EVERY comment on this post means a life-saving vaccination will be donated to a child in need, thanks to the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Blogust campaign and Walgreen’s participation, starting today. If you comment on any post of mine (or share one!), please make it this one. Even if just to say hi.
Also, I’m posting hugely embarrassing photos of myself so it seems only fair in return.
Thalia at 8. Me at 11.
My oldest daughter is now eight and the youngest, six. It’s a strange thing to now have children at ages where I can remember so much of those years myself. I catch myself saying “I learned to ride a bike with training wheels at six too.” Or “when I was your age I remember a dollar would get you 2 slices of pizza and a small fountain Coke! Now go get my cane.”
I cannot project what my girls’ memories will be of the next few years, as they hit their tweens (when did we invent that awful word anyway?) and ramp up into their teens, stumbling toward adulthood hopefully with more grace than I did. But I do remember my own memories of each of those years. And I can’t help but compare, predict, wonder, where the similarities will be.
We don’t remember days, we remember moments. -Cesare Pavese
9 Getting my ears pierced and not having to wait until 13. (Happy birthday to me!) My first R-rated movie with my dad: Animal House. I still recall wondering, “what’s the big deal with the dean’s daughter admitting to that fraternity boy after they spent the night together that she’s only 13? That’s a teenager. That’s old!” The rambunctious, undisciplined boy in fourth grade who made the teacher cry. Falling in love with music through the AM-FM clock radio on my nightstand. Hearing the word goddamn in an Eagles song and asking my parents, can they do that? Is that legal?
10 Reading Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself and Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret. Sleepovers and girlfriends and experimenting with slam books and cliques and social power structures that sometimes hurt. Accepting that I could dance and I could write, but I would never be picked first in dodgeball and that my little league team would really prefer that I do something else on Saturdays. Turning down $50 from my father to try a bite of lobster. Playing with the Ouija board with my brother and thinking we had a friendly ghost in our house named Smitty. Finding best friends, some of whom are still close with me today. The first serious, serious crush. The horrible embarrassment of my father driving slowly past his house and calling, Jaaaasooooon…while I ducked as far as I could down into the car floor.
Other Judy Blume books get more attention, but this might have been my favorite.
11. The beginning of girls who had boyfriends and breasts and bras and periods and things I didn’t have. I had a waist you could wrap two hands around and your middle fingers and thumbs could touch. But I didn’t have the boobs and that was all I wanted. It was the beginning of boys in a way that might have made me say ew only two years earlier. A first kiss in a game of spin the bottle at summer camp that led to a first kiss up in the sand dunes with the chubby but sweet boy from Long Island. The ability to write my mother about it because I could tell her anything. The letter back about how proud she was that I did. The ability to write my father a different kind of letter because starting that summer, they didn’t live together anymore.
12 Discovering teen magazines and R rated movies, willing myself to have a crush on John Schneider even when the other girls liked Scott Baio, and wondering if the rumors about those girls in eighth grade and the things they did at parties were true. Thinking roach clips that you wore in your hair with dangly feathers hanging from them, had something to do with insects. Believing green MnMs made you horny. Having to ask what “horny” meant. Hugging friends hello in the junior high halls between classes. My father’s girlfriend buying me Frye boots that made me feel so fancy. Finding a love for theater and the nervous thrill of backstage moments before the curtain first rose. Loving Kate Bush. Experimenting with eyeliner but still clinging to overalls and soccer cleats. The cleats were black. The eyeliner was shiny, metallic turquoise. Not a good look. But then, nothing really was. Except the dress I wore to my father’s wedding: sapphire blue taffeta. Sweet.
13 Taking a big fluffy maxi-pad, turning it over and over in my hands and sticking it–to me. Upside down. For a good half-hour. Until finally, my best friend at my sleepover party that night told me I was doing it wrong.
High school begins.
14 Coordinating my first day of high school outfit with my first day of school with braces: black striped pants with funky lace overalls, a white puffy shirt that may have very well inspired a Seinfeld producer, silver jewelry as an homage to the teeth. Being called Square Pegs by the upperclassmen. (I was Sarah Jessica, presumably. It was the long, frizzy hair.) Realizing I would never dance for a living, but I could maybe, possibly write. Running for student council as a joke, simply to write funny ads and post them around the school halls. Making new ones each day as the old ones were claimed by upperclassmen for their lockers. Losing by only two votes.
15 Discovering a best friend isn’t always a best friend; that she may find a new best friend who’s more outrageous, more rebellious, more earnest when she writes brooding poetry. And that this best friend may find a boyfriend who is the boyfriend you hoped to have and she knew it. Rediscovering the earlier best friend, the one who would never ever make out with a boy you liked right in front of the school, in front of everyone–and never ever did. Learning to value loyalty above much else.
Hair inspired by Jon Cryer, pearls by Annie Potts.
Pretty in Pink era, ooooobviously.
16 Attempting my drivers test on a stick shift and stalling three times as I parallel parked on a hill. Passing anyway. A first job making Carvel ice cream cakes, and decorating the small ones with too much frosting and half-cherries and almond slivers, but that’s what it took to make the design look like a punk rock guy that someone with a sense of irony eventually bought. Trying to convince my brother he’d look cooler with an earring. Finishing the SATs with a math score I swore couldn’t have really been mine. Scrounging summer invitations to the beach club with the cute lifeguards. You could pay for food just by signing the check. You didn’t even need money! Technology! Amazing!
16 or 17, with my cousins and grandparents. Man, I loved my family. But not the braces.
17 Making myself learn how to type without even looking at the keys because I thought one day I might need it (though I still had no idea why anyone would ever use an @ symbol). The early rejection from the only real college of my choice. The later acceptance to the only real college of my choice. Freedom and independence. Senior Cut Day on the beach. The first pedicure. (Yeah, we waited back then.) Prom in a sequin flapper dress and bright red lipstick. Winning my first ever award that really mattered to me, from my school dance company for choreography. Summer days spent teaching 10 year-old girls to swim and play kickball and dance in the day camp talent show. Summer nights spent with the boyfriend who should have been way nicer. Or with the friends who couldn’t have been more perfect. Making up the Vogue dance in a friend’s basement long before Madonna, though no one ever believes us. Renting Eraserhead and A Clockwork Orange and thinking ourselves very, very alternative. Packing for college and watching my mother move out with her boyfriend the same day. The braces coming off. The retainer I never used once.
18 Experimenting. A lot. Figuring out college. Figuring out my relationship with my parents. Figuring out that the high school boyfriend was long gone, probably even before I was. Figuring out who I wanted to be when I grew up. Figuring out whether I really was grown-up and what that even meant. Figuring out how many foods one could cook in an illegal crockpot on a dorm room desk. Figuring out that I could eat sugar cereals every single day for breakfast and no one could do anything about it. Figuring out why I put on ten pounds so easily before the holiday break. Figuring out that the art major, the one with the pouty lips and cascading hair would never like me as much as he liked Wendy. Figuring out that I didn’t have a home anymore unless it was one I was making myself. Figuring out that surviving mean girl summer roommates took strength, friendship, and a little more vengeance than I’m proud of. Sorry about all those dishes of yours I threw away, Sylvia and Alex. They must have broken or something.
With my mother at 19. She still carries these in her wallet. A mother’s mind can freeze her children in time, no matter how old they get. Maybe I’m still this age to her in a way.
19 Moving in with the boyfriend, the drummer, the one with the long hair and New England accent and the roommate who I was sure was on Steroids. Dying my hair jet black and shaving the sides. Starting to accept a new stepfather (kind of). Carrying a terrible fake ID that was only good enough to get me into the bar with a wink from the bouncer. Committing deeply to a career as a copywriter and knowing it would make my dad proud. Sitting in the first row of my advertising classes and reading three chapters ahead in every textbook. Falling in love with social sciences and the study of people. Wearing black plastic hoop earrings that touched my shoulders. Dancing on the speakers in the clubs to the Cult and Big Audio Dynamite, like I’d be nineteen forever. Looking forward to my brother visiting me in college before he headed off himself. Learning the concept of networking. Gunning for an internship that should have been for students a year older–and getting it. Wondering if it was time for grown-up hair and fearing it terribly. Taking off the Doc Martens and trying on a a navy suit and power bow for a hostess job at a restaurant–then bursting into tears in front of the mirror at Ann Taylor. Seeing the beginnings of my life ahead of me. Seeing myself start to become the woman I would be, if only the teeniest little bit at at time. Liking what I was seeing.
If only the teeniest little bit at a time.
This memory of 19, and the tween years preceding it, is inspired by Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation which helps get vaccines to kids as a cost-effective way to save lives. Thousands of lives. Every single comment here and on the other Blogust posts about moments that matter, year to year, means one vaccine will be donated so please leave one! Whatever it is you write, no matter how heartfelt or how short and sweet, you’ll have saved a life. Find the other posts and follow the feed on Twitter with #blogust.
And: huge news. Announcing today and beginning September 3 through October 14 (whoo!) Walgreens starts their “Give a Shot. Get a Shot.” campaign. Go there for your flu shot, and they will donate one vaccine to the campaign. Walgreens has committed $500,000 to donate up to 3 million vaccines for those kids who need them most (the pharmacy will have all the details). Because one child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease and we all know that’s way way too many. Thanks Walgreens, 500,000 times over. You’re doing good.