Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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‘There is nothing scarier than a teenage girl’

A spirit once haunted my house. And it wasn’t just at Halloween. An alien presence took possession of The Child when she was, oh, 14 or so, and stuck around for about three years. Three very long, very frightening years.

Before she was possessed by this alien force — let’s call it the Spirit of Teen Girlhood — The Child was a normal, happy little sprite. An inventive sort who insisted, for unexplained reasons of her own, on dressing as objects for Halloween. As the years went by, she was, among other things, a Number Two Pencil, a Bloomingdale’s Bag, and a Pre-War Building. (Check her out as a Strawberry in ‘Happy Ho-made Halloween’.) Here are a couple more:

The Child as a candle, complete with flame

The Child as a candle, complete with flame. And flame-colored socks

Have a Child stand in a hole in a cardboard box, drape newspaper-stuffed leggings over the front, staple on a squirrel, and you've got a Park Bench

Cut a Child-sized hole in a cardboard box, drape newspaper-stuffed leggings over the front, staple on a squirrel, and you’ve got a Park Bench

Notice that in both of these shots she is smiling. While, in the picture at the top of this post, she is making that ‘okay okay, I’ll let you take a picture if you hurry up about it and get the heck out of here’ face. (Did you notice her eyes? I swear that’s not red-eye; that’s the Spirit peeking out.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. She didn’t turn into a bad person when she turned into a Teen Girl. It was more like one day someone threw a switch that caused her to immediately, and without precedent, decide her mother (that would be me) was anathema to her. (Incidentally, I just checked out the definition of anathema: ‘vehement disagreement with or dislike of something.’ Ouch.)

Seriously. During this period of bewitchment, I could do something as simple as walk by her open bedroom door and spark an interchange that would go something like this:

Child: Are you leaving the apartment dressed like that?

Me (wearing something outrageous like a dress and boots): Um, yes.

Child: Just don’t tell anyone you are my mother.

Sigh.

But hey. Stuff like this wasn’t her fault. Not really. I chalk it all up to Nature. (Notice I didn’t say Mother Nature. If Nature were really a Mother, she’d be a lot nicer about stuff like this.)

You see, I have this theory. Which is about toddlers and teens. See, I think toddlers ‘act out’ because their minds are ahead of their bodies. Their brains know that they can tie their own shoes. But their fingers just won’t cooperate. So the toddler gets super-frustrated, and has a tantrum. Well, teen girls have the opposite thing going on. Their bodies are ahead of their minds. They own these gorgeous womanly chassis which they just aren’t mature enough to drive. Not safely anyway. But just try telling one of them that.

Oh, and it doesn’t help matters if your Teen Girl is a whole heck of a lot taller and/or bigger than you are, either. Shaking your finger in someone’s face with a stern ‘Now, and another thing, Young Lady!’ somehow loses admonitory force when you’re bending backward and craning your neck upward.

It also didn’t help that, while The Child was changing into a woman, I was going through that Other Female Thing. The poor Dude. He was trapped in a shrieking, tear-drenched hormone sandwich. When The Child left for college we had to get her a new bedroom door; the old one was cracked from all the slamming.

So, who did I turn to for help? Well first I called my mother. Who maintained that, yes, I was pretty surly to her when I was a Teen Girl. But it didn’t get to her all that much because she had four other children in the house, and, well, she was busy.

It being a little late to solve my problem that way, I next called some of my friends. The ones with Teen Girls a little older than mine. They all assured me that the problem would solve itself. That there wasn’t really anything you could do. But that one day, poof! it would just…stop.

And guess what? That’s exactly what happened. One day I’m walking by the open door of her bedroom — well, kind of slinking, to be honest — and she’s, like, ‘Want to go to yoga class with me?’ After first looking around to see if there was someone else in the hallway, I realized that yes, she was talking to me.

So. My lips to your ears, O Moms of Teen Girls. This too shall pass.

And to you, O Child O Mine, Happy Halloween. You once were (see proof below), and always will be, a Star. Oh, and since you didn’t have four siblings, feel free to give me a call when you have your own Teen Girl.

My Once and Future Star, hormones be damned

My Once and Future Star, back in the days before The Haunting

New York City. October 2015

38 thoughts on “Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  1. This is an awesome post. No girls here, but I’m already dreading tween/teen boys! Love your homemade Halloween costumes–they’re wonderfully creative. I was a box of popcorn once. Much easier the years I decided to be a gypsy (again) and just put on some of my mom’s scarves and her lipstick. I went through that teenage phase, was a terror not to my mom but my dad, until I moved out. Then we became best buds. Thanks for sharing your memories and getting me to think about mine!

    • So glad I could spark a few memories, Rebecca! Interesting that you were a “terror” to your dad, not your mom. I bet he was relieved when that was over and you became best buds! BTW, I absolutely LOVE the idea of a box of popcorn as a costume. Too bad The Child didn’t think of that!

  2. Oh my, those costumes are the greatest! I always enjoy looking at your family snaps.

    I’m very close to the teenage years with my daughter, already seeing the beginning telltale signs of the attitude and there have been a couple of door slams already too 😉 I’m gonna try and stay as zen as possible. Breathe…breathe…haha!

    • All I can say is that no matter what happens, it is NOT your fault and honest to the Girl Gods, this too SHALL pass. It won’t feel like it while you’re smack-dab in the vortex of teendom, but yes it will. And oh! Thank you for the nice compliment on the costumes and snaps! I’m actually not sorry the days of costume-making are over. It was fun, but very challenging. I used to wish she just wanted to be Jasmine or something.

  3. Unbound Roots

    I love your theory about toddlers and teens. I’ll keep this in mind for when my daughter enters this stage in about 7 years – thank goodness I have some time to prepare!!!

  4. We raised 2 of those scary creatures and I have to say both our girls somehow turned into amazing young women. Don’t know when or how it happened! Thanks for a great post! 🙂

  5. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Good thing Samantha had such a talented mother! I remember when you called your mother about your teenage daughter and we had a little chuckle, pretty sure it would all work out. Happy Halloween!

    • Ah Ruth! I think I was spoiled for my own motherhood-of-teen-years by babysitting your daughter, Karen, who was a model child and a lovely teen. You and Mom knew the Secret, that’s for sure (!)

  6. Sharon McGavin

    Wonderful post. You really captured the tone of those years. And the emergence on the happy far side. AND the costumes are amazing.

    • Thanks, Sharon! Let me just say that I am so happy to be on the happy far side! (I’m also happy not to be making costumes anymore. I can actually look at a cardboard box and see a cardboard box)

  7. JoAnn

    The alien has settled into my charming, delightful 13 year old. But, this is my third girl so I invited the mom alien into my soul! It’s great this time around!

    • Ah, Judy. Thank you so much. Yes, I often wonder about the dressing-as-objects thing. To be perfectly honest, I had more fun with that than I would have with the usual princess-or-witch costuming (!)

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