Here’s what it’s like: you are twelve or thirteen and your mother is angry because you won’t tease your bangs and you prefer to wear Charlotte Russe tops under overalls to the seventh grade.
You’ve got a trampoline in your backyard, and you’ve discovered how much easier it is to do a back flip than to flip forward. You spend a lot of time at night on that trampoline: laying on it, beating on it, using it to get high enough to see the horses over the fence. You’ve named those horses, and you talk to that moon. You jump until your legs ache and your throat burns, but you can’t stop because you’re talking to the moon. The moon and you, you have certain understandings of the truth: Boys hurt you. Friends lie. People protect themselves before they would you. You should learn to do the same. Family changes. Family is crazy. Family loves the most.
It is only a matter of time before Mrs. Hallman is awarded her sainthood. She survived the tenth slumber party of the school year. Last night’s total: eight preteen girls, four karaoke versions of “I Want It That Way”, two thirteen-year old boys’ houses TPed, one entire chocolate cake devoured.
The boy you are “going out” with is one and ½ inches shorter than you, and you like it when he comes to the door wearing his rollerblades, because then, when the two of you awkwardly hug, your forehead touches his chin – instead of what occurs sans rollerblades, where his eyes would otherwise be locked right on your… collarbone. Not that you have much of a collarbone. But you wish you did.
Your Christmas present was a separate phone line “for the kids” – but you have to share it with the dial-up internet. Your little brother likes to look at the lingerie section of the JC Penny catalog, and you fight a lot, but sometimes you sneak into each other’s rooms to play, and you let his Power Rangers take your Barbies for a spin in the convertible. That is, after you’ve unpacked the aforementioned dolls from the attic for the third time that month. Someday, they’ll stay up there for good.
This is what it’s like: there aren’t any other girls your age that live on your street, but there is one eighth grader who dyes a streak of her brown hair blonde, right down the middle. This, combined with her practice of snarling her lip and scrunching her nose as if she’s just caught wind of an open sewer in August, has earned her the pet name “The Skunk”. Your mother always preaches that if you make a face long enough, it’ll stick. You worry for The Skunk.
There is no world outside of what falls between 75th and 83rd or what extends north or south of Cactus and Thunderbird — except maybe the mall, and your mom won’t let you hang out there with your friends anyway (something about mall rats). It’s debatable as to whether there is a world beyond how you perceive life and how you, specifically and only, are affected by it.
Lyndsay likes Ryan. Or Brandon. Katie likes Brandon. Amanda likes Dustin and Mike. Melissa likes Dustin and Brandon. Nicole likes Dustin and Sean. You like Dustin. And Sean. And Zach. Ryan likes Jessica, and Jessica likes Ryan. Until she finds Pat. Kelley likes Ryan. Ryan likes Lyndsay. Or You. Dustin likes Amanda. And Britnee. And you, again, maybe. Marissa likes older boys with juicy lips. Sean (not that Sean, another Sean) likes Katie, but Katie just got her first kiss from Aaron playing spin the bottle. Most of these incontrovertible facts have been established in chat rooms.
And so, this is what it’s like when you have come to the conclusion that all boys, and all girls, are the same.
You have an older sister. She’s in *~high school~*. She’s so pretty, it’s offensive. She’s a freshman, and she’s the starting pitcher for the high school softball team. (You try to play softball, too, but you’ve broken your nose four times now and it’s probably best to give it up.) She has a boyfriend who’s a senior.
Sometimes, you’re allowed to go to the mall, if your sister goes with you. Sometimes, her boyfriend drives you there. All the time, your friends stare at him.
You’ve seen Titanic three times in theaters. It is awesome. Mandy Moore is better than Britney Spears, Limp Bizkit is dumb, and Freddie Prinze Jr. is hot.
You keep a journal religiously. October 6, 1999. 10:14pm. There’s gonna be a slumber party this Friday at Lyndsay’s house. I think Mom will let me go. I LOOOVE slumber parties, especially when Katie and Amanda are there. Sometimes (most of the time) we get spastically hyper and start singing and making up songs like drunk old men. Whenever you write a swear word in your journal, you apologize. You are melodramatic and passionate and unintentionally hilarious. March 11, 2000. I feel as if someone unplugged the drain on my heart and it is leaking everywhere in my body. There’s nothing I can do about it. I am bleeding everywhere and no one can see! I can’t even cry, I’m numb. It hurts all over. I can’t trust anyone.
Some days are great. You feel brave and mature and even pretty. You are smart and funny. You are the second best secret-keeper you know. Other days, life is hell. Your best friend keeps liking whoever you like. Your mom made you sign off AOL just when the conversation was getting good. You try too hard, and someone took the terrible liberty of telling all your secrets.
You are only 12, 13, 14, but you know what it’s like when love leaves. You know what it’s like to be rendered useless in adult situations. You’ve learned what it’s like to have a best friend trade you in for a better model, what it’s like to say something you can’t take back, what it’s like to be admired, and what it’s like to be despised.
And now, when you are 25, you are suprised, slightly creeped out, and thoroughly pleased that you remember what it’s like.