This French phrase means luxurious, fashionable, sophisticated young people; it translates literally to gilded youth.

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They gather at the local Co-op store, which I associate with the return of profits to consumers via stamps to be licked and stuck in books. "Do you collect stamps, love?" The once dowdy Co-op is now open twenty four hours selling maple-syrup-saturated pastries with pecan nuts, Häagen Dazs ice cream and expensive bottled beer, all to be paid for in graduation debt.

When the store is busy it is filled with a hormonal fug; everywhere the restless, gilded youth look at one another while appearing not to look. Longing trembles in the frozen foods aisle and serendipitous fingers linger over spiny courgettes. A boy boldly seeks a (redundant) opinion on cooking times, as a pretext to begin a conversation with an attractive other, but mostly such approaches are endlessly postponed; inconvenient desires are suppressed amidst convenience foods.

Outside, they seem unwilling to leave, perhaps sensing that youth once lost can only be recovered imperfectly in memory. So I see a boy with a mobile jammed to his ear, hoping for news of a party, hoping he is not missing out on some unrepeatable happening. Hoping. A group of girls, lounge on the bollards in front of the store, waiting for friends, waiting for something yet to be clearly defined. Waiting.

An old homeless man sits to the side of the store entrance unseen by them. All I can make out of him is his weathered face, he is disappearing into a pile of ragged blankets. His eyes are rheumy, perhaps because of stirred memories, or the wind whipping over the low wall of the car park.

He was once a young man; what boundless possibilities did he imagine then?

Jeu`nesse" do`rée" (?). [F.]

Lit., gilded youth; young people of wealth and fashion, esp. if given to prodigal living; -- in the French Revolution, applied to young men of the upper classes who aided in suppressing the Jacobins after the Reign of Terror.


© Webster 1913

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