Remind me not to go to Princeton again. Every time I go there I come home with blisters on my feet (Princeton is the only place in the world that makes me consider wearing anything other than flip-flops or Adidas Sambas) and doubts about whether academia and I are on the same page. But at least I got some free time on the many trains I had to take to get there and back to reminisce about my adolescence, which I am just narcissistic enough to recount a bit of here.
I had been living in San Marcos, California for about a year when I met Bobbie at school. It took us about 30 seconds to become best friends, mainly because we were the only two girls in the 6th grade that understood the beauty of both Guns ‘n’ Roses and Eazy-E. Oh, and because we were the only two redheads in the entire school, so we shared in the pain of not looking exactly like all the half-Mexican chicks at school and of having to listen to everyone’s stupid and ill-informed pube jokes. (Having red hair totally sucked as a kid. Our parents and their friends, in a SERIOUSLY misguided attempt to make us feel better, always told us that dudes loved redheads, but we were a) not buying it, and; b) not interested in – and really kind of grossed out by – what dudes our parents knew were into.) Anyway, we were basically fated to spend our formative preteen years together and see each other through our first experiences with boys, cigarettes, wine coolers, and getting grounded for more than 30 days at a time.
My 6th grade teacher, Miss B., was a serious asshole. We had beef from the first day of class when I, having recently conquered the habit of chewing my fingernails, asked her why she chewed hers. I’m pretty sure Miss B. just hated kids in general, but that made her hate me with a special vengeance, and I hated her just as much. For one thing, she did nothing but give us worksheets and then go sit behind her desk and glare at us, waiting for someone to talk so she could hurl insults at them. There was even a rumor that she had thrown a stapler at a kid a year ahead of us, as I learned when I heard one of our most officious classmates, Kristina G., point out that “Throwing a stapler is really dangerous. Miss B. should totally of got fired for that.”
So I guess it wasn’t surprising, given her nature and her feelings toward me, that Miss B. seized upon the opportunity to completely humiliate me once it arose. It arose on a day completely like all the others, when we were sitting around filling out worksheets that required about as much thought as copying the Taco Bell menu by hand. As usual, most of the girls in class were passing notes around, the bulk of which concerned the boys in the class. The note Bobbie passed to me was completely pedestrian, containing 5 lines and instructions ordering me to fill them with the names of 5 boys in class I thought were cute. She had already filled out 5 lines of her own as an example. Unfortunately, such enthralling subject matter overcame Bobbie’s usually ninja-like stealth in note passing, and Miss B., on one of her optical recon passes, spied the handover and called us up to the front of the class. Instead of following her SOP and just forcing us to give her the note, then assigning us detention, she decided to read the note. We were mortified. I mean, she was old and probably didn’t care, but we were aghast that Bobbie’s top-secret crush list would be leaked to such an unfriendly party.
We had no idea, dude. Not only did she read the note, but she decided to take c-word-dom to as yet unfathomed heights by making Bobbie read the note, AND HER ANSWERS, to the entire class, then forcing me to answer Bobbie’s query, also in front of the entire class. The class that included the 5 boys Bobbie had named, and the class I had to choose 5 boys from, since Miss B. told me I would not be allowed to cheat by naming boys from another class, which I had definitely planned to do. I basically cheated anyway, copying 4 of Bobbie’s 5 and adding my friend Randy, who I knew would understand when I told him that I was just using his name to avoid embarrassment and that I would shove dirt in his mouth on the playground if he ever mentioned it again. So, Mike S., Jason E., Brent S., and Ryan C., plus Randy and some other dude Bobbie liked, got to hear in front of the class that chicks were into them. Fucking sweet.
The two biggest assholes in the 6th grade, Jimmy T. and Brian P., who Bobbie and I had had a running feud with for at least 2 months, were fucking beside themselves with glee at our shame and suffering. It took at least two weeks of threats of physical harm to get them to quiet down about it (they had already failed to show up for 3 scheduled fights at a nearby park, which we assumed meant they were afraid of getting their asses kicked by girls and so used to our advantage at every opportunity), and they were just two among the many. I mean, we told all of the boys we had named right after class what we really (ahem) thought of them, namely that they were not our type and that we found them repulsive, considering that they were closer to Jordan Knight than Sebastian Bach and we were fucking (glam) metal as hell. But no one really bought it, so it was the biggest story in school until a few weeks later when some kid got caught with cigarettes.
The summer between 7th and 8th grade worried us. Bobbie’s dad was considering taking a job 100 miles away, which meant Bobbie would be moving to Corona (more on that later), so we were constantly at each others’ houses, sleeping over most nights. We were usually awake until at least 4 AM watching hair metal videos, talking about boys, playing around with shoplifted Wet ‘n’ Wild eyeliner and Exclamation! perfume, pontificating on the mysteries of making out (Bobbie did most of the pontificating on that one since she had made out with a dude at the pool party), and deciding which of the dudes at school we had the biggest crush on. You know, just being generally lame, brainwashed adolescent girls. I was kind of silly when I was 12. I had technically had two boyfriends, but I had broken up with both of them within 24 hours of agreeing to “go with” them, either because I didn’t really like them or because I wasn’t sure I could handle the pressures of 6th and 7th grade dating. Still, regarldess of my callous exterior, I was completely obsessed with boys, probably because I had been reading Seventeen and Metal Edge (the Tiger Beat of heavy metal), watching Corey Haim movies, and pining over the likes of Nikki Sixx for 2 or 3 years by that time.
One night we got bored. Maybe we had realized that our lives ought not be defined by our appearances and our male classmates’ appraisals thereof, that we ought to be out experiencing the world first-hand and blazing trails for other girls to follow. Maybe Headbanger’s Ball had ended. Whatever it was, we got the idea to sneak out of the house and get into some seriously rebellious shit, so we got a big shopping bag and filled it with bottles of chocolate syrup, jars of jelly, eggs, rolls of toilet paper, bars of soap, and dirty wood shavings from the “cage” of my pet hamster, Demetrius (I use that term with reservation because Demetrius lived in what may have been a world record-worthy Habitrail setup), and some hair mousse. There was an apartment complex a few blocks over from my parents’ house, so we decided to head there, where we could cause the most heartache to the maximum number of people with the smallest amount of effort. We crept over there at around 3 AM and started writing obscene messages on the windows of the parked cars with soap, then turning them into chocolate-hamster shit-Merci Gelle sundaes.
When that got boring we decided to move on to the patios. It was nice and misty out, as it usually is on summer nights in North County, so the toilet paper stuck really well to the plants, plank fences, and patio furniture we draped it over. We had just finished one patio and were about to crack a few eggs onto the doormat when we looked up and noticed a light on right in front of our faces. Of course our first thought was that we were busted, but we sort of considered ourselves to be unique in our nocturnal ways, so the sight of a woman in her 20s in the shower really startled us. We instinctively dropped our shopping bag and ran back towards my parents’ house, but I can only imagine now what was going on in that woman’s mind as she looked out her window in the middle of the night and saw two 12-year-old girls in Motley Crue T-shirts staring back at her with a mixture of fear, surprise, and admiration.
We made it back into my bedroom undetected, thanks to an awesome feature of the house I grew up in: a ledge outside my bedroom window that could support the weight of two people. But there was no way we were sleeping. We had basically just gotten away with the 12-year-old girl’s version of the Lufthansa heist and we were practically squealing about it until the sun came up.
The next night it was fucking on. There was no way we were watching 120 Minutes (that was still a year or so off), so we jumped off the ledge outside of my window early, around 12. We didn’t want to risk getting caught in the act of any vandalism or saboatage that would connect us with the activities of the night before, so this time we set off empty-handed. My neighborhood was extremely boring; there was nothing there but a country club and a bunch of old people; all the people our age lived in Bobbie’s neighborhood, about a mile away. So we started walking along Woods Parkway, confident that no one would notice two young girls walking along a brightly-lit 4-lane road in the middle of the night.
Apparently we were right, because we got to Woods Park, which, unbeknownst to us, was the locale for illicit adolescent activity in that part of town, with nary a hitch. We weren’t there for 5 minutes before we saw two shadowy figures in the dark recesses of the unlit basketball courts. This kind of scares me now, like a lot, but we walked straight over to where they were standing to see who they were and why they, like us, felt the need to come out so late in search of action. Luckily (?) they were just two sixteen year-old boys, Clint F. and Aaron W., who went to San Marcos High School. Sixteen! We naturally told them we were fourteen, an age we surmised they would find both credible and acceptable, and that we went to Escondido High, a story which the locale of my parents’ house fortunately made also credible. They either believed us (which I like to think is likely, since I had boobs and we were cool as fuck) or didn’t care that we were lying, and thus began a beatuiful set of friendships.
We stayed out walking around with them until almost 5 AM that night and every night thereafter for nearly two weeks. It became fairly obvious to everyone but me after the second night that the whole purpose of the four of us walking around all night was to make it possible for Clint to try to make out with me. He started trying to get me to walk off in random directions with him so that Bobbie and Aaron could “be alone.” Yeah, dude. I would have known if Bobbie had any designs on that dude, and she most definitely did not, but I was still kind of confused, thinking that maybe Aaron was trying to score with my best friend and Clint was trying to help him toward the goal line. When we went home on the second night, Bobbie told me that Aaron had spilled Clint’s plans to her, but I was still not buying it. I don’t know what I thought was really going on, but I knew that some 16-year-old surfer wasn’t trying to make out with me.
I was, uh, kind of wrong. I should have known that Clint didn’t eat toothpaste because he liked the flavor. I’m not going to get into details except to say that I think my first kiss (that counted) took place in a park at 3 AM when I was 12, and that it happened again the exact same way for like 10 days, to the point that Bobbie was angry on the tenth day that I had no new information to offer her. It was kind of funny, really. Clint was a nice guy and didn’t try to get too fresh with me, but Bobbie was putting the press on me every night to do something besides kiss him, decrying my prudishness and lack of sophistication. I’m not really sure how long I thought that whole business could go on for, but luckily that problem was solved for me when we returned home one night at 4:30 AM to find my bedroom window closed and locked.
We actually had to ring the doorbell to get into the house because all of the secondary routes into the house were locked. My mom was a terrible sight to behold that night. She and my dad had gone out and had obviously been drinking rather heavily when they arrived home at 11 PM, so we thought we needn’t worry about either of them waking up. But my mom has this weird thing where she sometimes gets up in the middle of the night, eats an ice cream bar, then goes back to bed. I always thought it was some kind of sleepwalking thing, and it might be, but apparently that night it wasn’t. She noticed that we weren’t in the living room watching MTV and moussing each other’s hair, so she checked in the bedroom and… By the time we got back she was well into the part of processing alcohol you are supposed to sleep through, so her own physical discomfort kind of super-charged her anger. My mom doesn’t often get violent, but I was pretty sure she was considering it that night. Her hair was sticking up all over the place, her eye make-up from the night before was smeared and made her look like she worshipped the devil, and she was stomping around in a giant bathrobe that threatened to slip at any moment and expose her breast to us. Fucking terrifying.
“Where the fuck have you two little assholes been?” She was worried sick, we were out of our fucking minds, Bobbie’s parents had already been informed, we were both grounded for a month, there would be no phone for either of us, etc. She didn’t care that Bobbie was about to move. We should have thought of that shit before we snuck out of the goddamned house in the middle of the night. It suuucked. Luckily Bobbie’s parents trusted mine to give us enough shit for them, so they didn’t come to the house to get her until they woke up the next day. We stayed awake whispering until around 10 AM when they showed up, discussing our impending prison sentences, the terror that the prospect of having our Swatch phones confiscated had induced, and the feasability of this and that plan to circumvent our parents’ efforts at restriciting our communication.
Right after Bobbie left the phone rang at my house. My mom told whoever was on the line that no, I could not come to the phone because I was grounded for sneaking out of the house, then she asked the caller if he or she would know anything about that. I couldn’t catch the rest of the conversation, but my mom gleefully came in and favored me with a recap as soon as she had hung up. “When did you turn fourteen? Shouldn’t you have invited us to your birthday party?” I was all like, “Wha? I don’t know. Huh?” And my mom was all like, “I went ahead and told this ‘Clint’ that you’re twelve. You know, so you wouldn’t have to.” Fuuh-huuck. So there I was, grounded and with no access to a phone with which to attempt to explain myself, wallowing in shame. I mean, as soon as they left to go golfing I would be able to find the phones they had unplugged and hidden, but that was like 4 hours away. Besides, I was too embarrassed to call Clint, and there was no way I would be able to talk to Bobbie about it because her parents would be at home, enforcing the telecommunications ban.
I don’t really know how I suffered through that month, but I eventually forgot all about that incident and about Clint, at least for awhile. But when I walked into my homeroom on my first day of high school, both he and Aaron were sitting in the classroom staring at me. They were seniors and I was a freshman and we were all in high school, so it was totally okay for them to talk to me. Clint sort of squinted at me and said, “So, you’re actually 14 now?” I still wasn’t. School started in the first week of September and my birthday was a few weeks off. But I lied again.
Enough about those two. Back to me and Bobbie. I suppose they felt sorry for us, because our parents let us see each other before Bobbie and her parents moved to Corona at the end of July. Before they left, they decided to go to Las Vegas for a few days, and my parents agreed to let me go with them. We sat in the back of her parents’ car the entire way sharing headphones so we could listen to NWA. It hadn’t been that long since my mom found me listening to 2 Live Crew, took my tape, and broke it with a hammer on the front porch, so Bobbie and I felt pretty fucking rougish for listening to “Dopeman” within earshot of her parents.
We got to Las Vegas and Bobbie’s parents immediately gave us the slip, but not before giving us a lecture about strangers and staying within the confines of the hotel and its casino. Right. We left immediately and went to the hotel across the street, the Rio, where the soap smells like grapes, there are portholes in the showers, and the pool has a sandy floor. The Rio was by far my favorite hotel when I was 12 for those reasons, and because all the payphones were white and gold.
We were sitting next to the pool at around 9 at night, probably talking about Clint and Aaron, when some guy came over and sat down at the table with us and started smiling at us, a guy I’ll call Randy since there was basically no way he wasn’t named Randy. Randy had to be a local because he had that permanent Vegas style, meaning he looked like he worked construction part time, drank full time, and slept with middle-aged bartenders named Cindy whenever possible. He had on some strip club’s T-shirt tucked into his jeans, which he was wearing a belt with, and work boots. The whole thing was set off perfectly by the I-drive-a-van moustache and the half-bowlcut-half-mullet hairstyle. I’m guessing he was maybe 35, but it’s been awhile. Whatever the case, Randy was surely over 21, since the first thing he did when he sat down was offer to take us somewhere in his truck and buy us wine coolers.
We were in a bit of a quagmire. We weren’t too stupid to realize that getting into a car with this guy would be the wrong move, but we also really wanted some wine coolers. We had gotten the taste for alcoholic Kool-Aid at the pool party and we were pretty much hooked. So, we actually sat there with this guy for a half hour and tried to persuade him to go buy us wine coolers and come back to the pool at the Rio, which by this time was completely deserted and in almost total darkness. We thought that because it wasn’t the inside of a stranger’s car it was safe. As I said before when I recounted our decision to approach Clint and Aaron in the park, when I think about this now I get severely freaked out. This was some To Catch a Predator shit fo rel.
The feelings I have now about this episode are most surely right, because Randy was completely opposed to our plan. If we weren’t getting in his car, we weren’t getting any booze. We consulted about it and decided we’d rather go without the sweet, sweet taste of Bartles & Jaymes than risk getting molested, so we told Randy we had to go and went back across the street to the hotel we were staying at. But he wasn’t ready to give up so easily. He fucking followed us to the hotel across the street, where we decided to go into a bowling alley and pretend that we actually wanted to bowl so as to shake him off. We had to carry that charade to the point of actually spending our babysitting money on bowling, which horrified both of us (this was like a decade before the Big Lebowski-inspired bowling renaissance), and the motherfucker still sat there and watched us. Bobbie’s parents showed up eventually, at maybe midnight, and the guy finally fucked off, but it was one of the more tense evenings of my adolescence.
What does it all mean? After watching several episodes of To Catch A Predator, I have figured out that at least 25% of the male population, if given the chance, would have sex with an adolescent girl, that 10% of the male population is one life crisis away from actively seeking out opportunities to have sex with adolescent girls, and that 5% of the male population is actively seeking those opportunities right now. Randy was a five-percenter before the Internet had ever even been heard of by the general population. Edgy.
I think that episode also says something about me and Bobbie, and maybe women in general. We knew we weren’t supposed to talk to strangers and that the proper procedure when being harassed by one was to get loud and make a big deal about it, a la Punky Brewster. But we were, like, 12. And there had been offers of booze involved. I don’t know if we were really all that afraid of getting in trouble for entertaining Randy’s offer, but we were reluctant to tell the guy to piss off or to tell anyone else to do so because we didn’t want to be rude. I’ve come to the realization that if I’m ever getting murdered it’s going to be because I’m too polite to tell someone to fuck off, which is a pretty common affliction. I’m pretty sure Randys all know this about girls and women. Gross.
Obviously, we weren’t into old guys. Or at least old guys that could grow facial hair.
When we got back, Bobbie’s parents took her to Corona and I only got to see her intermittently over the course of my eighth grade year, but she made all kinds of new and interesting friends at her new junior high and wherever junior high girls meet older guys. And we kept in touch. In addition to pushing our parents’ phone bills into triple digits, we got to visit each other a few times during the year and over the summer before high school.
That summer was pretty fucking awesome. I had just dumped Abe C., who I had only agreed to date after some serious pressure at the 8th grade dance, and I was pretty sure I was destined for some big shit in high school (i.e. dating seniors), being seriously impressed with myself because, for the first time, I had an abundance of adolescent suitors.
Bobbie told me I had to come with her to her friend Donnie’s house and meet his friend Adam, who was “older” and “like, super fine” (that totally cringe-inducing word Bobbie used). Donnie, in addition to being the first person I ever heard use the word “hella,” was really fucking hilarious. There’s a special brand of kid in southern California that can only be bred in the 909 area code. Donnie was from Riverside, a polluted, dilapidated – even somewhat dangerous – city made of timeworn brown stucco tract houses that was more of a suburb of nearby San Bernardino than a city in its own right. Donnie was a sort of iconic 909 figure. He was only 14, but it was already obvious that he was destined for greatness. He had just finished the eighth grade for the second time, having had to repeat it because he had been expelled the first time for selling weed. He had long frizzy hair that matched his fucking sweet taste in music (Metallica, Slayer, you know), and I never saw him once without a BMX bike, a backwards Raiders hat, Dickies shorts that nearly reached his pulled-up socks, and some metal band’s T-shirt. Donnie was into only three things: chicks, metal, and getting fucked up. No wonder Bobbie thought so highly of him, and no wonder he was cool enough to hang out with dudes four years his senior, dudes like Adam.
I went to stay with Bobbie for two weeks at the beginning of July. The first day I was there she took me to a house in her neighborhood that was condemned because half of it had burned down. We naturally went inside to see what there was to see, and we found a nearly full bottle of Drakkar Noir (!) lying on the floor in what had been a bedroom. Bobbie said, “Dude! I’m totally going to give this to Donnie!” I didn’t really realize it before, but she was in love. If the Drakkar Noir wasn’t enough to convince me, once we got to Donnie’s house I knew what was up. He had stolen a highway sign that said, “Do Not Pass” and, using black electrical tape, had converted it into a sign that, in addition to having several random black spots on it, said, “I Do No Fat Ass.” Yeah, dude. Bobbie thought that was the wittiest shit she’d ever seen, or at least she thought she did. Bobbie was a smart girl; it had to be love that made her think that what might have been the dumbest thing I’d yet to see in my entire life was cool.
We sat around and listened to Donnie talk about “getting fucked up” and say “hella” for awhile before eighteen-year-old Adam came over. I think I had just finished reading the entire Flowers in the Attic series when I met Adam, which might explain my weird reaction to his appearance and the fact that he was so much older than I was.
That might require some explanation. For those of you who don’t know (pretty much any woman between the ages of 27 and 35 read these books as an adolescent, but some of you aren’t women and/or don’t meet the age requirement), Flowers in the Attic is the story of four siblings who are locked in an attic by an evil mother and grandmother who try to poison them. The eldest two, Catherine and Christopher, end up in an incestuous love affair that lasts their entire lives after Christopher rapes Catherine one moonlit night. Oh-so-romantic. In the subsequent books, Catherine has another affair with their guardian, the salt-and-pepper-handsome Paul. The author of these books, whom I suspect was a pervy old man who was obsessed with incest and older men sleeping with teenage girls, took every opportunity to describe the physical beauty of the main characters, a beauty that centered around “flaxen” hair and “cerulean” eyes.
The ample and detailed descriptions of sexual acts in those books were my first real exposure to sex, aside from the time I walked in on my parents and the 10 minutes of Emanuelle Does Something-or-Other that I had seen on Showtime, so my impressionable young mind had latched onto the idea that blonde hair, blue eyes, and older dudes were where it was at. Lucky for Adam.
As soon as Adam showed up at the house, Donnie and Bobbie (cute how their names go together, no?) went for a walk. It was always the same shit with that girl, leaving me alone with older blonde dudes with bad intentions. Well, I really don’t know how bad they were, but I’m assuming he was a normal 18-year-old dude, so they were probably pretty bad. We sat around Donnie’s garage and talked about whatever a dude who had just finished high school talks to someone who is about to start high school talk about, probably weed and forties or something. Whatever it was that we talked about, by the time Bobbie and Donnie came back I was pretty much stupid over this blonde, blue-eyed older dude who was so interested in everything I had to say. So when he and Donnie asked if they could take us to go see Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey that night, it didn’t take all that long for us to assent.
Mmmhmm. My first date was to go see the worst sequel ever made, unless you count sneaking out and hanging out in a park as a date. I was nervous as fuck. Bobbie, who was already way more experienced than I was, spent the entire afternoon dropping make-out knowledge on me while we contemplated the merits of my Quiksilver hooded sweatshirt versus the Rusty one and debating whether to wear Incognito or Exclamation!, the two darlings of our shoplifted perfume collection. All I knew was that there was no way I was wearing Electric Youth. That Debbie Gibson shit was so 6th grade, and an older dude would smell that kind of immaturity from a mile away.
I don’t know whether it was the Incognito, my ironed hair, my fucking sweet green Vans, or the fact that Adam was all about trying to score with a pre-frosh, but whatever it was, that dude was on the make before that Slaughter song even came on in the movie. That night I basically learned the movie theater make-out plan that every dude I would go to the movies with until I was old enough to drink would follow. First there’s the scooting closer until your knees touch, then there’s brushing hands “accidentally” to test for flinchage, then – how did that happen? – the hand holding. I’m not giving any more details; I don’t know what the purpose of this post is, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t to titillate with descriptions of an adolescent girl’s perceptions of making out with a dude old enough to go to jail for doing so.
The funniest part happened after the movie. You know how kids in junior high who have girlfriends spend all their free time standing behind them with their arms around them? And how they even try to walk around like that? That was what was going on. Donnie was leaning up against the wall inside the theater, Bobbie was right in front of him, and there I was next to her, with some dude I had just met that afternoon standing behind me where I couldn’t even see him with his hands on my waist. Some dude came up and started talking to Adam and Donnie, asking them, “Are these your girlfriends?” I couldn’t see what Adam said, and Bobbie couldn’t see what Donnie said, so for at least an hour I knew that Bobbie was Donnie’s girlfriend before she did, and she knew that I was Adam’s girlfriend before I did, which was kind of funny, seeing that neither of us had agreed to such an arrangement.
I want to say that I was offended, that I balked at the idea that some dude had decided for me that I was his girlfriend/property. I also want to say that I knew it wasn’t cool for an 18-year-old to be trying to make out with a 13-year-old. But none of that shit was true. I was, like every other 13-year-old girl, impressionable and convinced that life revolved around boys. I had yet to develop my man-hating skills at the time. Luckily for me we didn’t live in the same town, since I was about to start high school and would have plenty of other pervy older dudes to contend with. But that shit is private.