Saturday, April 26, 2014

Teenage, Revisited

My daughter is a bright young woman. She holds her own in AP World History and Honors French. She understands about the birds and the bees, how babies are born and grow from toddler to child to teen to adult. She doesn't believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny anymore. 

She certainly doesn't think her mother sprung from the head of Zeus fully formed.

She knows I was once sixteen.

She just doesn't believe I was once sixteen. 

Not in her heart of hearts. Not really. Why else would I constantly hear "Everything's different now." And, my personal favorite, "You just don't get it." 

I myself forget sometimes. Weeks or even months will go by when I'm completely absorbed by the trappings of my midlife life. I work and run errands, do household chores. I have aches and pains. I have bills — oy vey, do I have bills (I'm writing this less than a fortnight after Income Tax Day). It's as though I've been 52 forever.

Then, someone will post a "Throwback Thursday" picture on Facebook. Or, an email from an old friend will find its way to my inbox. I'll catch a favorite song on the soft rock radio station. Or, some long lost fad will suddenly become cool again.

Then, bam, I'm sixteen.

In the past two weeks, I've had a string of "sixteen again" moments.

First, my best friend from high school showed up with her teenage daughter. They live in London, but visit the States often. The daughter, my namesake, wants to come to university here and major in drama. What a perfect reason to play hooky from work! (My own daughter had school and job commitments, but got a play-by-play later at dinner.)

We toured two schools (my friend's alma mater and mine), visited the theatre departments, spoke with current students. The whole experience would have made me feel very (very, very) old, except that while we were busy looking at colleges, we were even busier remembering high school. So many stories. So many whatever happened to you-know-who's. We were happy reliving our glory days, but I'm sure the never ending memories were a bit tedious for our younger companion. She was a very good sport about it all. And, for a time, I felt like I was sixteen again.

My next back-to-the-future moment (there were many of them really) happened in New York. We went down for a long weekend with our friends and their two teenagers. As the only native in the bunch, I was the official tour guide. We hit many of the most important sites: the 9/11 Memorial, the High Line, Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village, Times Square. But, my narrative also included highlights from my teens.

"Here's where the 'dollah, dollah joint man' used to stand."

The "dollah, dollah joint man" stood in one particular corner of the bandshell at the end of the Central Park mall, near Bethesda Fountain. As you probably figured out already, he sold joints for ... a "dollah." In 1978, I was far from a stoner. But, no matter. Everyone knew the "dollah, dollah joint man." And now, my daughter, her two teenage friends and their parents do too. What a wonderful legacy I've passed on, n'est-ce pas? Nevetheless, for a few minutes there, I was sixteen again.

My third and final trip back to teenland happened yesterday. I had a long lunch with another middle-aged woman. Or so it must have seemed to other people at the sandwich shop/cannoli bakery we went to. For me, I was having lunch with my closest companion, a teenager like myself, who aspired to a life on the stage. We were fast, fast friends many moons ago when we were both members of a renowned children's theatre company. We went on tour together, performing at the Kennedy Center in DC and at the University of Toronto. We rehearsed four days a week after school and did two matinees every Saturday and Sunday. When we weren't rehearsing or performing, we could often be found in my bedroom listening to the Broadway cast recording of Evita. Over and over and over. The whole way home from lunch, I sang "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." I was sixteen again.

But, what if I could go back? What if I had a hot tub time machine or a souped up DeLorean? Would I want to go back if I could?

Watching my own sixteen year old, I know full well that I wouldn't want to go through all that again. The angst and acne, the friends and frenemies. The frustration of feeling like a grownup but not having the freedom to do anything about it.

No, I may have knee issues and mom jeans, but I'll stay put.

It's only in the rearview mirror that the teen years look so good. 

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

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