Tag

Teenage Behaviors

It’s What is on the Outside That Counts

My mood is determined approximately 93% by what I’m wearing at a given time.

It started from infancy, with comfort being a priority. Think: soft cotton onesies and dry diapers. As I grew into toddlerhood and through my early years of schooling, comfort flew by the wayside in favor of glamor (at least what was considered “glamor” in the 80s).

When I was in 4th grade, my parents received a call from the teacher asking if they were aware that I was sporting high heels at school each day.

Apparently my mother’s adult-sized shoes on my kid-sized feet clued Mrs. Smith in that these were not my pre-arranged footwear.

This was not the first contact from school regarding my fashion choices, however. A few years prior, the teacher had asked during a conference if any changes were going on at home. After mulling this over for a while, my mom couldn’t come up with anything:

“I-I was on a business trip last week. Why? Is everything okay?”

“Aha! That must’ve been it, then!” the teacher proclaimed. “Academically she’s been fine, but wore velvet and taffeta dresses with dirty running sneakers to class all week. It was just rather strange.”

Apparently my dad was indifferent about the “homeless-chic” ensemble choices that his child determined were appropriate for kindergarten.

I was lucky enough to have a mom who didn’t fret over the details of my get-ups, unless it compromised the integrity of my family. For the most part 90s-fashion was pretty low-key, anyway, though I sometimes looked with envy on the kids who identified themselves as goth.

Long black dresses and capes, pale faces with dark lipstick;

I wanted to try it, but didn’t think I’d be able to pull off the “too-cool” countenance that seemed so effortless to that crowd.

So I decidedly blended in through high school and college. I kept up with the trends (platform foam flip-flops, tank tops atop other tank tops, risqué mini-skirts, wool sweaters from J. Crew), but didn’t really try anything new during that period of my life.

Upon leaving school and joining the work force, I needed to maintain a sense of decorum, so I dressed preppy and older. My glasses and “teacher-bun” (complete with writing implement jabbed through the center) rounded out the “she’s such a professional” look.

As long as my job was as a professional hot mess, I realize when I look back.

The only thing that set my wardrobe apart were my shoes:

My collection was vast; enviable. Every color and shade was represented, from fuchsia to forest green. But what they all had in common? Height. Towering peep-toes and the tallest wedges took me from pocket-sized to altitudinous amazonian. I was able to walk long stretches, run a marathon if needed, and- most importantly- stand sternly eye-to-eye with my eighth-grade students who had hit growth spurts over the winter break.

I stood straighter and more confidently in my heels, but the moment I switched to flat shoes, I rolled my shoulders forward and waddled like a mallard. Every footfall brought a sense of woe. It’s fascinating how an item of clothing can influence temperament to such a degree.

When I was more than 7 months pregnant with my daughter, I recall slipping my feet into a pair of 4-inch pumps before a night out. I specifically remember that feeling of pleasure I had, to be able to put something on my body that actually fit- that felt GOOD even- was so satisfying. Though it was only 8 years ago, it feels like a lifetime has passed.

I actually can’t pinpoint when I began wobbling.

Looking back I can remember starting to lack confidence in my ability to get up from the table in a restaurant and walk to the restroom. I felt like all eyes were on me: had I drank too much wine with dinner? I could never remember.

During my second pregnancy, I kept falling, especially as my belly grew bigger and threw off my center of gravity. I took precautions to help me balance for the little guy’s safety. After all, I was supposed to be his protector, and it was only a few months that remained. I sat for longer stretches, I gave up exercise, and I stopped wearing heels. I remember that time of my life as being very dark.

After he was born, I was (perhaps a bit selfishly) excited to get my body back.

Falling was more infrequent, but my balance issues were still there. All of a sudden putting on taller shoes was difficult- not because they hurt or didn’t fit, but I genuinely began tottering and weaving awkwardly, as though I was heavily intoxicated. It was a slow progression, but eventually I had to phase out my beautiful high-heeled shoes.

I got rid of most, because I couldn’t bear to let my beautiful shoes see me like this, a shell of my former self, but I presently have a couple of pairs that I’ll slip on- if just for a moment- and let them electrify my soul and uplift my mood.

Then I take them off my feet carefully in favor of some sensible tangerine-and-aqua-floral-patterned flats.

 

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Story was in response to the prompt:

“What do your clothes say about you?”

From the wonderful podcast Writing Class Radio

What do your clothes say about you
“There’s no better way to understand ourselves and each other than by writing and sharing our stories.”

The Lies We Tell (2)

(1)

At 16, I obviously knew everything.

The lies that I told were usually to intentionally create the kind of Beverly-Hills-90210-Dawson’s-Creek-esque drama that I kept vigil over each school night instead of studying for world history. I became this theatrically foolish teenager as my relationship with my very first long-term boyfriend, Brad, progressed.

Lucky him.

Thankfully this phase only lasted about a year, but there were plenty of characters whom I involved in my web during that time. Good people. Innocent people. When I think of my behavior during that time in my life, I get sick to my stomach.

I cheated.

When I tried to lie my way out of it, a web of deceit began to grow. Before I knew it this web had entangled me, got twisted in my hair, and caught in my mouth.

spider web

It tasted like tinfoil, and the flavor was that of treachery. When I allow the synapse of my brain to meander through these recollections from my teenage years, I taste the cold aluminum and feel as though I’m being zapped in a shamefully purgatory-like episode.

Unfortunately, the web ensnared others as well, Brad of course being a large fraction.

Normalcy came with time, with realization of my own worth, with amazing friends, with supportive family.

I can only speak from my perspective, because I never asked, but it seemed that everyone was okay. Quite a bit more okay than me, but I’ll never know for sure. Because I never asked.

In his yearbook just before graduation, I quoted Janice Joplin:

“I’d trade all of my tomorrows/ For one single yesterday…”

When Brad read it, he looked at me quizzically, like a sudden deformity had developed on my head. “Why? That doesn’t make any sense.” Then he closed the book and walked away.

His reaction was well deserved.

The Kiss (Trois)

Un

Deux

*************************************************************************************************

Finally, the boys started coming in, looking Long-Island-90s preppy. I looked at the sea of plaid shirts that was before me. Almost all the guys looked the same in their button-downs and baseball hats, so choosing would have to be based on more than their looks, which would require much more detective work. I walked back over to the only two people who I actually knew at the party.

“So, what do you think?” Liz asked me, pouring herself a cup of lemonade.

“Think about what?” Her cousin asked.

“Don’t worry about it, Mark. Kirsten’s just looking for someone to hook up with.”

“I just want to kiss somebody,” I said, not wanting there to be any confusion about my intentions.

“Oh,” Mark rolled his eyes, “I’ll leave you girls to it then.” He walked off and was quickly engulfed amid the waves of teenagers.

“What about [insert generic boy’s name here]. He’s cute. Nice, I guess. He keeps looking over here too.”

“I trust you.” What the hell? They all look the same anyway.

“Consider it arranged.”

In a few minutes I could see Liz out of the corner of my eye talking to a boy and trying to motion discretely with her chin. He WAS pretty cute. I was glad I had put my trust in he;. It would’ve taken all night to deduce a contender by actually talking to all of them. Generic white boy, you are the chosen one.

I tried to play it cool, as I knew he was looking in my direction. I poured myself a cup of lemonade, all shaky and uncool, in order to look busy. I heard a voice from behind me, confident and strong. I had found my polar opposite! “Hey,” he greeted me as I turned around. Liz tells me you’re one of her friends from Stony Brook. That’s cool. Kristen, right? I’m Mike” (?)

I tugged at my hair and fidgeted in my own skin for far too long. “It’s actually Kristen. Uh, I mean Kirsten. Whoops.”

“Ha. Do you wanna… umm…”

“Hmm?“

He wasted no time. “You know, go to the other room?”

“What?” Over a decade being friends with Liz, and I wasn’t aware of the other room.

He smiled coyly and led me over to a door in the basement that led to the boiler. The other room?

It was pitch black and free from any ambiance. I sat down on, well, I’m not quite sure. I felt like a live flounder was flopping around in my belly. I heard the sound of another couple kissing in a different corner of the room. “Comfortable?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah. I guess.” That fish wouldn’t stop wiggling.

He sat next to me. Herewegoherewegoherewego…

 

Continued…

The Kiss (Deux)

Continued from The Kiss (Un)
the big night
When the big night came, I brushed my teeth 30 or so times. My gums were sore, but it was all for the greater good. I chose my sweater-turtleneck-jeans combo carefully. I didn’t wanted it to look like I tried too hard, but try I did. I brushed my hair and swept it up into a messy bun. The full-length mirror revealed the reflection of a little girl. “Next time I see you, mirror, I’ll be a much more seasoned young woman.” My stomach did a little flip-flop at the premise.

I got to Liz’s house about an hour before everyone was expected to show up. We carefully constructed a game plan for the night. My stomach growled as I stared at the chip bowl on the coffee table. “No!” I scolded myself, “No one wants to kiss a girl with sour cream and onion on her breath!”

“Okay,” Liz was saying, “so you’ll just give me a signal, I don’t know, wink or something, when you see some one you’re interested in. I’ll get this done, don’t worry about it.”

“Okay!” a nervous laugh escaped me.

“And don’t do that.”

“What? Laugh?”

“Is that what that was? You sound like a hyena doing jumping jacks.”

I tried to picture the scenario. “I get it. I’ll try to play it cool.”

We sat on the couch in her finished basement watching some made-for-tv movie that starred a somebody from 90210, but even that couldn’t catch my eye. I couldn’t concentrate on anything but my impending kiss.

Her cousin showed up first, the one who I really wanted to make out with, followed by a group of girl friends, who greeted each other with loud yelps and jumps, as though it had been years since they’d seen each other, as opposed to the three and a half hours since school had let out.

Continued

The Kiss (Un)

I was 14 and had never been kissed.

Well, a peck on the lips while playing “truth or dare” under the snack bar at the cabana beach, but not a real kiss. Not the one where someone else’s slimy, wet tongue invaded your mouth, thrusting itself barbarously. Not the one where two people’s saliva commingled in a ritualistic, germ-infested dance. One where you needed to awkwardly tilt your head, as not to smash your noses against each other. I hadn’t had THAT.

And I wanted that SO BAD.

I wanted to be desired. Coveted like Brittany Cohawks, who everybody talked about in awe just because she got a haircut over the summer and probably because she grew boobs. Big whoop. I had seen Brittany in the locker room before swim class, her beige-colored bra tossed casually on the bench, displaying padded cups that made up for 75% of her chest size.

I knew I had to come up with a plan of action. Should I forgo weekends spent having sing-a-longs with Jackie, Saturdays riding my 10-speed throughout the neighborhood, lazy afternoons spent playing Barbie dolls with my little sister, give it all up to have a boyfriend? It just seemed illogical.

I complained to Katie, to Sarah, to any friend who would listen to my sad story: I hadn’t and WANTED to kiss a boy. It was in discussing this drama with Liz that a course of action was devised. A party. One with girls AND boys. I’d surely find some dude there who was willing to toss this girl a little tongue. After all, Liz went to a different school, so there’d be new blood, so to speak.

 

Continued

Kiss
How I envisioned it…

The Weight of “I Love You”

“I love you.”

So much power is contained within such a small phrase.

The intention of saying this in a relationship is to bring two people to “the next level.” The impact that it has could do just that, or, conversely, could do the opposite; one of the people in the couple may become scared of the relationship’s impending progression or just might not feel the same way.

So, saying “I love you” in a relationship will either bring a couple closer together or tear a couple apart. As far as I have seen, there is no in-between.

Heart: Child's DrawingWhen we are younger, it seems, we are freer with the words. My 4-year-old son, for example, tells me he loves me 1000+ times a day, makes up songs about his love for me (for the record, he also makes up songs about how mean I am), and wants to be in constant contact. I would feel more special if he would refrain from telling the mailman, the guy buying bologna at the deli counter, and my mortgage broker that he loves them too. He, like most kids of that age, doesn’t quite understand the weight of the phrase; he uses it interchangeably with “I like you!” “You’re cool!” or “Thanks!”

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Nobody Likes New Year’s (the 1st of 2)

New Year's
Tick-tock, tick-tock…

Expectations.
Disappointment.
Expense.
Awkwardness.

The best one’s that I recall were those when I was a child; sitting cross-legged on the bed with Laura, watching Dick Clark count down the new year while our parents danced and ate and did adulty-things in the grand ballroom at Hôtel Le Chantecler. We were exhausted from a full day of skiing, but found it within ourselves stay awake for the big moment: a new year!

When midnight struck we yelled and threw homemade confetti all over the room. We found bits of ripped up colored paper tangled into our hair for days afterward, and it was beautiful.

As time moved forward we stopped going on our annual ski trips to Canada, and Laura and I parted ways on New Year’s Eve, to hang out with our respective friends. When I was a senior in high school, I went to a party at Melissa’s house. She was one of my best friends, so I had made arrangements to sleep at her place after the festivities.

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First Date With a “Friend” (Segment C)

Segment A

Segment B

 

When Maggie cargot home, nine minutes late, I was already in the car. “Get in,” I said through the open passenger-side window, sounding remarkably predator-esque.

“What?”

“Get in the car; I’ll explain on the way.” Now I was beginning to sound like a marauder who’d just finished off a bank heist. After a hasty explanation of the plan and a promise of 50% of the payment when I received it from the Morgans, I was on my way back home.

When I pulled into my driveway, my insides screamed. There, in back of my mom’s sedan, sat an unfamiliar silver Honda Accord. Shit! How long had he been here? Did my mom say anything embarrassing? Are there going to be baby pictures of me naked in the tub out on the coffee table for him to peruse? I took a breath, hoped that my face had returned to a normal color (rather than the fuschia-shade that it tended toward when I was flustered), and opened the front door.

“HeysorryI’mlateIwasdroppingmysisteroffattheplacewhereI’msupposedtobedogsittingIhopeyouweren’twaitinglongsosorry-” My mom, thankfully, cut me off from my nervous, incoherent rambling.

“No, no. Chris and I were just talking about your plans to see the concert tonight. It sounds like a lot of fun.”

“Yeah, I haven’t been here long. We should probably get a move on though, if we want to make it on time. Thank you Mrs. Anderson.” He was so freaking polite. I kept my mouth shut tightly this time and nodded, then kissed my mom goodbye.

We jumped in his car and were on our way. The radio was playing Kashmir. “Oh! I love Led Zeppelin!” I was thankful that my voice had toned down in volume and speed.

“Yeah- great song,” he replied. “I figured we’d stop at a liquor store on the way in to grab some drinks for our journey”

God forbid a couple of 23 year olds didn’t have alcohol while participating in an activity.

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Repression

In lieu of therapy (which I am clearly in desperate need of) I am writing down my random thoughts in the hopes that, once purged, they will be irrevocably gone from my mind.

For that reason I will begin with what seems like it would be a quite ordinary query from a person in the psychological field.

Dr. Shrinkowitz: How would you describe yourself in three words? Be honest.
Me: (with a sappy, yet bashful, smile) sweet, helpful, nice.

It baffles me that the subconscious can be so misguided.

A few years ago, these are the exact adjectives that I would have used to define myself (as long as I was feeling generous with the niceties), both now and in the past. All of that changed, however, in the last few months. It’s not that I suddenly became a bad person; in fact, those traits that I had said before are ones that I would use to characterize myself today (again: don’t think me an egotistical ass, the personal unpleasantries of my personality will come through soon enough). It is the memories that I have of my past that have come creeping back slowly, infiltrating my every thought. At unexpected moments, new (often disturbing) recollections of events that happened during my adolescence seem to manifest themselves in my brain, causing sudden anxiety: my fingers tingle, my stomach leaps about, and I begin to feel sick.
Repression
Lest anyone perceive this as an admission of illegal practices, let me assure you, dear reader: I was simply being a bit, well, tart (for lack of a better word) throughout these years. Could it have been the all-too-conventional daddy issues? Perhaps it was a call for attention? Acceptance? Whatever “it” happened to be, the solution wasn’t found until adulthood, when I finally felt content. How, you may ask, did it affect others.

Cheating on trusting boyfriends;

Breaking up friendships;

Pouncing on the romantic companion of another;

Unfortunately, the list goes on.

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