The neighbour’s kid had a party last night. I feel I ought to point out that the neighbour’s kid is fourteen. Maybe fifteen. He has a sister the same age as The Captain. I think she had a sleepover last night; she and someone else her size were running around their front yard, teasing the ‘big kids’. Listening to our neighbour’s kid’s party last night, I was struck by how much I don’t miss that time of my life. I don’t miss it and that is one time I would never go back to.
I hated the conflicting emotions. I hated the constant self-doubt and the feeling that I was never, and would never be good enough. I hated wondering what to say, who to talk to, and what people were saying about me. I hated that I wanted the acceptance of certain people. I hated that I had to jump through hoops and perform to get that acceptance. I hated not knowing who I was, and I especially hated not knowing who people expected me to be. I hated being horny all the time, and my hormones being so out of whack I didn’t know which way was up. I hated being tired all the time, or being wired when I should be sleeping. I hated that I was alone, even in a room full of people.
I went to parties, and watched my friends and acquaintances get stupid with drink. The boys all got aggressive and fighty, and the girls turned weepy and morose. People whose social position was elevated much, much higher than mine would end up stumbling through alleys, vomiting in the bushes. But me…I was (in my mind) relegated to a position slightly above *nobody ever sees me, and when they do, they dismiss me*…I was begrudgingly or afterthoughtedly invited to the parties, which, in the high school pecking order, put me above the folks who *were* unseen and below the people who had names. In adolescent social hierarchy, people of my status were party ‘filler’. After all the popular kids had been invited, and after all the kids who could pull liquor were invited, and after all the kids who could drive were invited, and after all the kids who were considered easy, loose, or otherwise entertaining, I was invited. But, as some have pointed out in the twenty years since I was in that place, at least I was invited.
Was that better? I don’t know that it was.
The biggest, most “fun” parties, those ones were not the ones I’m talking about. To be honest, those parties scared me. Those parties are where kids were raped and beaten and taken to the hospital at two in the morning with alcohol poisoning. Those were the parties where kids died. Fun times. I went to the parties that band or drama nerds held; this was the second-tier of parties, where none (or very few) of the popular kids would appear, for fear of being branded a ‘nerd’, and where the head-bangers, jocks, cheerleaders, and top-tier students wouldn’t make an appearance. I also attended the third-tier of parties, where there was no drinking or drugs, where the open disdain of the top- and second-tier students and their ridiculous antics was the focus of much of the conversation.
Now, I lived in a small city for high school, but I lived in a small town in the summers, and I went to small town parties too. They were definitely different (more tier-crossing), but much the same (weepy girls, punchy boys, and someone passed out with their head in the terlet).
Last night, I heard about the girl who was off puking in the bushes. Some of the drunk kids were concerned that she had alcohol poisoning (which shows that they were listening in health class). They spent about half an hour going from the pile of misery that this girl had become, back to the fire pit, trying to find someone who could Do Something. Another girl was sober enough to figure out that Pukey had to go home. To accomplish this, she needed to be stood up and walked. Finally, two young men stepped forward to help her. She made it half a block before she had to have a rest, and then profusely and slurredly thanked one of them over and over again.
And the boys fought, and the girls wept, and screeched, and the boys shouted, and jocks pulled up on the lawn with the cars their parents bought them, and I thought : “thank God that’s over.”
Granted, it’s not like I was some kind of paragon of good decision-making; there are stories of me stumbling drunk into a wire fence; of projectile vomiting in my friend’s parents’ hallway….of making out in someone’s utility shed…but I have a confession to make.
Sometimes, I pretended to be far more drunk than I was. Just to fit in. I’d pour myself a drink, and then fill the tumbler with cola only for the rest of the night. I’d sit there, sober, judging everyone else. Someone, normally fairly intelligent, would slur, “Alcohol is a truth serum”, and I’d raise my eyebrow and wonder what was so appealing about the numb face, the misplaced feet, the flushed cheeks, the muddy thoughts, and the spinning and vertigo. My best friend disappeared one night…she was notorious for making out with boys when she’d had a few. I was worried. I found her huddled in the bottom of a closet with a towel on her head. “I’m a mushroom,” she said. “Leave me alone.” I left her alone. But an hour later, I was chasing her through the streets (she liked to run away when she was in her cups), finally catching up as she deposited her spaghetti dinner behind a truck stop. I remember thinking: “is this what I’ll look back on in ten years and think was *fun*? Will she?”
So I heard my neighbour’s kid’s party, and I thought as hard as I could: “this is not as good as it gets. It gets better. So much better. Someday, someday soon, if you play your cards right and don’t make stupid decisions, someday soon people will value your opinion. People will listen when you speak. People will be your friend because of who you are, not because of who they are. People will open their hearts to you, and you will find what you’re looking for. But this? This is nothing. This is, I suppose, a rite of passage. But this is not as good as it gets.”
I heard them laughing and crying and I saw them fighting, and I thought, “when my kids are that age, will they be the ones at that party lying in the street in a pool of their own urine, or will they be the ones helping clean up, and stopping the fights, and helping young ladies get home safely?” Will my kids be like the one young man who called his mother to come and pick him up because “everyone here is drunk”? (he called from my front yard) Will I be the sort of mother who lets her kids’ drunk friends sleep it off at my house, making sure they’re okay, and letting their parents know they’re okay? Of course I will. My mum did that for my friends (well, she went a bit too far and lied to my friends’ parents about their state of mind. That, I won’t do.). I just….how do you tell a kid how wonderful they are, when everything in that kid’s soul, mind, and body is telling them they’re not good enough?
I dunno. Maybe I’m reading too much in to party theory. But to be honest, the image of my kids stumbling around in ten years like my neighbours’ kids were stumbling around last night…that images makes me irrevocably sad.