Ms. Luardo, after all, is 34 years old. And she had come to be among this sea of dewy-faced high schoolers not as a chaperone or older sister, but because Will is her personal unpaid intern and, in her words, B.F.F., best friend forever. She met him when he came to see her band play in Philadelphia last winter. They subsequently got to know each other through MySpace and instant messaging, and when Ms. Luardo needed to channel the voice of a teenager for a marketing project, she enlisted Will’s help.
Since then he has been her point man for keeping up with all things young. In turn she has been spending many a weekend shuttling him from his home in Moorestown, N.J., to parties, concerts and the occasional summer blockbuster.
At one time there was no way to better broadcast one’s failure to thrive as an adult than to hang around high school kids. It meant that the world beyond senior prom had shut its doors, forcing a return to a place in which your value was determined solely by your ability to drive a car and procure beer. But now, according to young professionals working in fields in which fluency in the dialects and habits of teenagers is paramount, hanging out with high schoolers is cool, and sometimes even professionally advantageous.
Often these teenagers are known as “the intern.” They are working for little or nothing at clothing labels, guerrilla marketing firms and one-person event-planning operations, making coffee, opening mail and tagging along with their employers in environments they deem interesting. While they get college-résumé-boosting work experience, not to mention entree into clubs and parties, their employers get around-the-clock muses and ambassadors to youth culture.
Paying high school students to be your "BFF" so that you may continue to believe yourself to be young and hip. Because that cushy job you got right out of college because you were young and hip isn't going to last forever as long as time keeps having its way with you.
Of course, time isn't the only one having its way:
One exception is 16-year-old Cory Kennedy, who since last fall has been working as an unpaid intern for the Los Angeles party photographer Mark Hunter, 21. Since her job began, she has become both his girlfriend and something of an Internet phenomenon thanks to Mr. Hunter’s Web site, www.thecobrasnake.com, which is dominated by pictures of her with her signature unbrushed hair and improbable outfits.
While Cory said that her internship with Mr. Hunter involved its share of drudgery, she is also getting credit at her charter high school, where she was able to label her work an independent study in photojournalism. Most enticing, though, it gave her an entree to hip fashion and entertainment industry parties. “I was just leading this crazy exciting new life,” she said. (Her mother, Jinx, said she was keeping a close eye on Cory, but in general thought Mr. Hunter was a good influence.)
She's getting school credit for dating her boss.