THE SAME STUFF THEY DID IN THEIR TEENS
I had the great pleasure of riding Metro North from Grand Central Station to New Haven, CT yesterday. No, I'm not being sarcastic, it really was a joy. Reason #1: I was getting the bloody hell out of NYC for a long weekend to visit a dear friend and attend a fantastic music festival. Reason #2: I wound up sitting next to a group of three 16 year old girls who reminded me what this blog is really about. These kids embodied what all girls are taught to lose as they enter and embrace womanhood.
I fell in love with these three hooligans from the moment they boarded the train with their harried mothers. They flopped down next to me with their bulging overnight bags, huge supplies of candy, messy hair and exuberantly unselfconscious "I don't give a shit" attitudes. These best friends were excited, tired, crazy about each other and appropriately unhappy that their mothers were chaperoning them. After admonishing the girls to behave themselves, the moms left them to their own chaotic devices. "Behave" lingered in the maternal wake as the undefined entity it always is to anyone with high spirits and giddy self-abandon.
Once they were sure that parental guidance was a thing of the past, out came packages of twizzlers, cupcakes, and what might have been Sour Patch Kids or Gummi Somethings. Already mildly crazed with excitement about whatever the previous night had brought them, as well as their continued adventure, the girls' sugar high brought them to a new level of hilarity. Which is when I started listening and laughing.
Let's get this unfortunate fact out on the table: I am old enough to be any one of their moms. I'm sure that's what made my laughter (okay, spit takes) and outfit of converse sneakers, ratty t-shirt and shorts from high school a bit bewildering to the rowdy teenage coven. It was clear that they expected an adult to shush them and shift huffily in her seat. Instead, I asked them what they had done the night before. In a tumble of thrilling glee, each girl delivered a monologue about the life-changing qualities of seeing Jake Miller (22 year old Jewish hip hop sensation from Florida....go figure) perform. They made it clear that they all love him soooooooo much.
Then the sugar high came to a crashing halt and the love-fest died a fast and cranky death. This is when the good stuff came out. The audacious bitchiness to one another (and the unspoken total unimportance of that bitchiness) started rolling out of their mouths.
"Oh my god, I don't feel well. I only got 2 hours of sleep last night"
"That's because you wouldn't shut the fuck up."
"No one wants to hear you rap."
"Who does that song anyway?"
"Then let HIM sing it!"
"Stop hitting me"
"I'm over this friendship"
"Seriously. You're hurting me."
"No. My bruises. Stop touching me!"
I was cracking up and very obviously writing what they were saying. Rather than be annoyed at my eavesdropping, the girls insisted on knowing what I was doing and why. When I told them they might wind up on my blog (which they immediately searched for on their phones) they were beside themselves. No embarrassment, no fears about looking cool, uncool or otherwise, the three friends were psyched that their voices were respected, valued and would be published somewhere.
Eventually the moms returned, apologized to me for their daughters' rambunctiousness (the exhausted women looked skeptical when I told them I loved sitting next to their kids) and told the girls to pull it together. They had to behave more politely and with regard for the people around them. With all due respect to parents everywhere, I disagree. If anyone had behaved on that trip, it wouldn't have been what I'm sure will be a great memory. If they had been polite, they wouldn't have made each other laugh and reinforced their friendships. If they had been more demure, they'd be acting like grownups, which most grownups know is nowhere near as fun as being 16. And it should be. Why not? We're the same people we once were underneath the layers of rules and veneers of respectability we carry along with our laptops, diaper bags or tote bags filled with work that wasn't finished at the office.
All of this led to my mantra of the week: Letting go of the sheer audacity of being 16 is a choice, not a requirement.
The willing participants in my eavesdropping swore they would look for themselves on this site every day. In the event that you're reading this, Kate and co., here's to you. As I said on the train, and this goes for every woman and girl no matter how young or old, please stay weird.