My sister tells me that her daughter uses my blog for her class, which I’m not sure what that means but I hope it’s a room full of teenagers, shattered and shaken because they read my post and fear becoming what Auntie Mo is: a desperate, attention-seeking aging lady who put on bronzer in a dimly-lit room and now looks like she’s wearing all that makeup to hide face tattoos. That teardrop tatt sounded like a good idea at the time! I haven’t murdered anyone but I have watched the Notebook a lot! And cried because I couldn’t connect with the other women who loved this dumb movie about what—a rich girl who is really bad at correspondence? Something something romance? Blah blah blah forever and ever? So I wept at my lack of humanity, abundance of cynicism, wailing: “What’s wrong with me?!”
Spoiler alert: too many things!
I find my niece’s teenage life fascinating. She is incredibly smart and into things I know other dumb teens and adults are not into like Dr. Who. I love that she is into something so inherently fun and smart and geeky and set apart from the mainstream basicdom of her teenage peers. She’s different but better than the kind of different I was.
My science project was about the internet. NERD! Also, my penguin school uniform.
I did dark things like eat way too much food in my room while listening to Tori Amos and designing this blog on Tripod. Tripod was the cool geocities. Which doesn’t even matter because no one else my age had a blog. No one was thinking about smearing their feelings across the internet, few teenagers anyway. We wrote longform posts and our photos were such a burden to post because we would have to take them with a disposable camera, drop it off at Costco, wait until the photo department shift changes so the person who saw your seventeen goth poses isn’t the person who hands the photos to you, then you have to scan them and only then can you post it to your web blog. This is why I just used pictures of 1998-era Mariah Carey as my profile. I really liked, “Honey”!
Side note: I was very much into the gothic blogs in 1998 and identified heavily with the brooding, dark music and super pastiness of it, even though I lived on an island and velvet gowns would be too suffocating even for an angsty teenager who wanted to suffer through so she could write some poems.
screenshot from the 90s. see how many goth site rings I joined?!
But! I did go up for a “Gothic Babe of the Week” contest and I made all my classmates vote for me and I won! Even though I was not at all what they were looking for (I was qualified for the “of the week” portion, not the title), they just wanted the votes to come from a non-hotmail email address. Here’s your ancient webhistory lesson! *closes history book, chokes on dust*
Sometimes my niece will mention what the other teens are getting into, some of the things they might say and I always tell her. It gets better, but not for everyone, especially those who are enjoying it now. I am speaking from experience and what will naturally happen: everyone becomes fatter, some become successful, others live in a world where it’s okay to yell, “Gym flow!” instead of reading a book. And by book, I mean something that didn’t appear first as a movie or something that doesn’t have “Live your best life!” in the title. Whatever they have now that boosts them to the top of the social circles will fade—No one looks like they are 17 forever and if they do, please run. It is because of wizardry and animal sacrifice or genetic mutations or just plain luck. Have the skills that last, read books, do enough things to be interesting, take a risk every once in a while, make mistakes, apologize, learn how to make a party dish, sing a non-obnoxious song at karaoke, call your mother sometimes.
Be one of those who might not have been a duckling or a swan but somehow finds happiness. Who might have two kids. Who might tell jokes to strangers. That life isn’t so bad, no matter what the punchline is.