Across the world, dishevelled, semi-naked teenagers as old as 21 scour charity shops and rifle through rubbish bags in a desperate search for a stitch of clothing to shield their emaciated bodies from the chill wind of rampant consumerism—a wind which has left many of them with barely a safety pin between them to hold up their ripped jeans.
In London, the problem has got so bad that city mayor, Ken
Livingstone, has launched an appeal to put shirts on the backs of
the capitals impoverished teenagers, or at least a frayed strip of denim
around teenage girls' breasts.
Utterpants were shocked to discover that the problem is even worse in America, where the Mall Rats of the Midwest are among the most destitute teenagers in the developed world. Our reporter saw droves of poor children—many with less flesh on their malnourished bodies than the chicken McNuggets they clutched in their trembling hands—wandering aimlessly through the shopping malls of the richest nation on earth, drawn to the food court like moths to a flame, only to be fobbed off with limp burgers and greasy fries. We have never seen such pinched, careworn faces wearing identical expressions of sullen defiance, yet they were all united in their determination to band together and someday overthrow the adult world that had condemned them to this grinding poverty.
We asked a Good Samaritan who took time out from giving some of the
more attractive girls part-time jobs in his publishing empire, to explain
how these kids got to the mall. "Beats the hell outta me,"
said Bob Guccione, as he wrapped a Nike jacket around the shoulders
of pretty blonde who dropped
to her knees in gratitude and cried into his crotch. Bob coughed
self-consciously and hurriedly zipped his pants up as he consoled the
sobbing teen with a fatherly kiss. "Y'see," he continued,
"No responsible adult will sell them a vehicle or issue them a
driver’s license and their semi-nakedness means they can't use
public transportation. "Their only source of transportation—"
As we surveyed the gangs of bedraggled teenagers dragging their worn-out heels through America's streets we were forced to answer 'no.' We can only conclude that many of these cash-strapped waifs and strays must be orphans. Surely no parent would allow their child to wander about in public dressed in nothing more than a pair of ripped denim shorts and a shredded tee shirt held together with plastic beads and bits of string? Even in affluent Los Angeles we saw crowds of boys wearing jeans that were several sizes too short in the leg, yet were paradoxically too big in the waist. Surprisingly, rather than hide their unwashed boxers, many appeared to flaunt their lack of personal hygiene by openly showing off the skid marks in their foetid underwear.
The girls were little better. Many are now so poor they’re forced to wear their little sister’s clothing, which, while often of good quality, is several sizes too small. While American boys’ jeans could comfortably accommodate several adults, the girls’ jeans barely had enough fabric to swat a fly. They aren’t worn, so much as sprayed on, and suffered from the same unfortunate attack of gravity, as they rode so low on their emaciated hips our reporter was able to read the designer labels on their thongs.
The problem is even worse in the UK, where many young girls can't afford any underwear at all. Utterpants discovered that some British teenage girls are so poverty-stricken they don't have bras either and the few that do own them, appear to have washed them at too high a temperature as they were several sizes smaller than the breasts squeezing out of them. More worryingly, some teenagers appear to have been involved in industrial accidents and are too poor to afford medical treatment. Instead of stitches, their wounds were repaired with crude metal studs and rivets. One young girl we saw leaning up against the wall of a JD Sports shop, who was negotiating the purchase a cigarette from a passer-by, had clearly been the victim of a serious bicycle accident, as we could not believe what was being held together by the metal stud between her skinny thighs.
Many of these desperately poor kids also seem to suffer from hearing difficulties. Despite the fact that modern hearing aids are so small they are barely visible and are usually worn discreetly inside the ear, we saw many children reduced to wearing bulky listening devices with two ear pieces attached to large receivers dangling from their necks. What's worse, is that these devices don’t appear to work at all well, as we discovered when tried to talk to an impoverished girl wearing her little sister’s skirt and a filthy top with more holes than a colander. We were forced to shout at her for several minutes before she would accept the pair of knickers we offered her and even then she seemed incapable of knowing what to do with them.
Utterpants were so concerned by the dreadful poverty our research uncovered that we have launched our own appeal—TeenAid—to try to put clothes on the backs of the worlds underprivileged teenagers. Anything you can send in to us; used panties, discarded bras—even the bit of old string your husband uses to hold up his gardening trousers, will help a child in need. Please don't turn your back on these desperate kids!
Story and picture © 2005 Miranda Givings, Don Pitts and utterpants.co.uk / 261005