I remember when I was probably four, I cried at my birthday party. I tawdrily wet my beautiful, floral dress (or was it scratchy, polyester Halloween costume?) with damp sobs of my escaping youth. From a very young age I was convinced of my theory of how life worked; I believed that everything that happened was my first chance and that ultimately I would wake up and be a sleeping baby who had dreamt it all- I'm talking like four or five years old I came up with this abstract ideology. I still may or may not believe it or at least some days I just want it to be true.
I have never wanted to grow up. I still absolutely refuse to do so. Each year hit me harder than the next. I only love birthdays because I turn mine essentially into a October to December self-centered, never ending celebration. I would still go out for birthday drinks if you asked me today. This whole attitude and apparent philosophy thus caused me to be a bit of a late bloomer; That is not scientifically proven but whatever. I was always very much precocious and curious but that was coupled with being left all thumbs when it came to my peers. In early elementary school, I did in fact know about things like sex, drugs & rock n roll but I was so disassociated from conventional behavior that there was no allure to be involved with such things. I am not saying that I was so hip or an aloof bad ass, I was just an eccentric little bird who recorded stand-up comedy on my karaoke machine and ate white bread stuffed with oreos.
The first time I caved to popular pressure was in 5th grade. All throughout elementary school I volunteered/befriended the special education class. I had the best time being with all the teachers and students there. They were my friends and I was a natural at communicating and connecting. All of the sudden, as if out of nowhere, other kids began to make fun of me for hanging out with the "retards" and "freaks". My pure and enduring child-like heart, fought back and defended my friends and choices. Even the small group of friends I had joined in deflecting the hurtful words. It was not until one of my closest friends began to hang out with some new girls that I ever considered otherwise. We will call my best friend, Sam, just in case. Sam became friends with the "cool" girls: The girls that wore training bras, eye shadow, and head to toe Limited Too. I like to think that I was slowly included because I was funny, but I think Sam had to do a lot of convincing and frankly a little scared. Soon enough, I was finding any which way to make sure I could do anything and everything with them. I abandoned my other friends to follow Sam and my version of "The Heathers." Better yet it was as if I was the Cady Heron of 5th grade; I was matching sparkly tees with my brother's Levis.
Hang outs consisted of: Talking about crushes, trying on a bunch of outfits, talking about crushes, and did I say talking about crushes? When it came to my turn to confess my crush, I probably farted or something because I just did not get it. I played basketball with the boys, I pulled pranks, I burped with them, why would I bother liking them? Sure, if I had to choose a member from *NSYNC it would be Lance but I just wasn't worried about stuff like that. After several attempts to cure my "shyness" they did what any coming-of-age chick flick would do next: Prepared a make over. The pony tail was taken out, the jeans were traded for a mini-skort (they weren't too advanced, I'll give them that), and of course a strappy pink training bra to make sure was sticking out from my camisole. I know none of this is shocking or abnormal but I was so hurt by all of this. I was absolutely vulnerable. It did not all stop there, their militia had just begun:
They tried to make me be a cheerleader and because I was so small I opted to be the "flyer" and subsequently broke my wrist when these untrained bimbos did not catch me
They took my chips away because chips make you "fat" and they did this every time I had them (I quickly learned to eat them before lunch time)
They told the entire grade I had a crush on a kid named "Kyle" and I was forced to confront this as they pushed us together in a bathroom stall
And of course I was the guinea pig for everything...including leg shaving and tampons.
I have to acknowledge that 5th grade age is typically 10 or 11, mere children, CHILDREN. I cannot confirm or deny if they honestly did or not but there was the wicked day when all of the sudden each girl had their "period." (I do understand that this is completely possible but to this day I am not so keen that they really did) I was supposed to like boys, be skinny, and BLEED out of my WHAT? HUH? I threw in the towel. I began to think what is any of this worth. The topic of conversation shifted from boys to their crimson tides and how they were "developing" all the while I still resembled Punky Brewster. I will never forget being at "Stacy's" house while her and Sam happened to have their periods, for what probably was the 17th fake time that month, they got the wise, unsupervised, and apparently uneducated idea to use Stacy's Mom's tampons. Unless this was a subliminal attempt to lose their virginities I do not know why we had to embark on this. I just wanted to swim and eat entire box of goldfish. Unbeknownst to any of us, Stacy pulled out Super-sized tampons and guess who had to "try" it first? Me. They tried to convince me that since I did not have my period that it wouldn't hurt or that it was good to do it now so I would be ready later. Where do they learn this shit? It would not dawn on me until much later in life but all these girls had older sisters if not a few older sisters and because I was the oldest in my family, I did not share the same baton that they were trying to pass along. I had my own that I was preparing to salvage.
In that moment, I took the tampon went into the bathroom and gave one of the better performances of my life: I squealed a little, gave updates (Yeah, it's not so bad, you should be fine, piece of cake), and then flushed it down the toilet and told them I needed to go home. Not only did I gain some sort of new found respect from them, I did for myself. I was never a follower until I got wrapped up with them and it was about time I began reclaiming my independence and tenacity. Sure, I was conveniently moving away that summer so I never had to face them again (Little did I know social media was brewing), but I was happy to have reacquainted myself with who I was. I was truly rewarded when I started junior high school and met the friends that I still have today.
My small, private, Christian school consisted of about 50 kids per grade. The girls were just as goofy as the boys and both were perfectly innocent. The girls did not shave their legs, hike up their skirts, no make up, bras were only a thing if you needed one, and we were more concerned about beating the boys in dodgeball than kissing behind the chapel (You know who you are). I was surrounded by really good kids who had yet to been taken captive by lechery. As we went through our three years of junior high, of course we matured but I will always be so thankful for how awkwardly pure it all went about. I was in love with my best friend Blake because he was funny and smart. I did not want to bend over when he walked by so he could see my hot pink Sponge Bob underwear and I did not want to pretend to be vacuously conversational, I simply wanted to be around him and that was enough butterflies to handle. We were not allowed to watch Rated R movies and when we tried we felt bad and left. We did not swear other than the over use of "What the heck." Yes, this has to do how we were raised, a small community of students, a church built on morality and principles, it can be better controlled rather than the open-ended public school system outside of us but really we were just late bloomers and it all came to a head in high school. It always is that way. I am eternally grateful for the good our junior high instilled in us because to this day, these are good people with strong values, opinions, and personalities.
I will never forget one thing in our blossoming days of puberty, the elusive, incomprehensible and random...boners (I'm sorry, should I say "erection?"). The boys and girls rarely sat with one another at lunch, it was usually girls by the grass and boys close to the building. Lunch began to take on a mind of its own by the time we were in 8th grade. There was one day when the boys began to crowd around one another cheering, yelling, and hiding one of their own. Naturally the girls were curious about the ruckus but it took about 3-4 more separate times of this until we went to see what was going on. I never saw anyone's puerile and prodigal under-pant exhibition but we caught on to the cries, yells, and rouge faces and I think we just heard someone say "boner." After much research and compilation of understandings, the girls were left with a lot of hilarity yet a lot of bewilderment. Why were they getting erections during lunch? Why did they crowd around one another? Are we supposed to know about this? Are we supposed to do something? We imagined ourselves getting our periods in the middle of lunchtime and agreed the boys were overreacting. I think that is when we accepted us ladies were always going to be far more mature for the many years ahead.
With erections, menstruations, brassieres, and infatuations full speed ahead, teenagehood bloomed all on its own. All of us (most of us), found our personalities settle into the hierarchy of high school. Some of us became boy crazy, some of us began to shorten our skirts, some of us started to exclusively listen to "The Smiths", some of us tried a beer or two, and some of us began to get muscle definition among the ranks of Ryan Gosling.
I cannot sit here and pretend like I have the capability to define childhood or adolescence or speak on behalf of teenagers but I am comfortable with thinking I have a grasp on the impetus of it all. Growing up too fast only ails you later. You lose your child-like wonder and complacency or you act upon an idea of what it means to be a "grown up" only realizing how wrong you were. You will have to face childhood at some point so why not do it while it is there? I have been infinitely better off for not clinging to societal pressures or social pressures to be what I am not. I bought my first bra when I supposed to and able to fill it out, my first kiss came when I was open to it and ready for it, and I wore make up if I woke up with enough time to spare. It does not always happen this way and it most certainly is never easy. It all seemingly begins when our bodies begin to tell us it is time that we discover ourselves and those around us. We all catch up eventually and even as young adults can still feel like a child discovering ourselves. All the mistakes, desires, dramas, triumphs, accomplishments, are all purposeful to our continuous growth as humans. We will continue to face new versions of "getting our period" or "random boners" and will look to those around us to see how they have dealt with the upheavals and follies of life. For me at least, I will never have a "Stacy" guide me through it all because I can tell you that Stacy is definitely dating some guy who has a second girlfriend who is also named Stacy and she still thinks that when she posts Bible verses next to her sorority party photos that she comes off as genuine. You can still find me eating sandwiches with oreos in the middle but I have matured to wheat bread.