I started “going out with” my first boyfriend at a very awkward 16.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of my being an active participant in the modern dating world. And, in honor of such a milestone, on my birthday I did something very nerdy and pretentious. I wrote a letter to my younger self–or more accurately my 16-year-old self.
When I was that very awkward 16, I was a theatre kid, and I felt things deeply; so deeply that for many years I could-not-would-not re-visit those feelings. It was just (sniff) too (sniff) painful. But now I’m 26 and I will say this: when you’re 16, and your boobs are sort of starting to come in, and the bass player of local teenage boy band Tony Flow is just hormonal enough to think you’re cute and call you his–you’ve got it made. And that’s the easiest dating will ever be.
I have no idea how people under the age of 20 date with any amount of confidence. My assumption is that they’re blinded by untested optimism. That seems like the only suitable answer because, looking back, I realize how little I knew about myself as a teenager.
I’m Type-A personality with a few extra dashes of anxiety thrown in, but in my youth I just considered myself to be highly motivated and vigilant. This is partly because I didn’t realize other people didn’t worry about things the way I did. I thought everybody agonized over whether they’d included enough details in their page-long response to the question, “Describe the pathway of frog’s digestive system” in biology class. I thought it was natural to be concerned about making curfew before my date even picked me up for the evening. I didn’t recognize that my need for order and control verged on excessive.
Of course, I thought I understood who I was in high school; all teenagers do. Every teen is sure they know who they are and what they like and what they’ll always like. They hear people talk about change—circumstances change, people change, preferences change—and they understand that change is a possibility for some things but certainly not for all things. Significant, life-altering change happens to other people because they’re not prepared; those fools don’t see it coming. Teenagers think that acknowledging the existence and possibility of change is a safeguard against ever being caught off-guard.
My life has been a series of misunderstandings about how old I am. I’m often asked what my major will be when I go to college. On my first day as a substitute teacher, I heard several eighth-graders whisper, “That’s the sub? I thought she was a new student…” And due to my petite frame and serious case of what can most accurately be described as “anti-cleavage,” I’m sure I have a few more years of being referred to as “young lady” by both middle-aged and elderly strangers.
The real kicker, though, is that instead of being approached by guys my age, I’ve gotten double takes from teenagers. It’s frustrating—not to mention completely embarrassing. I suppose in one sense it’s a good thing that twenty- and thirty-year olds aren’t constantly hitting on me, because it demonstrates that they know it’s not okay to approach teenage girls. But because I’m not actually a teenager and just look like one, it’s maddening.
The New York Times bestselling young-adult series Internet Girls has been high on the list since 2008. Hunger Games is #3 this year. (I know it’s violent, but seriously?) The books are written in “internet language” (lol) and feature explicit language and sex.
The series author Lauren Myracle says she believes that the reason the books worry parents so much is because they worry about their kids, and that the series can feature “good girls making bad decisions.” However, she hopes that the realistic but honest nature of the books help girls to make better decisions. And after all, isn’t fiction the very best when it speaks to something real?
Even though we live in an age where techno-romance is commonplace, I guess a title like Internet Girls is still salacious…if you’re 45. Everyone’s scared of unknowns.
Read the complete interview with the author on The Daily Beast.
*Much has been made of the Millennial generation’s sense of entitlement, self-importance and rule-thwarting. But have we been using this freedom for good or evil? Are we creating a youth culture of ambition and achievement – or of selfishness and bratty behavior? It’s time for some answers…
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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