Boys Like Jerky: What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

There was another part to my piece last week about high school and whatnot, but I didn’t publish it yet because I figure if you’re reading this then you’re like me and have developed the attention span of a Peruvian fruit bat. Plus, I just wanted you to come back strictly for reasons of vanity. I don’t know why I’ve had teenagers on the brain other than I own one and it is exhausting. 

If there is one thing I could go back and tell my adolescent self, just one thing only, it would be that it was a really good thing your mom wouldn’t let you get that spiral perm. If I got to pass on just one other thing, it would be to say she was also right about suntan pantyhose. I guess the takeaway is that I should have given my mom a lot more credit than I did, but if I’d done that then, what would I have done in my 30s?

Teenage years exist only for socialization and learning to hold your liquor. Anyone who tells you otherwise peaked in high school and should be actively avoided at the office Christmas party. There is no permanent record. No one cares what grade you made in Algebra 3. A high SAT score is no more an indicator of a successful career in college and beyond than a well-functioning right blinker light is of overall engine health. You know what class was totally worth it? Driver’s Ed. The two-second rule of following is a lesson you will use forever. To this day the only thing I can tell you about an algorithm is Google, and I didn’t even learn that until I was an adult.

Yes, teenager, you think that just because you stayed at home on prom night watching John Hughes movies on the VCR and eating Doritos Cool Ranch that you will never be happy, successful, pretty, good in bed, funny, popular, have clear skin, and show that cute guy from geometry class how well you can do the Cabbage Patch; but as an adult you will find that when you ask people who went to prom how it was, they will all say that it sucked. If they do not, they are either lying or are of your grandparents’ generation when prom was a thing and not an excuse to dress like you’re in a gypsy wedding and throw up Boone’s Farm Strawberry in the parking lot of the Ramada. For the record, sometimes the special occasion to celebrate with a fine, lightly chilled bottle of Boone’s Farm is just that the 7-11 guy didn’t ask for ID. Celebrate the little things is what I’m telling you.

It is like a kick in the gut when I hear my friends’ teenage daughters obsess over their totally incorrect assumption that because they do not have steady boyfriends at 16, they are both boring and ugly. Girls, here’s the thing. Teenage boys are monsters. They’re not all rude or mean. I’m saying they are not human and they cannot help it. Why they ask your best friend out and not you is a mystery NO ONE can answer. I’m tempted to say boys go for low hanging fruit, but that’s not fair. Because you’re a sophomore in high school with a steady honey does not mean you’re willing to service the starting defensive line of the football team. It does mean there is something approachable about you that they didn’t see in, say, me until sometime in my mid- to late twenties when I turned into a honey badger and stopped giving a shit.

Here’s what I did instead of having a boyfriend. I got very involved in the drama department, I went to Youth Congress, I read a lot of Tama Janowitz, and my friends and I took horribly derivative and self-reverential black and white pictures of ourselves holding scarves and standing in cow pastures or in front of oil wells. I had time to do stuff. My husband tells this story of his high school girlfriend giving him the dreaded “let’s see other people” talk. There was a new guy at school and she was hoping for a date. My husband was scheduled to go on an annual hunting trip with his cousins. It was something he looked forward to every year. But, rather than go on the trip, have a great time, and not regret the weekend, he decided to stay home just on the off chance it didn’t pan out for his girlfriend and the new guy and she called to do something. So what do you think he did all weekend? If you guessed call the cutest girl in school and make out with her in the bed of a small Mazda pickup truck, you have obviously not been paying attention. He did not have a pleasant weekend. But it taught him a valuable lesson. If my husband had a motto other than “Always Have A Good Pocket Knife” or “Pie Is Good”, it would be “Doing Something Is ALWAYS Better Than Doing Nothing”. Also, on the hunting trip you can always eat jerky. And boys like jerky.

Would I rather have stared longingly at my boyfriend while he mowed the yard, did push ups, or watched Platoon over and over and over again? Yes. That is, at the time, exactly what I thought I wanted because that’s what I thought you did with a boyfriend. It seemed to be what my friends with boyfriends did. I am also told there is much sitting around watching boys play video games. But! I’d never have read Being and Nothingness in high school if I’d been half a couple, and in the long run, a clear grasp of existentialism has served me better than spending nights pretending I wasn’t going to let some meathead get his hand under my hilarious Psychotic State sweatshirt.

My point is that yes, you can sit around the house and obsess over how jiggly your thighs are and how no one will ever love you and you will die alone under a giant pile of Diet Coke cans and Allure magazines, or you can do something. And the thing about doing something is that you gain confidence. Which means you gain experience. Which means you might meet someone who also likes goofy golf or post-modern photo-realistic portrait painting. And that someone might actually be someone you want to spend time with. And that’s all that matters. The rest will sort itself out. Teenage Me didn’t believe that, and so I spent a lot of time mooning over functionally illiterate Rupert Everett look-alikes who got really pissy every time they were gently reminded there is no such word as irregardless.

Look, some flowers bloom later than others, some only open during the day, and some put out so much pollen you spend the season with a chapped red nose and eyes so puffy they look like they’re closed. Every flower is different. And if you think I mean “vagina” every time I write “flower”, we need to talk about growing up and calling body parts by their correct names.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Gita says:

    My sympathies for your time spent parenting a teenager. More parents should take my advice. Bonsai your children at age 9.
    True story: I was 14 and invited to a cute boy’s senior prom. Everything was going fabulously well. After the prom, a bunch of us changed out of our formal wear into casual clothes for an after-party and restaurant breakfast. I put on tight white capris and an aqua sweater to show off my tan. That is when the gods chose to send me my first period. Middle of the night, white pants. Don’t tell me those fuckers aren’t cruel.

Just spit it out, already!

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