I'd been expecting this development, but held off until I got some real-world confirmation. The restless warm-up phase of the 15-year excitement cycle sees everyone coming out of their vulnerable-phase cocoons, now that the refractory state has worn off, and it's time to start interacting with other people again.
But some cohorts will show this cocoon-leaving behavior more extremely than others. Namely, those who imprinted on just such a phase in the cycle when they were born, during the last restless phase. During the 2020-'24 restless phase, these people were born during the 2005-'09 restless phase. They are now undergoing their second birth — adolescence, at age 15 — during this phase, so they will imprint all the more solidly on the zeitgeist of a restless phase.
One of the defining features of this phase is linked to leaving the cocoon — the urge to cross the line, push the envelope, overstep boundaries, and disregard taboos. "Just get out of the cocoon already and run free! Don't let others confine you to your tiny little personal niche, get out there and mix it up within other people's personal space!" This is the animating force of the wild-child cohort that is born, and turns 15, during a restless phase.
Perhaps the main domain where this leaving of the cocoon takes place is dating and mating. Can't do any of that when you're both in a touch-me-not refractory state cocoon during the vulnerable phase. But the restless phase is like spring when the social environment comes back to life, and begins the mating season.
What kind of rules are the wild-child cohort going to bend, and even transgress? Not so much the types of physical acts considered normal vs. edgy, since that's way too far down the line, assuming they've already found someone to latch onto. Rather, it's the category of person they're allowed to pursue in the first place. Some taboos are still inviolable, even when adolescents become transgressive, so incest for example is still out of the question.
Really the only strongly felt taboo about who you can and cannot date, hook up with, marry, or have kids with, relates to an age gap. And related to that, to a power differential — student / teacher, worker / manager, and so on. Both liberals and conservatives admonish age gap relationships, both popular mass culture and IRL word-of-mouth from adults, both friends and rivals.
And yet, it won't be the end of the world if you pursue someone forbidden by this taboo, as opposed to a serious one like incest. So if they do feel the urge to transgress, this is the natural outlet — edgy and risky, but innocuous compared to other thrill-seeking relationships.
* * *
I have never been so full-frontally assaulted by horny teenagers as I was during the 2005-'09 restless phase, mainly while working as a tutor, by my students. (No, I did not fuck my students.)
Even back then, I noticed a stark difference among them, which has only gotten more vivid in retrospect with 15 more years of experience. The ones born in the second half of the '80s — who imprinted on a vulnerable phase — were more bashful, and in making their feelings known, were more like feeling safe to finally open up to someone. They were the sad-girl type, and were relieved to finally be in a social climate where they could leave their cocoon and attach themselves to a crush.
And then there were those born in the first half of the '90s — they just did not GAF about norms, discretion, decorum, or any of that stuff. They were always up-front and provocative, enjoying not just the pursuit but the provocation itself. "How far can I cross the border before getting admonished?" And even then, they would just try to cross further in the future. "So I got caught once — doesn't mean I should just stop trying to overstep that pointless line."
The first line for them to cross was in speech — talking bluntly about sexual matters, right to my face. A little further than that, they'd do some slightly provocative act while also calling attention to it in speech. Slowly strutting in long strides in front of me while wearing booty shorts, to catch my attention, then smiling and saying "Hiiiii Agnostiiiiiic......" Or turning around, sticking their butt out, and smacking each cheek in sequence while they called out the two-word phrase written on one of my tattoos.
They were ruthless!
If they got really attached, they would actually drop their provocations, and sincerely and tenderly ask me point-blank how old I am. And when I said "25" (when she was 15), she responded with, "Oh... well... I think age is just a number, y'know? Like, if two people really love each other, it shouldn't matter how old they are..." I just nodded along noncommittally, like "Maybe, maybe not, but let's move on to something else." Not endorsing in order to start a relationship, but also not shooting her down in humiliation. Just trying to move past it, and reacting as though she were raising a purely hypothetical question for me to ponder in the abstract, so I didn't have to check either of the "yes" or "no" boxes on a slip of paper that asked if I liked her.
Then later in danceclubs, just forget about it. They were way more wild, bold, and provocative, not just as teenagers but well into their early 20s. Far more direct and uninhibited, like goosing me when I wasn't looking, or surrounding me inside their entire group of friends. That simply did not happen earlier on, with the late '80s births. Those were early '90s girls all the way.
Just standing in line at the club, I overheard them speaking so frankly about sex. Once I chimed in to ask their female opinion - who do you think fakes orgasms more, guys or girls? Without hesitation or a hint of irony — "GUYS," they unanimously declared. I never knew whether they were just joking with me while playing it straight-faced, but in light of all those articles about how Millennial guys can't get it up IRL due to their porn addictions and/or substance use beforehand, maybe those girls were telling the truth, but meant guys faked it in order to end their awkward attempt at non-erect sex.
If, like me, you don't belong to either of those cohorts (whether you're younger or older than them), you may still have an easy frame of reference if you listen to the Red Scare podcast. Dasha is a canonical early '90s wild child, whereas late '80s-born Anna describes herself as a stick-in-the-mud. In the years I've been listening, Dasha certainly comes off as the more boundary-crossing one. Both have said they've been with older guys as teenagers, but I'll bet Dasha got more of a rule-bending rush from the act of provocation itself in pursuing an older guy.
* * *
So where do things stand today? I haven't experienced that kind of direct, blatant talking about sex since the late 2000s and somewhat into the early 2010s. Am I simply losing my appeal as a target? Nope. It was merely due to the restless phase having passed, until the early 2020s.
Then last Friday, while walking toward the entrance of a suburban supermarket, a trio of teens swooped in from another direction and headed right toward me, the only other person around. All cute, all 5'9 or 5'10, all wearing the current fashion of high-waisted loose shorts and a crop top. And all around 15-16 (no college students in that area, only adults and pre-college kids).
The prettiest and tannest one had moved to the end of their pack closest to me, and right before passing, raised her voice to say — supposedly to her friends — "I'm not wearing a bra," and something like, "So as long as it doesn't get cold..." to make me think about what her nipples would look like pressing through her micro-crop top if the temperature were not late summery.
We went through different entrances, but crossed paths again soon inside, and the other two had suppressed grins on their faces, while the sex-talker smiled and passed by with a grin of her own. They were not bashful at all. On the contrary, they reminded me exactly of those early '90s girls striding boldly around, provoking whoever struck their fancy, feeling the thrill, and trying to stay high on their rush afterwards by giggling about it together — their shared mini-transgressive secret.
It reminded me of last summer while I was driving around the 'burbs, with Miley Cyrus' Breakout CD playing. Two early high school girls were riding bikes up ahead of me, and when they looked back to confirm it was a random hot guy playing cool music, they slowed their pace, and one of them stood straight up and started doing a little pogo dance on the pedals, bouncing her bubble at the driver behind her. Provocative, deliberate, trying to scandalize an older forbidden guy, while wearing booty shorts to boot.
Or also that summer, the high school girls soccer team that kicked the ball toward me, and let it slowly roll out of bounds, so that I had to kick it back to them. Not the most scandalous way to force an older guy to engage with them, but still part of the overall pattern. And something that just began in 2020 with the restless phase.
And the weekend before last, there was a younger girl than them, probably 14, who was following me in the thrift store. She didn't say anything overtly sexual, but the way she kept hovering close was more provocative than the usual girls who just find an orbit around a random hot guy in public.
It was the shoes section, and she initially spied me through the racks from the other side, where the girls' shoes are. Then with zero subtlety, spins around the end, and begins pretending to intensely survey the options among mens shoes in a size 13 (to make it even more implausible, she was 5'4), while gradually looking over and inching closer, as though to explore the other shoes — mens shoes. It must've been a solid minute or two of pretending.
Although she didn't say anything provocative or assume a provocative position, I felt an intensity unlike from the usual girl who's casually passing by to get a look of validation or flash a quick smile. This wasn't just to get validation, it felt like she was about ready to grab onto or climb over me, to start something physical rather than just get a look. From the intensity of her look and stride, it was more like she was closing in on me, like targeting another player in a game of tag, not bashfully tip-toe-ing around like the other shoppers.
Finally, on the way driving home Friday night, I passed by a group of four teen girls (also high schoolers, since this was too far away from a college campus), who were hanging out on a public bench, after dark, with no adult supervision. There was a Wendy's nearby where they'd gotten something to snack on, and a streetlight overhead to let everybody passing by see them.
I couldn't overhear what they were talking about, and they were not doing anything overtly provocative. It just struck me that I haven't seen teens out at night by themselves like this, just messing around and laughing with each other, in a very long time. Especially after dark, no parents, and in a very public place, rather than on someone's front porch or something. They were still a sign of the current restless phase, so I egged them on by letting out a catcall as I drove by. Something from Ministry's With Sympathy CD was blasting out the windows, which should've resonated with their mini-party mindset.
These examples, especially the girl trying to get a rise out of me by blurting out about not wearing a bra, are only the beginning. The ones born in 2005 are just turning 16, so this mood and behavior will only intensify in the coming years.
Crucially, they stand in stark contrast to the sad-girl types who were born in the first half of the 2000s, like Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. And current college students. And most of the sad girls on Tik Tok. Or even the relatively more upbeat ones, for that matter — Charli D'Amelio and Addison Rae are not provocative, thrill-seeking, and rule-bending like their immediate successors are going to be.