The Company She Keeps Part II (From the Writing Attic)
Almost two weeks have passed, and today is the first day my daughter’s best friend is back to our house since the makeup incident; neither of us brings it up. Teenagers are an elusive, transient, giggly breed. She is the same girl she has always been; only I know her better now. I have invited her over for a teen talk, an interview with her and my daughter on their new teen status, to talk about their expectations. Her friend seems overly polite, syrupy even, as she teeters on the edge of the couch. She is suddenly awkward, eyes flittering from my daughter to me, her fingers nimbly stroking the keys of her cell phone as she talks. Parents, friends, schools, like chameleons teens seem genetically predisposed to adapt to their surroundings. Who is she? And even worse, who lounges comfortably beside her?
Twirling her fingers through her freshly curled hair, my daughter’s friend now looks innocent, almost. Though I try, it is hard to reconcile the jean-clad, tee-shirt wearing girl pressing into the couch, with the pubescent princess from a few days before. Wielding a Bic, I am a reporter, trained to dissect the image she struggles to present, the good girl she claims “takes grades more seriously” than she did so long ago, you know, when she was twelve. Rolling her eyes, my daughter giggles. “She’s much more mellow than me,” she explains. My daughter doesn’t believe the goodie-two-shoes act, and she knows me well enough to know that I don’t either.
Reclining comfortably within the folds of the couch my child sits, bare feet resting firmly on the wood floor. In a pale blue t-shirt and dark-blue jeans, my princess chews on strands of her braids as she waits for her turn to play with her friend’s cell phone. While she chimes in when asked a direct question, she leaves the answering mainly to her friend. Teens are, I’m told, “still a step up from childhood but a step down from adulthood.” Her friend would have me believe teenagers spend much of their time studying, being responsible, and studying ways to be responsible. She would have me believe they are all mature, little Bible readers. Somewhere after reciting her goal of working to earn money to pay for college and well before she has the chance to tell me about becoming a missionary for fashion-deprived children, or something, I pop the cap on my pen and slip it in to my purse. I become worse than a reporter—I become a mom.
We talk about her boyfriend, the one she has had for six months and, thanks to technology, has met only once in person. The girls, one mellow, one not, and I talk about sex, alcohol, drugs and their friends who do them. Neither of them held magical notions about becoming teenagers. One is, and has been since the age of 12, allowed to wear make-up and date (though they “don’t actually go anywhere”) boys. The other one is not. Today, both are teenagers. One will lead, one will follow. My daughter claims she doesn’t mind not being allowed to wear make-up or to date. According to her, she doesn’t feel pressured by peers to do anything. Besides, she’d rather be a leader. She says she’s too smart to follow her friends; she’s the one in gifted classes, after all.
My daughter doesn’t plan to have sex before she’s ready, to date before 16, to drink before 21, to do drugs or smoke, ever. I didn’t plan on half of those things, but did most of them by the time I was 17. So, I recognize the difference between what she wants to do and what she does, between what she says and what I hear.