought that men viewed me as an intellectual more than a piece of meat.

Above all, I didn’t want to slap a label on my forehead and have people think that I was an extremist.

Then I started writing… and it was all right there. I wrote strong female characters, which was just what came naturally. It makes sense, right? I grew up in a predominately female household and most of my authority figures were women… why wouldn’t they be the store managers, CEO’s and heads of household in my scenes? But apparently that’s not the norm. All of a sudden people were praising me on being a strong woman myself. I started to seek out other strong females to become my friends and/or mentors. I listened to the stories of my friends and the shit that they’ve heard throughout their life.  I realized that not everyone was born into a female dominated family where strength, wittiness and intelligence were respected.

That’s when I met some really great feminists. Many of my comedy teachers and mentors praise women. They encourage us and show us that there’s really nothing we can’t do. They address our fears about weight, beauty and femininity. They taught me that I shouldn’t hold back my energy in a room full of men. That it doesn’t make me unattractive or intimidating. That some of the funniest people are female – and males can appreciate that kind of humor too. Then they admit to being a feminist… and here’s the kicker: most of them are heterosexual white males.

Since I was about 15 or so, I started to break everything down to how my little cousins viewed me. I want my 13 year old cousins to be confident and proud of the wonderful and wacky women that they are. I want them to know that you can speak your mind and be silly without being afraid of what other people think. That if a man is not attracted to you because of how bold and outgoing you are, he’s not someone you should be dating anyways. That stupidity isn’t cute, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know or don’t understand. I want them to realize that you’re not defined by your partner (or lack thereof) and it’s okay if you’re messy and don’t have your shit together. Poise, grace and beauty are great when you want them around… but you should love yourself without them. Don’t feel bad for wanting to look pretty and dress up but also don’t hold back your silliness in fear of looking ugly. Date whoever you want… or no one at all. Love your body, mind, spirit and find what makes you unique. Don’t ever make fun of someone else because they look strange compared to society… but don’t judge the pretty girls either. Be strong and independent but don’t be afraid to crash and burn. There will be days where you’re vulnerable and depressed but as long as you can recognize this, you can live through it. Live a healthy life… stay away from the crash diets but don’t overindulge. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for being yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Don’t let anyone belittle your ambitions.

If being a strong female who wants to empower others to be strong too makes me a feminist… then good. If I don’t admit that I’m a feminist, I’m being hypocritical. It means that I’m afraid to embrace who I am because I’m afraid of what others may assume or think.

And that’s not what Annie Taylor is all about.