Category Archives: Puberty

Cringe n’ Purge: The Rise of Islamophobia and a 9th Grader’s 9/11 Diary

Writing-Make-a-Difference

“Osama, Saddam, you guys are messed up. You can kiss my ass.”

We all know things in the United States haven’t been going so hot. Between the imminent dismantling of the ACA, threats to abortion rights, and Sean Spicer eating entire packs of gum, every day has started to feel like the movie Groundhog Day, if the movie Groundhog Day was about Bill Murray waking up every morning and getting punched in the balls by a billionaire megalomaniac with lips like a bleached sphincter.

The current political and social atmosphere has made it hard for me to come up with ideas for posts. I want to be entertaining, but I also want to be relevant. Moreover, I want to keep my head above the sewage waters of current public discourse and help others do the same. So I started to think: When was the last time it really felt like the world was going to hell?

And I answered myself: 9/11.

And I just so happen to have a written eyewitness record of that most pivotal era in American history. Some of it is fairly prescient. Some of it is exactly the kind of stupid bullshit you would expect a 9th grader to spout. Meanwhile, some of it shows that the more things change…

Well, you’ll see what I mean.

9/11/2001

4:00

This morning started out normal. I did my hair, put on my jeans, blue tanktop, and blue hooded sweatshirt. Mrs. Ellerby, my neighbor, Zayne’s mom, gave me a ride to school since she was going there anyway.

I went to 2nd hour, laughed at a diagram of a fish’s anus, and got annoyed by the dumb jocks. Daniel and Jenny Deville kept fighting and wouldn’t shut up.

Then, in 3rd hour, it all started. Mr. Miller came in and said, “Today is a day that will go down in history as, um…a very strange day. The Pentagon and the World Trade Center have been attacked by terrorists.” Continue reading

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Cringe n’ Purge: Excerpts from My Middle School Diary

Between the ages of 12 and 18, I kept a regular diary. Well, diaries. When I dug them up out of my mom’s basement this past Christmas, they comprised at least 15 volumes.

Box of teenage diaries

Pictured: a box full of shame

As I peruse these snapshots of a misspent adolescence, I realize I had a lot to say, and absolutely none of it was good. I evidently fancied myself a bit of a rebel, when I was really something closer to the anime-addled offspring of Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and a Livejournal meme. I was the human embodiment of a t-shirt reading “You laugh because I’m different, I laugh because you’re all the same.” Witness Exhibit A: Continue reading

The Special Snowflake Report, Mach 2: How to Be a Weirdo

Everybody’s weird, and nobody’s weird. This is the closest thing I have to a consistent life philosophy. And even I only believe it about 60 percent of the time.

Full disclosure: when I was in high school, I self-identified first and foremost as “weird.” When you’re a teenager, that means something very specific–waxing rhapsodic about 80’s cartoons, bursting into song at inappropriate moments, and so, so many non-sequiturs. Also sporks, for some reason. My mom had a rough time convincing me not to have “Sporky” embroidered on my letter jacket.

A fucking spork.

She succeeded in the end, thank God. She was a really, really good mother.

That was the kind of forced randomness my peers responded to. Though I had many traits that were genuinely unusual or perverse (as does everyone), there was no point in emphasizing them–not if I was keen on being recognized as a “weirdo.” Weirdo was a demographic, a tribe. It was one more stupidly tiny box for my teenage self to stuff herself in, heedless of all the parts she had to cut off in order to fit.

Happy Noodle Boy

“How many times do I have to quote Happy Noodle Boy before the other weirdos accept me? SILENCE, CLITORAL CHEESE NIP!”

Of all the things I’m glad to see the back of, my “Weirdo” phase comes in at number one. It was phony, limiting, and more than a little embarrassing. At the same time, I suspect it’s a natural part of growing up. It must be–because the next generation is doing the same god damn thing. At least, if this stupid clickbait article is to be believed.

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Puberty Books of the Damned: So You Want to Be a Model?

Brace yourselves; it’s TEENWORKS time!

But first, something fun: I am lending my voice to The Misfit Fleet, a new podcast created by  my friends Finnegan O’Riordan and Maggie Roberts! The Misfit Fleet is a steampunk series following the comic misadventures of a band of sky pirates. Something I really like about it is that it features loads of gay and transgender characters. Another thing I like is that my character, Captain Jackson Jeffries, is a bit of a dipshit. Everyone knows the dumb characters are the most fun to play. Misfit Fleet ProductionsListen to the first episode here. And listen to me try to pronounce “Finnegan O’Riordan” here. (“Fusspot O’Reacharound” was my personal contribution, and one I’m very proud of.) Now, on to the WORKS of the TEEN.

Fashion Advice

The writers of TEENWORKS included a lengthy section on fashion that I’ve mostly skirted till now, since there’s not a lot to say about it. It includes such helpful tidbits as: “Berets are fast becoming a staple of every teen’s autumn and winter wardrobe,” and “Great news…there are pants for everybody!” Eye-opening stuff. However, I seriously doubt you want to take fashion advice from the people who bring you these get-ups.

Fancy dress

Gold pants + David Bowie mullet = TIMELESS

Mickey Mouse outfit

Where do I even start.

Snowpant Leg Warmers

Leg-warmers made out of snowpants material were once a thing. Aren’t ya glad?

So You Want to Be a Model?

Imagine you’re a teen. If you’re actually a teen, imagine you’re an even teenier teen. You have your mullet, your snowpants leg-warmers, and your unreasonably large Mickey Mouse shirt. You look cute. You feel cute. So cute, in fact, that you’re considering starting a career based around your cuteness. You want to be a model. So You Want to Be a Model?When they say that “modeling has a down side,” what they actually mean is “you have a down side. Loads of down sides. Keep your day job and shovel some more of those cake pops into your face, you disgusting boo hog.” Modeling, you see, has some rather stringent requirements. Modeling: General Requirements“The emphasis today is on natural beauty,” they say, before listing a whole bunch of specs 99% of women will never be able to obtain the natural way. At a bare minimum, It’s going to require a pact with Azathoth, who will probably make you eat a baby or six. But maybe I’m just bitter. Maybe I’m exaggerating the narrow aesthetic standards of the modeling industry because I’m too lazy to achieve them–at least, the natural way. There is this modern marvel known as Photoshop…

11 to 23 years old

Shit.

Twenty-three passed me by a year or two…or three…or five…ago. There’s not a lot I can do about that, unless I falsify a lot of documents. Oh well. Let’s move on to the next thing. 5'7" to 5'11"All right, that’s not so bad. I’m already five-six-and-a-half, which looks like this: Avion's wedding I just need to lengthen those legs a leeeeettle beet. Take it away, CS4! Longer legsThere we go. Let’s look at the next requirements. WeightAgain, I’m close. Depending on how hard I’m period-ing, I’m anywhere from five to ten pounds too heavy. Let’s shave a bit of that excess fat off.

Skinnier

I’d go further, but there’s only so much liquifying an image can survive.

So far, so good. What’s next? FaceNo fair, TEENWORKS–that’s like seven requirements! These are harder to meet, too. My face is, to put it charitably, somewhat less than ideal. I’ve got tiny eyes, a regular nose, acne, and a small mouth. All I’ve got going for me, from a modeling perspective, are a high forehead and high cheekbones, though you can’t see the latter under all the baby chub. So, let’s see. Enlarge the eyes. Shrink the nose. Widen the mouth. Delete some chub. And hell, might as well raise the forehead a little more while we’re at it. And voila!

THE HORROR

Huh.

That sure is…something. On second thought, maybe I’ll leave this one to Azathoth.

Shitty Photoshop

Nailed it?

Fundamentalist YA: In the Chat Room with God

When I was eleven years old, my dad got us hooked up to the Internet for the first time. As I’ve mentioned before, there wasn’t a whole lot to do on the web at the time apart from asking Jeeves if he was gay and waiting 45 minutes for a five-second gif of Goku punching Frieza to download.

I'll ask if he's gay!

Never before has a single image more accurately summarized my childhood. (www.quickmeme.com)

Thanks to the dearth of other options, the primary destination for any newly-wired child in those days was the chat room. I spent several of my formative years in the Geocities rooms, talking to total strangers about their pets and their sexual proclivities, crouching meekly behind my chosen handle: GingerSnaps12. “Ginger Snaps,” because that was my dog’s name, and “12” because I was pretending to be twelve. Not thirteen, which was the actual minimum age for Geocities chat. My reasoning must have been that I could pass for twelve easy, but thirteen was too much of a stretch.

By the turn of the new millennium, chat rooms had started to die off and were supplanted by instant messaging programs, chief among them AOL Instant Messenger. The authors of today’s book, In the Chat Room with God, were a bit slow to cotton on to the changing landscape. No self-respecting teen used a chat room in the Year of Our Lord 2002. Then again, there’s a lot of things in this book that no self-respecting teen would do.

In the Chat Room with God

“You guys are using a chat room in the 21st century? How basic are you!?” -God

In the Chat Room with God represents that most futile of beasts, media that seeks to make Christianity hip and relevant to the modern adolescent. It was written by two brothers: Todd, who heads Hallmark’s book division, and Jedd, who became a Christian stand-up comedian in an attempt to wrest the title of “Least Cool and Street-Credible Job” from his brother’s grasp. Who better to penetrate the six inches of ossified irony shielding the heart of the average teen and show them how legit God really is?

LOL God.

LOL!

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Puberty Books of the Damned: How to Say No (Like a Sociopath)

A very bored teenage boy.

Here we go again! It’s time for another round of pointers from those Admirable Adjuncts of Adolescent Advice over at TEENWORKS. They’ve taught you how to flirt, make friends, and walk on your buttcheeks. Now they’ll instruct you on the fine art of turning someone down.

If you’ve been following the TEENWORKS method to the letter, you should be enjoying the kind of long-lasting relationship that makes your friends groan in envy. Each day should be a fresh study in unspeakable bliss, marked by moonlit strolls and amorous exclamations like the following:

I'd rather go to the movies with him than have a private audience with the King of England!

That’s fortunate, given current English monarchical realities.

But what if you’ve fallen short somehow? What if you’ve played the wrong hand, spoken the wrong line, attracted the wrong man? What if–heaven forfend–you actually need to reject somebody? How can you shake a sub-par would-be suitor?

Don’t Be Direct
One thing you definitely don’t want to do is be direct. The consequences of an improperly softened “no” can be disastrous.

A harsh no can put a guy off dating for an entire term!

An entire term, ladies! In a society that caters endlessly to the young male ego, a single “no” can break a guy. The most tedious of women’s libbers might suggest we condition young boys in such a way that they can cope when life fails to hand them everything on a platter, but let’s be real: isn’t it easier to keep training girls to cushion the blow?

“Sorry,” you might say. “Although you are extremely virile, I need to wash my hair tonight.”

“It’s not you, it’s me,” you might also try. “Your masculinity overwhelms me; also, I’m overdue for a vigorous round of buttcheek jogging.”

“Please don’t feel bad,” you could additionally remark. “I can’t be in a relationship until I sort through my problems. My vagina problems. In my vagina.”

If He Can’t Take the Hint
Sometimes subtlety runs off teenage boys like piss off a plastic bed sheet. TEEN WORKS acknowledges this. In fact, TEEN WORKS indirectly recognizes the possibility that a guy might miss the message eight or nine times.

Can't you take a hint?

The above question is from a quiz called “Are You a Caring Person?” If you choose Option A, it means you’re a callous jerk. (Whether it also means that Ben is a pushy lunatic, TEENWORKS doesn’t say.) Again, you can’t be too direct–so what do you do?

The answer lies in the immortal words of Seal: you’re never gonna survive, Dear Reader, unless you get a little crazy.

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Puberty Books of the Damned: Butt-Walking Edition

Personal fitness can be a sensitive issue. In today’s hypertensive society, it’s more important than ever to teach young people about nutrition and exercise; but how do you prevent that instruction from shading into fat-shaming?

The authors of TEEN WORKS grappled with that very issue in the 1980’s. As is their wont, they farted out the worst, pants-on-head craziest solution ever.

No Butts About It

The woman in the fetching purple leotard is Tamilee Webb, a “fitness expert” whose expertise consists mainly of trolling teenage girls by getting them to do the stupidest exercises imaginable. When we first meet Tamilee, she highlights the singular dissatisfaction most girls feel with their butts.

In a recent survey, teen girls were asked which part of their anatomy they would most like to change. Among the top three was buttocks.

Butts was in the top three, you guys! That means butts earned at least a bronze in the Body Shame Olympics. Way to go, butts! Of course, there was stiff competition.

Many girls who are otherwise satisfied with their figures complain that their hips are too large or bulge in the wrong spots.

Move over, butts. Hips are here to knock you off your pedestal.

But wait–a challenger appears!

When asked which part of their body needs the most toning and shaping, girls often say their waist or thighs.

Whew! There sure are a lot of body parts vying for the title of Most Loathed. Hence the original title of this section of the book: Fitness! Why Every Part of You is the Worst Part!

For my part, I’m sticking with butts. If only because the page on butts contains the following phrase.

Many girls think their fannies are too large, too wobbly, or too lumpy.

The American in me sees nothing funny about this sentence. The Anglophile in me is laughing hard enough to bust a hiatal hernia.

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