Anyone who says given the chance they’d do it all over again forgets what was like to be 13. Your body is going through drastic changes without taking out any renovation permits.
Nothing prepares you for it or for the feelings that start to churn away under the surface. Feelings seasoned with self-loathing and hair. I mean nobody expects hair.
Even if you got ‘the book’ and ‘the talk’ and pictures, the whole hair thing is totally not what you think it’s gonna be.
I didn’t get the talk. Mum put a book on my dresser for me to find when I got home from school one day. Written by the Dr. Phil of the day, it was supposed to be in the language that ’the kids’ understand.
Because the first thing a brain on the brink of adolescence does is go into Manchuria Candidate mode, and activate a radio receiver/transmitter device sending the activating code to other devices in the immediate area.
Maybe not that extreme but a wall definitely goes up and selective hearing gets switched to the peer group setting.
Hence the book of parental desperation. Written in a warm, reasoning, friendly tone, it is the literary equivalent of a quiet voice and a steady approach with no sudden gestures. Parents read them and feel reassured: this will get through the to the creature in the basement that swallowed their precious, adorable child.
The problem is they are written to appeal to the person buying it, not the person for whom it is bought. They are written from the point of view of an observer. Not the person dealing for the first time with the hair, boobs and zits.
Calm, clinical reasoning defines the entire narrative structure. They remain silent, however, on how to deal with the shit storm of feelings stirred up by songs like “Son of a Preacher Man” or almost anything by Neil Diamond.
This is why there are so many turtle necks in high school photos.
Then my sister’s boyfriend brought over his collection of Ventures albums. There’s something terribly 60’s about the album covers and the band wearing white shoes. Their music is the soundtrack to the ‘’50’s and ‘60’s, the mythical beach blanket bingo innocence where those lovable, wacky kids dance on the beach.
The boys carry coffee table sized surf boards and are always running into or out of the water. The girls stay well above the tide line, keeping their bouffants and those two piece bathing suits, triumphs of modesty over gravity, dry.
What more do you need for a great party? The sun goes down, the bon fire lights up and the Ventures show up with the beer. And a driving base, relentless electric riffs and a manic drummer.
Summer was never the same after I heard those records.