While I was walking with Emily Gould recently, she told me a fun story about visiting New York at the age of 15: “Sure, there was one moment where I smoked weed for the first time on the roof of some building, and sure I had climbed up to the roof from the fire escape and then had to climb back down high as hell, which was a struggle. Did I think I might fall? Yes. But I was mostly worried about how embarrassing it would be for everyone involved if I were to die in such a stupid way.” The idea of a 15-year-old worrying about their death being “cringe” made us both laugh. But it got me thinking, I’d love to hear some stories from y’all about your teenage years. Embarrassing stories, brave stories, stories of young love or simply something silly. Tell us a story from your teenage years that’ll make us smile.
Although I had been "driving" since the age of 6 (Dad let me drive a tractor by myself in one of his pastures), he started really teaching me to drive when I was 12 or 13, so around 1985 or 1986. He had me driving my mom's Lincoln (a boat of a car) around my small hometown one icy winter day when we came to the top of a steep hill.
Dad: OK, now slam on the brakes.
Me: Um, what?
Dad: I want to see how you'll handle the car.
Me: Dad, this is *Mom's* car. She'll kill both of us if anything happens to her car!
Dad: Oh, come on...
I successfully argued my way down the hill without following Dad's "slam on the brakes" instruction. :-D
I was such an awkward teenager. Smart in books but not so much socially. There was a boy I liked. I was pretty sure he liked me back. But I didn't know how to own that and when someone mentioned it in front of a group, I panicked, froze, then started laughing. And could. Not. Stop. I actually started hyperventilating and it took an excruciatingly long time (to me) to stop. I was bright red and wanted to crawl under the cafeteria table and die.
But, spoiler alert, he did like me back and we dated for 2.5 years.
In my last year of high school in Thailand, I applied for a government scholarship to study abroad. It was a highly competitive scholarship, and I was a (not-so-slightly) neurotic teen, so as soon as the applications opened for submission via mail (ah, the good old days), I went to the post office. I must have been more eager than I thought, because--as it turned out--I was the first person who submitted the application, and my examination ID for the scholarship was 0000001. So for each of the several examinations, I was seated at the first table that everyone has to walk past getting into the exam room, with my 0000001 ID prominently displayed. I could literally feel the eyes of every applicant on me as they file in, and hear the voice in their head go "how EAGER must she be." (I did get the scholarship, coming first out of 200 applicants. And that's how I ended up studying in the UK!) This story still makes me smile every time I think about it, and usually gets a chuckle or two out of whoever I tell it to!
At 20 years old, I came to the hard-won knowledge that I would never sleep with Linda Ronstadt.
When I was sophomore in college, Linda Ronstadt's "Living in the USA" album was released with its glorious cover photo of Linda and I was in love... or at least lust. That summer, I was babysitting a house on the beach near the Malibu Colony where she lived. Every day, I would take a 5 mile run on the beach, looking for her. I figured it would be love at first sight. "You're Linda Ronstadt, aren't you?" I'd say, "This is half a fantasy come true." "What's the other half?" she would ask. "I want to make mad passionate love to you for the next three days. I want to ..."
I practiced the wording, the intonation, which syllables to emphasize. I had every detail figured out, perfection. And then... There she was, ahead in the distance. Every single word that I had practiced for weeks and weeks disappeared. I didn't know what else to do, so I kept running. As I got closer, I could see it wasn't Linda. Everything I had practiced came back. I kept running, disappointed because I knew... I would never have sex with Linda Ronstadt.
I was studying in England the summer before my senior yr in high school (on a partial scholarship). I lived off-campus with an older theater couple and a Nortre Dame grad student. I kind of got screwed over by the program I was with, so the last week there, I hitchhiked up to Scotland (this was in early 90s and safer?). I met a wild array of kind people, including students from local universities, etc., and got all the way up to Cruden Bay Beach, where I had the most wonderful view of the nearby castle ruins and cliffs. It was a magical time and at that age I was kind of fearless. (I’m 47 now, and not so fearless anymore, unfortunately!). One of these days, I hope to go back. ❤️
When I was a teen, I traveled to Mexico with my family. It was summer, we stayed for 2 weeks. #61. That’s our address in Popotla BC.
The street behind us was jam packed; there were at least 10 houses on a street of 20 that had families with kids that were in Jr High or high school. Our street was just us, and retired ex patriots living out the rest of their days south of the border. Sunsets. Dusty roads. Fried lobster a la Puerto Nuevo. Tacos El Yaqui.
It’s the only place we vacationed. The drive from Brea, CA was 2 hours 45
Minutes door to door.
I was easily influenced. Soccer. Surfing. Movies. Books. Family. Surfing magazine taught me how to research and search for shoes, on a rotary phone. Airwalks. Music owned me. Stevie B and other mushy poetic melodies transported me to wherever. Radio, yellow SONY Walkman with a cassette player. Retro.
The park in Mexico was guarded and we were allowed to run through the tract streets until midnight. We played ditch ‘em with all the other kids who were vacationing there.
But the street behind us was different. These kids were older. They hung out on their deck, the back of the family truck, in the street. They weren’t playing. They were hanging out. Listening to music, singing the chorus to what must’ve been Madonna or Cyndi Lauper, just acting older.
I knew they were there, but never wanted them to know I knew they were there. Mostly because of Jennifer. Jennifer was a girl in the group. I didn’t know her, but I heard someone say her name. But I saw her. The world shifted. I secretly wrote a poem, which turned into a song. Well, it was my poem sang over a pop song, but from my heart. I hummed it for two days.
I was certain it was love. I didn’t need to talk to her. I needed to sing to her.
On the night before we were supposed to head home, I walked down the street behind us. Brave. Scared. Halfway down the street I realized they were packing to leave as well.
I walked slowly, hoping I’d be able to sing to Jennifer. The planets aligned. She ran out with her friends. My heart stopped. Brain went fuzzy. In the moment I was about to open my mouth, to profess my love through song…
Jennifers friend said, “Katie, let’s go down to the cliff to see the sunset”
My heart dropped.
The world stopped.
My ears popped.
Her name wasn’t Jennifer. It was Katie.
“we don’t have our swimsuits with us”
“So! We can go skinny-dipping!”
My sister and I had hiked several miles through wilderness with Dad (not saying where, I hope it’s still as wild now as it was then). It didn’t take long to set up our rudimentary camp, and Dad said he wanted to take a nap. With him safely in the tent, and not another soul in sight, we hatched our brilliant plan.
The tiny lake was crystal clear, the sun was hot in a cloudless blue sky, and we were sweaty and longing to cool down. Off came the clothes, in we plunged……GAH!!! IT’S FREEZING!! We were out of the water as fast as we had plunged in.
Only then did we consider the fact that since the rocks on the far side of the lake were still covered in snow and ice, the meltwater had to be not far above 32˚.
We draped our bodies over the sun-warmed boulders on our side of the lake, and repeated the cycle several times. Plunge, freeze, bask…
I’d love to do it all again.
When I was a senior in high school I had my first and only boyfriend Harrison. I was on the bus back from an away swim meet. It was a school night and it was too late for me to be out. I needed to drive my sister home and get to the books.
Harrison kept texting me insisting that he buy me ice cream for my success at swimming. I didn't even have an appetite for TCBY but I went and dragged my sister along. We were the last customers at 8:55pm. I always order the same thing: a small cup with mint chocolate chip and cookie dough topping. I wasn't wearing my glasses. He kept insisting I read the board for the specials but I kept telling me that I didn’t want the special. Then for the heck of it, I looked and couldn’t really make out what it said. Then I squinted and realized it said “will you go to homecoming with me?” Oh. He looked at me like I was about to reject him and said yes of course and gave him the lost awkward hug of my life.
My swim friends and even my sister were all in this knowing he was going to ask me on the bus. It was over a month away from homecoming and i never had a date before before so I never fathomed him asking me.
I usually like surprises but I was not in the mood for this one 😂
I was a teenager in the 1950s way before girls wore pants to school and everywhere else. However, because teenagers loved jeans, girls' jeans had been recently invented (high wasted, zipped up the side). Ugly. All of them were baggy on me and I hated them.
During that time, our family moved from the east coast to the mid west where there was a revolution going on. Girls were wearing boy's jeans, which actually fit. Of course, I begged and begged my parents to get me boy's jeans, and they finally, unwillingly, relented.
The big day came when my father and I went to a local clothing store to make the purchase. I was so excited. The cutest-ever boy came over to wait on us, which made the experience even more exciting - until my father opened his mouth. "My son here wants a pair of genes," he said.
I was instantly mortified and wanted to disappear into the floor. Instead, I had to endure the experience of the cutest-ever boy helping me find my size while trying to keep a straight face as he waited for me to try on several pairs. It was torture, but there was no going back. I could hardly wait to get out of there.
The tax on my ego was enormous, but once I had my boys' jeans I was happy, and considered the price I had to pay bearable, especially since I never saw the cutest-ever boy again.
I was 16 and I had just received my learners permit. We went to Massachusetts every summer to see family and this year, when we were close to our destination, my dad pulled over for gas and told me to take the wheel. I was pumped-until I got off of the exit and encountered my first roundabout. My dad was just laughing hysterically as I went in a circle screaming we are all going to die. I managed to get through. I pulled over and walked the rest of the way to the hotel. I wouldn’t talk to anyone until the next day.
I was trick or treating with some friends of mine in eighth grade. I was dressed up as Gambit from the X-Men (it was 1994). I turned 13 that previous August. We were doing the typical eighth grade things: smashing pumpkins, toilet papering cars--the usual. And my friend, let's call him Dipshit, liked to put his bag out in front of passing cars on the street and shout, "Trick or treat!" Of course, no cars stopped.
Until finally, he did it to one black cadillac rolling by that was blasting Guns and Roses, and after he said "Trick or Treat!" and the car went rolling by, he decided to shout, "Oh fuck you!"
And the car stopped.
Three kids, wearing the yellow and blue varsity jackets of the football team stepped out, wearing their varsity jackets. In their hands were little red and black glowing things. They were cherry bombs.
The football players chased us through the woods, little cherry bombs blowing up all around us, and I felt like I was in an actual X-Men comic book.