Sometimes while thinking, about why penguins have wings and why a foot has five toes, I wonder how I missed the train of The Evolution of Teenagers. It seems as though most other teens in my generation are aboard. So I’m taking the walk instead, and I’m finding so many differences between teenagers of my generations and the teenager I am. I now refer to my type as “abnormal”, therefore the name “Abnormal teenager”.
I hang out with teens almost daily so I know the jargon, the dress code, the interests, the crushes etc., so I’m pretty much well disguised but the real problem is keeping up with them. I don’t necessarily feel the same way most of my friends feel about any of these so I continuously stop and question each topic for way too long before I can move on to the next; but by then I’m “delayed” and I therefore frequently use the term “back in my day”.
My mother has always disapproved sleepovers because she believes it to be the reason of change in the behavior of children. It’s true because in a way, moral values of different homes vary. For example one mother might allow her teenagers a glass of wine with supper, another might allow her child to drink whenever it’s legal, whereas my mom would expect that I don’t even think of a glass of wine until I am in my own property.
There are many other simple habits that children can easily pick from a different environment, like being allowed a drink of water before bed, sweets, fizzy drinks, sometimes even something as small as cereal, whereas my mom usually prepared cooked porridge for us every morning. Now my mother, being extremely strict, knew that in other households children were allowed to eat cereal and sweets and drink fizzy drinks, which were unimaginable for me, I was surely going to lose everything she had trained me to do.
My first sleepover was when I was seven and as predicted, all the rules disappeared. I came back, from the weekend with my closest cousin at her home, on that Sunday afternoon trying to explain to my mother the wonderful sugary chips and milk I had for breakfast. I could only try to compare this delicious delicacy to things I knew of. After that sleepover, sleepovers were all I wanted because they became the new and indirectly permitted way to break the rules and it worked. I thought she didn’t know what I was eating and when I was sleeping, but I found out when I went back home with a stomach ache and she’d calmly tell me “That’s what sugar does to you.” Eventually sleepovers tapered out of my system and I stopped enjoying them as much as I did when I was younger, so it wasn’t worth the begging really.
It wasn’t really the end of my social life because I was still allowed to go out with friends but on condition that there was a chaperone with us at ALL times, she had all the contacts of every parent and I would be fetched in the afternoon. Now when my mother takes down those contact details, she doesn’t do it to lengthen her contact list, she uses them. At least twice during that day she will call at the most awkward time to “make sure we’re alright”, actually make sure the chaperone is actually nearby and not letting us roam on our own.
So my social life included quite a bit of talking to chaperones because I had to be nearby whenever my mother called. This went on until I was thirteen. After that I was no longer invited to social, non-school related events because that is when everyone “grew up”. Parties were no longer supervised which meant deeds larger than the books I read were done; and I read quite big books. From then on my life was gasping every time I heard stories from witnesses.
Just when I thought this was teenagers behaving at their worst, high school happened. This is where you find that:
- Parties that end at 23h00 are child’s play
- Having your parents drive you to a party is weird,
- Showing up at a party without makeup is disgusting,
- Not having a “significant other” is depressing
- Informing your parents of your whereabouts is unnecessary
For me to act like all the other teenagers I would need a mother less vigilant than mine. My mom hasn’t laid any rules on stone about wearing makeup or having a curfew, but it’s expected that I remember from childhood that by the time the streetlights go on I am inside the house. Now wouldn’t it be a bit of a coincidence that I conveniently forget the rules, which I’ve been following all my life, just as I get into high school? So to balance things out and avoid complete isolation I surround myself with people who actually do what all the other teenagers do. This means I hear everything; from how they fool their parents, to what they actually end up doing. Back in my day your parents checked up on you at midnight and turned out your light if you left it on. I’d think it would be more necessary to do so when you have a teenager, only this time to turn the light on and check if the child is there.
So in the 9th Grade I asked my mother if I could go to a school party. After practically a whole PowerPoint presentation on how safe it would be, she agreed. I did consider it quite a safe starter because after all it was at school, so there wouldn’t be any alcohol or dodgy people offering rides home. I was also going with a friend who lives in our hostel so I thought I was pretty safe. As advised by people who usually attend these socials, I wore a dress and sandals (I was actually told to wear stilettos). That night was one of the worst nights I had ever had. Firstly, my mom dropped me off at the school and just standing in the queue made me regret it.
I came across irritatingly talkative, empty-headed, perverted, rude and, to top it off, tipsy teenagers. I hadn’t even walked inside the hall when a fellow classmate told me that the reason why the perverts insisted on talking to me was because my dress was an “easy access”. Well thanks to the friends who advised me to wear one! That’s when I decided to stop asking for my peers for advice. I spent the rest of the night walking in and out of the bathroom trying to stop my “friend” from making a fool of herself.
I came across girls that didn’t mind being grinded into walls and provocatively dancing regardless of the fact that there were pictures being taken. I came across people who had smuggled in alcohol and guys being thrown out for intoxication. I bumped into a girl from an older grade that I thought was well disciplined (also in a dress), leaning against the wall for support. I also witnessed a girl, who had posted “Best Night Everrrr” on BBM, hurl all over her “significant other”. Significant he was after that! So I could properly define what everyone called fun because I seemed to be the only person not enjoying the loud and smelly environment. I can’t possibly understand why people would go to the effort of climbing out of a window or arguing with your parents to be in such discomfort! Apparently “real” parties are even bigger!
The school social was bad but nothing beats the night in Cape Town at the end of the year. If you aren’t legal, it’s quite a messy situation to be getting yourself in. Firstly, according to my mom we were going to be 100% supervised. In fact I thought so too. We weren’t. I actually counted down the hours from the second we were dropped off (around 4pm) because there was no way we were going to spend the day innocently watching the concert that we were expected to watch. So we all agreed on getting something to eat, which calmed me down and it felt quite casual, like going out with friends should be. As soon as the street lights went on I started panicking and felt the need to call my mom.
My mom is my getaway from uncomfortable situations and among my friends I am well known for calling my mom for permission and updating her on my whereabouts. This time around I was told to leave my phone at home because it’s flashy and could attract the criminal eye, so I did so. Strangely though, all the people I was with had their phones with them. I was denied the use of a cell phone and told we would go back to the concert but were going to quickly stop at a shop to see something one of them wanted to buy.
After walking a long distance we came across a group of boys and one of them wanted to speak to me privately, and I declined. This meant that the whole group of boys would walk away and I was to “blame” because the girls didn’t get an opportunity to introduce themselves “properly”. I didn’t even bother asking how they were planning on doing that, but we ended up not returning to the concert. The shop they said we’d stop at happened to be a place where alcohol is sold, this is where they shortened their shorts and stretched their tops and started “talking” to older guys to ask them to buy them drinks. I was not allowed anywhere near the negotiations because after all I am a giveaway/reminder that they are yet underage.
We walked away with a bag full of drinks past policemen and security guards who couldn’t care less about what was happening under their noses. They started gulping down these drinks and leaving traces of bottles as we walked on, all while calling me a prude and goody-two-shoes for walking a meter behind them and refusing to carry the incriminating satchel. The new path led to Long Street, a well-known street for clubs and partying. It was stuffy to the point where one could not hear anything anymore. There were piercing screams and whistling and the crunching of broken glass. It was crowded more of strong rough hands that pulled at any girl, regardless of age. This was where everyone was anyone and no one was traceable.
A great teenage party is one big farce. It is where you walk in with a friend you have known all your life but end up walking around with a stranger. They become foreign from the revealing dress code and features enhanced by immaturely applied makeup, to the vulgar words and unruly tone.