As mentioned before, I think I finally understand why I’m so enamored with ‘tween and teen shows: I was never either one. Sure, I was, by definition, a teenager (tweenager?), but I never really acted like one. I had crushes, but they were from afar – the farthest afar you can imagine – and unrequited pretty much across the board. No one ever had a crush on me. I didn’t play sports or get wrapped up in school spirit or rivalries or anything else that counts as “passion” in middle school and high school. I never drank or did drugs, nor was I ever offered either, because even though at the time, I thought I was superior never to have done those things, I also just plain wasn’t cool enough to be asked. I was part of youth group, but I was always on the outskirts, one of the shyest people there, one of the few kids not raised in that church, clinging to the only two people I knew for dear life. I never stayed out late, never cruised the town in my friends’ cars, never really did anything. I wasted about 80% of my teenage years on the Internet. There was no IRL drama, just the online version. I roleplayed with people who sometimes thought they actually were dwarves or giants, who were actually 45-year-old putzes in their basements, hiding out from their wives or overbearing mothers. I’m pretty sure that’s not a normal kid’s life.
The other thing about my youth that I think doesn’t fit with the picture of what today’s kids are like was the structure of my friendships. Maybe it’s like this with everyone, so correct me if I’m wrong, but friends always seemed more like the people you tell about your life, that you get advice from and use as sounding boards (and vice versa), but not so much the people around whom your life is shaped. I have no idea how terrible my youth would’ve been without my friends, so I am by no means discounting their roles in it, but as I’ve grown, so has my inability to define my life outside myself. That’s why so many of my relationships have failed over the years – I’ve become more and more closed off from the people around me. And I think it started when I was a teenager, when I saw things and experienced things about myself that I felt set me apart from even my closest friends. Not that I was a better person, just a different person, most often a worse person. So, I didn’t have all of the friend-induced drama, the social anxiety, the rumors and gossip that I see on these shows. I also had about three friends, not 25. I don’t think it’s normal for kids to have 25 friends, but I can’t help but find it interesting when they do on TV. They can’t manage to juggle having that many friends for even one episode, so there’s at least one falling out every hour.
I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well. But, basically, I just never felt like I was a kid. I was too shy, too reserved, too focused on parts of myself that could have waited until I was 25 or 30 or beyond. It’s good that I was never in a drunk-driving accident or a school shooting or overdosed on speed or got gonorrhea from a skanky male who I went down on in the ravine (all examples from “Degrassi”), but I also never got to experience any of the good things about being a teenager either, most importantly the part about being carefree and young and feeling untouchable. I always feared death and injury and loss. I almost find myself fearing it less now that I’m 23 going on 24 than I did when I was 15 going on 16. That’s pretty pathetic.
I’m entertained by the people I never got to meet or be in high school. I know I’ll never get to go back and do anything they’re doing on television, whether I want to or not. There are many things I would like to do if I could, but I’m trying to get over it. I can blame no one but myself for holding back. It seemed impossible when I was young to try to stick my head in the in crowd and see if those crazy things actually happened. Maybe I never would’ve gotten to experience all the drama anyway, because I went to a white-bread high school in the upper Midwest. So maybe there’s no point in wishing I would’ve tried. But I still do sometimes.
Back to real life…