I haven’t been a teenager in some years—and thank God for that. That whole “teen angst” thing? Yeah, it’s no Hollywood fabrication. I had that for real. A case that seemed near terminal, as a matter of fact. There were times it seemed my mom would’ve (and should’ve) exercised her Huxtiblean right to take me out of the world on the grounds that she brought me in. Alas, I somehow made it through. Looks like I just might survive my “Me Years” as well, hip hop hooray!
The further I get from my own teen days, the harder it is for me to look at the girls still in ’em. Deep down, there’s a little twinge of jealousy there; while I’d prefer not to ever be as goofy again as I was at 15, I can’t help but miss having EVERYTHING to look forward to. But my biggest challenge when it comes to the baby sisters has less to do with envy than it does fear and concern.
Did adult women see a potentially fast-tailed, hard-headed child when they looked at me as a teen? Seems likely. I wonder if they had the same internal monologue that I have when I Iook upon the Brooklyn baby dolls I see each day: “Why are her pants so tight?”—“Does she have to talk THAT loud?” —“Why teenagers gotta dress like crackheads?”(I’d bet money that I evoked that thought in a few adults) and “PUT THOSE TITTIES AWAY!”
Did those same women freak out when they saw full grown men looking at me? How did they feel when those guys were their own age? Older? Did they take my silence for obliviousness? I never heard anyone offer the, “Sir, she is just a baby!” that I have hurled at a few Robert Kellyian fellas in defense of me, but that doesn’t mean no woman felt angered and/or protective at the site of my harassment. I’d like to think some of them did.
The twenties are an odd place to live. I’m side-eyeing the teen sistren, yet still subject to the occasional reproachful “What are you wearing?” glare from some of the elders (for the record: I like my legs enough to share them with the world. Short skirt, don’t care). I’m grown enough to own my foolishness. Old enough to know better and young enough to get some passes. But each day that goes by, my mothering instincts begin to take up residence where my cool big sister homegirl ones used to reside.
I have a 14 year old mentee with whom I share a mutual adoration, but I have a contentious relationship with a few local, hard-headed, big-legged, under-aged gals. I just want them to be safe. They just want to be left the hell alone, to get their lumps and bumps as I did, and to be the unofficial bosses of their young lives which are still legally policed by their parents. I think when they get a little older and see a new crop of cropped tee-wearing, tongue-popping hot girls, they’ll appreciate my efforts.
The young woman plays an important role in the teen woman-child’s life. We can fit into some of the spaces where Mama cannot. We are removed enough from the book bag days to have earned a voice of authority, yet young enough to have empathy. We know the songs, the styles, the swag that got them going crazy. We can encourage them to be good with that tiny pinch of bad that makes for a delectable teen life while not compromising graduation or safety. So, sisters, find you one of our little ones and love her. Dote on her, help her keep her head, and help her with that difficult dance that is near adulthood. You owe it to your former, tackily dressed self.