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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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I am becoming a woman, AGAIN

Hello! So I've been working on a whole mess of essays, which is good. It's good to be actually working instead of, say, clawing my face off. Although I have to tell you, I'm not really seeing the difference between the two activities, right now. Because for some reason, some reason I possessed many months ago, I elected to write about my adolescence, and "torture" does not fully begin to describe the experience of tackling this subject matter.

In order to write about the events surrounding my blossoming into womanhood, I have to try and recall what precisely happened, and that means burrowing around in a subsection of my memory that I locked up a while ago. Not that my adolescence was particularly traumatic, although parts of it come close. It was just awkward. And painful. And I was a half-formed human being, reeling around being spiteful and petty and then retreating to my bedroom to listen to the Smiths and feel sorry for myself. "I was drunk and also an idiot" seems to explain a lot of the insane behavior I exhibited, back then. Actually it pretty much wraps up my life from 14-25, which not coincidentally was the year I stopped drinking. (And then, yes, started again in my thirties, but by then I had morphed into an adult who could walk away after half a glass of wine, an idea that would have been completely foreign to me during the years that one drink turned into twelve turned into waking up and not knowing where I was.)

Many of the events surrounding my pre-teen and teenage years make excellent essay fodder, which is why I'm writing about them, duh, but really it would be better if I could simply lop off that part of my brain and hand it to someone who can sift through the material and get it on paper without needing to call her therapist a few times.

All I can think while I'm writing is, my son is going to have to go through adolescence? With all of our scientific progress, haven't we found some way to help us skip this part of life? Can't I put him into some kind of suspended animation?

Reader Comments (41)

Ah, but then he could never grow into a wonderful, sensitive, STRONG man.

Completely sucky, but absolutely the truth.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterexile on mom street
Ha. Sounds familiar - it's how I explain my 20's to people who met me then and expect me to remember them. 'Sorry, was that in the '80's? Yes, well, I was drunk then.' Never thought to add the 'and an idiot', that would explain even more :)
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFrances
Ah, yes, adolescence. I am hoping to find a way to avoid the worst of it for my girls too. What, pray tell, are you writing these essays for? My interest is piqued! I loved that essay you wrote for that (online?) magazine about how your underwear thwarted a one night stand. If these essays are like that one, I can't wait!
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSonja
Dooce posted some stuff from her teenaged journal recently too. Your post and hers make me profoundly grateful that never once in my life have I been inclined to write any non-fiction, and I thank whatever powers there may be that I didn't keep a journal as a teen.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie
Oh, didn't Newt Gingrich recently declare that we should start skipping adolescence altogether? I think, in all seriousness, he had some theory that back in the good old days people went from being kids to being adults, and this middle phase where they are indulged and irresponsible and hate adults has done more harm than good in the contemporary era so we should abolish it.

Of course, ending education at age 14 and sending kids off to the mines isn't my idea of a brilliant solution, but it might beat high school.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNewt
Are you sure that's not MY adolescence you're describing? (Except in my case it was The Cure, not The Smiths.) I am so, SO glad that I threw away all my teenage diaries. Let the ignominy remain submerged in my subconscious, I say.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
Oh the Smiths and teenage angst. So many posters of Morrissey, so many mournful songs played over and over again. At least you have the wordsmithing skills to put your adolescent agony to good use!
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLizPres
The best way to remember one's adolescence is to have a daughter and then wait until she turns 13. You get to experience her pain and angst at the same time that you are reliving yours. Fun, fun, fun...

November 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent
You can walk away after half a glass of wine?! I look forward to this "adulthood" you speak of. Sounds pretty sweet. I'm not even being sarcastic. I'm also not an alcoholic, I'm just 23 and walking away after half a glass of wine is a foreign concept. I am jealous.

Also, if nothing else, now that you've written about your adolescence you can cross that off of your list of awkward/upsetting things to be done in life.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
What is it about the Smiths? I grew up on the other side of the planet, East Tennessee, but connected with the Smiths just the same.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLori L.
I'd love a selective lobotomy that removes that particulary cross-section of my memories. I'm twice that age now and still have no idea what the years between 14-21 taught me. (Uh, twice the age of 14 plus a couple of years. Not that 42 isn't awesome.)
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie J
I wondered where you were. Hell, apparently.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCat
Better you than me writing about your teenage years. Good luck, Alice! It can't be pretty...
I have renounced my adolescent self. Because she was INSANE.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSue
I just tracked down your underpants essay on Nerve and it just might be the funniest thing I have ever read. I hope you're planning on publishing the essays you're working on now because I'd definitely buy your book.

November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterReader
Dearest Alice,

It sounds like you could use a stiff drink.

November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeyJoe
Honestly, it's not that bad for everybody. I'm not sure if mine was better, or if I've just blocked it out for purposes of sanity, but honestly my 20's have been harder than the teen years.

It may not be rough for him.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMara
I always thought I'd send my son off to a convent when he turned 12 and spare him (myself?) the pain of adolescence.

My mother put a curse on me when I was 14 it went along the lines of "May your children be tenfold what you have been to me!"

That scared me. A lot.

Good luck with your essays!
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Technically, suspended animation would just put off the inevitable. You'd probably just need some sort of temporal accelerator, so that everything still happens, but it just doesn't seem to take up that much time.

Come to think of it, I believe I am currently stuck in one of those. Is it just me or does 1995 seem like just a few weeks ago?
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Hills
Ah, good times. All of mine end like this: "..And then we sat around a campfire in the woods and drank purloined [beer/60-year-old scotch someone stole from their dad's cabinet/generic fruit-flavored brandy] and I woke up drunk, pine needles in my hair, missing a bra, on my front porch, where I had been deposited at evening's end."
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
Even when I look at pictures I can see my tortured expression that said I am a really unhappy adolescent... issues with food, body image, blah blah, I have five daughters and I hope it won't be too painful for them!

November 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteranita doberman
Diary? Hell, I'm just glad I wasn't on the Internet as a teen!

Just imagine if you could Google it all up. *shudder*
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
When I found out I was pregnant with a girl, one of my first thoughts was, "Oh no! She'll have to go through junior high!" But after talking with my husband, apparently it wasn't any easier on the guys.
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa C
I think it's amazing you are going back there in your writing. If nothing else, sharing those stories with your son one day (gasp!) may help ease the burden of his own adolesence...something that is so unfortunately unavoidable and akward for everyone.
November 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMamaCass
This post is brilliant. YES! I want to lop that part of my brain too. Ages 12-23 to be exact. PAINFUL to THINK ABOUT.

November 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commentererin

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