In Which I Contemplate Teenagehood
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In Which I Contemplate Teenagehood
On Thursday morning, I sat beside Mom on a couch and felt an uneasiness take up in my stomach: the thinly veiled distaste, the undercurrent of deception, the absolute notion that something was just off took precedence in the room. Maybe they didn’t see it; I don’t know. Their pettiness made me angry.
That afternoon, I had to turn away and speed toward my cherry-vanilla coke when we told them we were leaving.
“But I don’t want you to go,” one of the little girls protested, tears welling in her eyes. They were in mine, too. I widened them, facing the trashcan, and blinked. I think maybe a few of the kids saw.
I managed to push past it in that moment, although it came back to tease me in other parts of the day. Like when I bent down to fix that same girl’s shoe–lavender converse, always coming untied—and she stared down at me and said, “I love you.” I gave her a hug. I wanted to repeat that to my Mom right after, but couldn’t for the threat of tears.
Later that evening, we sat in a restaurant and the waitress talked to us throughout our whole dinner. I didn’t mind. Part of me wishes we could have invited her to sit down.
It’s different, this sort of moving on. In my life, there have been chapters closed before, but never so abruptly. Getting past an end has always been a gradual, warring slope for me. I seem to have a hard time letting go. This was different—like slamming a book shut only partway through the story. In a way, it’s made the severance easier.
It was sad for an afternoon, but I’m over it now. I’m ready to find something else, although it’s scary. The idea—not having, but needing to do something entirely on my own is frightening, and some people would probably be surprised to hear me say that.
But you seem so confident, they would say. That’s what my friends more or less told me last week, as we were exiting Goodwill after trying on a variety of hideous dresses for fun. You walk funny.
What do you mean?
You walk differently from the rest of us.
Everybody walks different.
It's not bad. It's a confident walk.
Yeah. But it’s good.
Funny, because I don’t see it. Not all the time. I feel vividly self-aware. If I’m brushing my hair back too often, I know it; if my shirt is slipping down one shoulder; if I’m making a face—although occasionally those slip past my radar (actually, okay, a lot on that front. I can’t help it. I’m just very expressive).
Yes, I probably seem confident. And I am. Yet I’m still the girl who hates going to the bathroom alone at a restaurant, who hates walking first into any sort of place, who feels self conscious (or used to—this has ebbed some) eating at other peoples' houses, who won’t try on a jacket in the middle of a department store, even though it doesn’t necessitate taking any layers off.
That’s just me. Quite simply.
I turned seventeen last Monday. It doesn’t feel any differently than sixteen, to be honest. There’s a gap there—a bridge—between this and fifteen, though. It’s palpable, though I can’t really pinpoint it. I think I’m probably just different. It did seem strange when I woke up the other day and thought wait–I’m seventeen. That was a bit ethereal.
I love that I’m getting to the age where I have so many opportunities before me, but it’s strange, too. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was sitting on the pink rug in my room, playing with my Playmobile “Modern House” while Little Women hummed its cheerful song on my tiny TV. I miss those weekends where it was wake-eat-play-watch cartoons-get-dressed-play-eat lunch-play-read-do homework-watch cartoons-eat dinner-play-watch a movie-go to bed.
I think a part of me would still do that if I could. I’m just suddenly older and I want to go back and ask myself when did this happen? But I can’t. Because it is, as with moving on, a gradual process. No specific moment can be pinpointed in time, gestured to grandly and pronounced, “That’s when she stopped being a kid!” Because no, I still haven’t. I love SpongeBob and drawing and reading and lying around doing nothing.
A lot of those things I used to love doing have made the transition to nearly-adult. I cook now with real food, instead of toys. I write stories instead of acting them out. I don’t play teacher—I tutor. And okay, I’ll admit sometimes I still wish I could play teacher, play pretend, and play with toy food. Or actually, scratch that. Playing with toy food was never fun past the age of five. I’m sorry, but real cooking is so much more satisfying. Especially since you can eat your efforts.
I love that now I can work a job, if I so choose. I like that I can make lunch plans with my friend and have the money to pay for it myself. I like the idea of—I’ve always been the type to lie around thinking about everything I want to do but can’t because I’m too young, and suddenly I’m just about not. It’s different, it’s exciting, it’s weird.
Like I told my friend yesterday (over text, which kind of brings this sentiment back down to earth a bit)—remember: no pressure. You have places to go and things to do and people to meet and adventures to have.
Yes, I just quoted myself, but isn’t that true? Don’t you believe it for yourself? I believe it for me.
I believe it for me.