Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Like, the best, most excellent (you tell 'em!) post EVER!!!!!

Okay, so this post was inspired by my friend Jacqui, who last week dared her fellow writers for children to post a picture of themselves at the age of their target audience. That sounds like fun, I thought, and I dug into my box of old school stuff to find a picture. And besides a bunch of old yearbook photos, this was all I found: a shot of me on my aunt's pony. I was about three at the time, and terribly cute (whatever happened!). I have no other childhood photos in my house, except for a bunch I took on a trip West when I was twelve. (Unfortunately, since I took them, the only time I appear is when I accidentally stuck my finger into the frame.) Either my mother is hoarding photos, or I'm trying to avoid producing evidence of my awkward teenage years. Because my target audience isn't three; my inner child is really a 13-year-old boy, still reading comic books and laughing at fart jokes.

To my protests that I only have old black-and-white yearbook photos, Jacqui responded: the scanner still works even if you don't have a color photo. Fine. Here, so all of you can point and laugh, is my 8th-grade school portrait. I prefer to think of my expression as "introspective and dreamy," not "dazed and confused." The glasses? Not my fault; I had to pick from what the '70s offered me. My hair? I have no excuse besides ignorance of all that girl stuff. At least I stand out (yeah, um, that's it!) among the feathered-bang gang that roamed the middle school in the late 1970s. And at least I wore earrings, so you could tell I was a girl. If the photo was in color, you'd see my T-shirt, so artfully layered underneath my blouse, was dark purple, another giveaway that I wasn't a boy (because my figure sure wasn't telling!).

Still, it's not that hideous or embarrassing. But I found something else that was: my high school diary. Despite my protestations in its pages that I wasn't writing a diary (ick! I commented), I really was. A lot of cryptic comments about boys and friends (or so-called friends) who had pissed me off; many laments about how tragic my life was (punctuated with many parenthetical! asides! and! many! exclamation! points!!!!). Many, many, nonsensical remarks about everyday stuff, like what was playing on the radio. Occasional introspective comments that are marred by being oh so melodramatic. This particular page is from my freshman year, which I remember as being a challenging time, with an adjustment to a new school and a shifting group of friends. This is probably one of least obnoxiously self-pitying pages; I was evidently in a good mood because I was about to ditch the glasses. (And after seeing those glasses, can you blame me?)

Anyway, reading through this reminder that the teenaged me wasn't quite as deep or articulate as I remember made me think about why writing for this age appeals to me so much. Back then, everything seemed life or death; everything was up or down, with no in-between. Any setback was a tragedy; any triumph meant you could conquer the world. Often I've thought that if I had a time machine, I would go back to that age and tell myself to chill, to take things less seriously and believe they would get better. (The teenaged me would probably look at present-day me and wonder why that old lady thinks she knows anything about anything.) Of course, there's no such thing as time machines. But books are just as good as a time machine for taking you into another time or another world. Many times when I was a teenager a book could lift my mood, or at least help me forget my all-consuming problems. To think about someone else, empathize, and take me out of that self-absorption that defines most adolescents. Can you think of an audience more primed to be affected by a book? I can't, which is why I keep writing for them.


  1. Great post. I love that about teens, too. EVERYTHING is SO EXCITING!!!

    And, wow. That's quite a picture -- I'm glad you took the dare.

  2. I always thought you were the cool one - hmmmm still do :)

  3. Well, in our family that's like the nerd version of "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king...."