Breakfast DVD
20 Sep

Looking back and forward at the Teen Years

James and I recently re-watched The Breakfast Club, after it was referenced in our new favourite film, Pitch Perfect. I remembered it as being a coming-of-age film, typical of the Brat Pack oeuvre, featuring a roomful of teenagers raging against the machine. When I watched it as a teenager, I thought it was the coolest movie in the world. Watching it as a parent, I felt slightly differently about it.

Basically, they are all screwed up and it’s all their parents’ faults, naturally. As a parent, I felt the gentle claws of inevitability grabbing at me, teasing, “One day, she’s going to say, ‘I hate you, mommy!’ and really really mean it. Mostly.” It’s easy to forgot how incredibly traumatic the teen years can be and how very mean teens can be and my darling sweet Baby, who currently gets overcome with joy when she sees a teddy bear, or a cat, or a cast member of Madagascar, has all the angst of being a teenager to come. As do we.

It made me reflect about my own teen years. They were full of the requisite amount of joy, pain, sunshine and rain. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, which was fun for someone like me who has always struggled with religion. On my first day at Catholic school, having been raised a Methodist (ish), I went up to take Communion because everybody else did. I took it all the way back to my seat in the pew and asked the girl next to me, “What am I supposed to do with this thing?”

In my sophomore year, I switched schools, where I quickly fell in with a bunch of good girls: we weren’t the popular crowd, but we were smart, athletic and fun. We called ourselves “The Tutti Ten”, even though there were technically only nine of us, the tenth member being an honorary position held by William MacNamara, who we all loved for his performance in Stealing Home. We were just your average group of dysfunctional teens, dancing in our bedrooms to Madonna, talking about boys, complaining about our bodies, and, of course, taking it in turns to be mean to each other.

I remember when it was my turn to be ostracised. It was in my senior year. It was a particularly tough year for me because my first love had moved away to Colorado to start University. And then I also didn’t get the part of Captain Hook in the school play, which has made me harbour a secret loathing for Peter Pan ever since. Anyway, some time in the second half of that school year, my three best friends in the Tutti Ten stopped talking to me. I didn’t know why, but I assumed that it would blow over like it always did when we had petty spats. Except it didn’t. They completely blanked me from that moment on. They didn’t talk to me at school; they didn’t talk to me at parties; it was like I no longer existed to them. I went my separate way to University and haven’t seen them since.

I’m bringing this up because it is the one most powerful memory of teenage WTF that I have. I mean, don’t worry – I survived. I hung out with the other members of the Tutti Ten (except William) and made new friends. The excitement of University soon dulled the loss of friendship, but to be honest, I still wonder to this day what I did to provoke such a punishment from people I cared for.

It makes me shiver that Baby has all that teenage angst to come and there is absolutely nothing that I can do as a parent to protect her from it, except give her as much confidence as I possibly can. I think confidence and self-belief are the two greatest gifts that parents can try to bestow on their young to help them get through the times when their confidence is dented and their self-belief is in tatters.

Nowadays, it’s especially important because there is even more rubbish to concern parents. At least when my generation were teenagers, parents only worried about sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, and eating disorders. Nowadays there is social media, self-harming, nude texting, and more ways for girls to be mean to each other. There are also vampires. Seriously! Some teens are sucking each other’s blood because they want to be like the Cullens. What the what?!

Can you imagine if the characters in The Breakfast Club had social media and iPhones? Anthony Michael Hall would have been constantly trying to friend everyone on Facebook; Molly Ringwald would have been checking her make-up using the camera function and catalogue shopping; Emilio Estevez would be playing Tetris; and Ally Sheedy would be taking Instagrams of her dandruff. Only poor Judd Nelson would have been the same, as he wouldn’t have had an iPhone (unless he stole it). In fact, the whole movie wouldn’t have existed because they never would have talked to each other.

Thinking about this article made me decide something: I wanted closure on the whole senior year conflict, so I decided to contact my old best friends on Facebook – of course, we are all friends on there now – and ask them if they could remember what that whole incident was about. I figured there was no use wondering about it when I could just ask the question. So I did.

Last year, a friend of mine started dating a man who went to my high school’s brother school. He looked at me and was like, “Didn’t we ride in the same limo to the Delbarton prom?” and I was like, “When did I go to the Delbarton prom?” I had absolutely no memory of it; even after some reminiscing, I only vaguely remembered it. After all, it was 21 years ago.

So it should come as no surprise that none of my old high school friends remember. They didn’t even remember that we all fell out in senior year and were apologising for upsetting me so long ago. It’s funny how I just assumed that they would have as clear a memory of it as I do because it was something I consider to be such an important crossroads in my teenage life.

That being said, I’m really glad that I asked. I feel better. For years, I’ve held back from interacting with them too much because I thought there was still this thing that I had done hanging over us and any potential future friendship. But as it turns out, there isn’t. Part of me feels a little silly for hanging onto it for so long, but you can’t help how you feel and I suppose I still have a shadow of that teenage girl I used to be in my heart.

Knowing teenagers, it was probably about a boy. Perhaps it all happened for a reason. Perhaps if I hadn’t gone on a different path from them, I wouldn’t have been at Poly Esthers on that fateful night when I met the man I’d eventually follow to the UK.

Who knows? The benefit of this is that I now have a really great story to tell Baby when she’s a teenager, which I am sure she will choose to ignore. Because at the end of the day, she’ll need to make her own mistakes and have her own experiences. I can only hope that my lessons in confidence and self-belief stick.

And regarding the Breakfast Club? I like to think that on the Monday after detention, Judd and Molly were hot contenders for Prom King and Queen, Emilio and Ally were voted the couple most likely to get married, and they all sat with Anthony in the lunch hall. But then again, I’ve always been a romantic.

 

15 Comments

  1. 20 Sep

    Susanna

    My oldest just started senior school – so all this is very close. She worked hrd to get into a good school, with other geeky girls like herself. She is happy. I hope it LASTS!. FANTASTIC POST, BTW.

  2. 20 Sep

    Julia from ICAWatermelon

    Thanks, Susanna! Good luck to your daughter – tell her to stay with the geeky girls!!!! Jx

  3. 21 Sep

    Domestic Goddesque

    I think about this all. the. time. All the time. I carry memories around with me – I often imagine in big files that sit in the world’s largest back-pack- of things that happened, that I did, all those years ago. Every once in a while I come across someone who was involved, mention it and they know nothing. They’ve moved on. It didn’t impact their teenage identity to the same degree that it affected mine. I have since learned that I am a Highly Sensitive Person and in all likelihood that is why I have such haunting memories of being shut off and shut out by what would now be called mean girls. In reality I suppose they were just trying to figure out how to be teenage girls themselves.

    What makes me think about it is not my personality but that I am raising two girls, one who is exactly like me and who, in all likelihood, will carry the burden of guilt and shame and sadness long after events have passed and the other players have moved on. I wish I could do something to spare her the agony of the teenage years, assuming they play out in a similar way.

    It’s unlikely that those you refer to even have the same memories you do and yet feel exactly the same way about their own children. It’s the thing we have in common as adults: our experience of the past makes us want, more than ever, to protect our children from harmful events- large and small- and nurture them through teenagehood to adulthood. Because THAT is such a blast #sarcasm.

  4. 21 Sep

    Sim @ Sims Life

    I am totally the same – a lots of school memories I have totally blocked out and friends have to remind me about. The Breakfast Club is an awesome film x

  5. 21 Sep

    Mari

    Wow! I really hope it helped even more getting it down on paper?
    I think we all have a similar experience tucked away in our hearts and yes it helps us view our children and their lives with a different perspective.
    My only advice, as a mum to a 23 year old with teenage angst behind us, is to keep the communication open ALWAYS. there will be tough moments but you do get through them and the bond becomes stronger – I promise

  6. 21 Sep

    Jenny from Cheetahs In My Shoes and Just Photos By Me

    I think being a teenager brings with it the activation of the part of your memory that stays with you forever – so much more going on, so many things to associate with those memories.

    It worries me that the mean girls have so much more at their disposal now to make memories for my daughter even more haunting – although I will try my hardest to help her through it x

  7. 21 Sep

    Emma

    I get this. I have a 13 yr old and stress about these things as I think about how my friendships were. So far we have had only one day of lying in bed all day crying about a boy. I am sure there will be more teenage strife to follow!

  8. 21 Sep

    Cakesphotoslife (Angie)

    My daughter has just gone through it all. It’s amazing how life comes back to haunt you but it’s so difficult to help them. They have to go through it my best friend and I were talking recently and she do you remember when you fell out with me, I didn’t she wasn’t upset with me but I felt awful for not remembering but I suspect the ones who caused me hurt also don’t remember it. A well written post x

  9. 21 Sep

    Emma

    I have an 8 yr old, and at times I catch glimpses of the teenager she will become. It does make me worried for her teenage years as I hated mine mostly (well mostly the younger teenage years, I had a blast in the older ones!), but I guess they shaped me into who I am today! Very thought provoking post…

  10. 21 Sep

    Cat (Yellow Days)

    Sadly, I think we’re all mean girls occasionally during the teenage years but like your friends we’ve often made that throwaway comment or started spending more time with someone else without ever registering the impact it might have had. As a result everyone looks back on those years and can recall people hurting them while being surprised when someone else turns out to be thinking the same of them.

  11. 21 Sep

    Katy Hill

    AMAZING post! I too dread my daughters teenage years. I wish I could FF to her being 20, just so she doesn’t have to go through it. Even now “friends” can go weird on me sometimes – I don’t think it’s just a teen thing! Hormones have a lot to answer for!! ;-) x

  12. 21 Sep

    Sarah MumofThree World

    Great post. The teenage years are such a scary time and they are more scary now than they were then. It’s funny how your friends didn’t even remember this. I have to talk to this woman at work who bullied me as a teenager. Every time I do I want to shout at her and say ‘Do you know what you did to me?’ It’s been in the back of my mind for so long, but I’m guessing she doesn’t even remember.

  13. 22 Sep

    Michelle | The American Resident

    This is a familiar story! In my junior year my three closest friends stopped talking to me. I had no idea why until I had come home during my final year at university and was at a bar with some friends when I ran onto one of that three. She seemed happy to see me so I sat and had a beer with her, and after a couple more I asked her about it. She looked sheepish and said they were all disapproving because they knew I was having sex with my boyfriend and I was too young. I didn’t say ‘that was none of your business,’ like I could have, instead I started laughing, incredulous. I told her that I didn’t actually start doing THAT till I got to university. Fact. She didn’t say anything for a minute then said, ‘well, it wasn’t our business anyway and I have no idea why we acted like that and I’m sorry.’ We’re now connected again on Facebook and I’ve also connected with the other two (but didn’t ask them about it, as I had my answer). All is good, now that we’re grown but yeah, I was actually mega insecure about even going back to bars and parties etc in my hometown until I got that closure. I totally get what you’re saying!! Glad you finally have some peace with your mystery. xx

  14. 24 Sep

    Toks

    It’s amazing how occurrences that happen to us in our teens can still effect us in adult life! I can relate to a lot of what you were saying Julia and my eldest boy recently turned 13 so I have the joys of teenage years headed just around the corner, wish me luck!

    A great post, Toks

  15. 18 Oct

    Mammasaurus

    It’s only as an adult that I think we start to see just how mean children and teens can be at times. Shocking to say I first saw The Breakfast Club only a couple of years ago!

    I watch my teens anxiously, mainly stalking them on social media – just to see what it’s all like these days x

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