When I was in high school, I was best friends for a while with this girl named Chrissy. We were opposites in a lot of ways. Her parents were divorced, mine were not. She and her mom lived with her grandfather and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. (That might be a bit of an exaggeration since we both went to a private girls’ school, but I do recall the lack of money being a theme of conversation in that house.) I lived in a massive house on an acre of land and was given my own car when I was sixteen.
She was hot.
I was not.
She was into music and television and boys. She knew about makeup and hair and how to look gorgeous. I remember going to Ocean City with her one summer. I wore an old one piece bathing suit that I’d grabbed off the rack because it fit comfortably. I didn’t plan to meet boys — I planned to read a book on the beach. She wore a tiny bikini, daisy duke shorts, and a plaid button down shirt knotted under her breasts. I was with her when she bought those shorts on the boardwalk, and I’ll never forget her wearing them as we walked along the wood planks, and she kept asking me, “Are you sure these aren’t too short? Are you sure they look okay?” Over and over again.
A college guy walking a few feet in front of us turned around, gave her a pretty clear up-and-down, and then gave her a thumbs up. She giggled and blushed.
I was so jealous.
But we were best friends. I wasn’t really jealous of her. I was jealous of what I didn’t have.
That sounds ridiculous now, especially after you read that first paragraph. I had so much. But she had the looks, the body, the boys drooling after her. Not only didn’t I have it, I didn’t know how to get it.
When I was sixteen, my parents took in a foster kid. His name was Randy, and I don’t know his full story. I don’t even remember his last name. I do know he was a friend of my brothers, and a year younger than me. My parents took him in because he told them he was being abused in his first foster home or something like that. He was good looking, in that dangerous, devil-may-care kind of way. Hair a little too long, a piercing or two, eyes that had seen way too much.
Wait. Don’t get excited. I just realized where this sounds like it’s going. Nothing ever happened between Randy and me.
Though once he had a girl over, and they were supposedly playing video games in the basement. Dad sent me down to fetch them for dinner, so I went down there. All the lights were off, and they were under a blanket. You want some real proof of my teenage naivete? I just thought they were cold. I didn’t figure out what they were doing down there until years later.
My dad knew. Randy didn’t live with us long after that.
But once I had Chrissy over, and we were goofing off, getting dressed up in slutty clothes, doing makeup, going through my closet. Randy came up to talk to us. I know now he was probably hitting on Chrissy, but I don’t think that’s relevant to this story. Since Chrissy and I were all tarted up, we decided to play a joke on my brother. Randy was in on it. We told Patrick (my brother) that we were secretly going to downtown Baltimore to meet some guys who could get us into this dance club.
Really, we were going a mile down the road to McDonald’s.
Patrick believed us. Apparently we were a little too convincing, because my little brother got worried.
He told my mother.
Now, this was in the day before everyone over the age of ten had a cell phone. Mom couldn’t just ring us up and say, “Get your butts back to the house.”
For some reason, she didn’t have a car. My dad was out of town, and I think her car was in the shop. So when we left, she had no means of transportation.
Now, in retrospect, if my mom had been thinking clearly, she would have realized there was no possible way I could have been going to downtown Baltimore. I didn’t have the first clue how to get there. I can barely get past the Inner Harbor NOW, and I’m 32 years old. When I was sixteen? You might as well have said we were driving to New York City.
But my mom tends to worry about her one and only daughter, and she had a full blown panic attack. Randy swore he told her that we were only going the McDonald’s, and some part of her brain must have registered a thread of truth, because that’s where she found us. She got a neighbor to drive her.
I will never forget her walking into that McDonald’s, tears streaming down her face. She was sobbing so hard she was barely coherent.
God, I’m going to start crying now thinking about it.
It took hours of apologizing and explaining for her to forgive me.
As a parent, now, I understand her reaction. When I was a teenager, I thought she was a few degrees shy of crazy. Sometimes I wonder if it didn’t happen that way because I secretly wanted it to. If I was just playing a trick on my brother, why wouldn’t I incorporate my mom into the joke?
I heard a study on the radio the other day. It revealed that teenagers are still using tobacco products as much as they were ten years ago. When they interviewed teens, it was revealed that tobacco was viewed as a safe way to rebel.
You won’t go to jail for smoking. It doesn’t impair your judgment. It doesn’t immediately harm you. You can smoke and do just about anything else at the same time, without consequence. (I mean, you can’t flick your ashes into a gas can, but you know what I mean.) Cigarettes are relatively cheap and easy to come by.
It’s a vice, and it’s frowned upon. It’s a “safe” way to rebel.
Kind of like dressing in slutty clothes, ready to party in the city–then just going to McDonald’s to share a milkshake and a large order of fries.