Category Archives: thinking about others

True Teen Stories: Three’s a Crowd

Welcome to Volume 3 of “True Teen Stories,” a blog series which features non-fiction essays from teen writers.  I am incredibly impressed and proud of the writer of this next story, 14-year-old Angel R. of the U.K., author of “Three’s a Crowd.”   It’s not easy to open yourself up to the world, and I think Angel’s bravery and candor will be an inspiration to girls everywhere.

THREE’S A CROWD

By Angel R., age 14 

I remember sometime last year, lying on my best friend’s bed with my nose stuck in a book as she complained about yet another boy that had ‘broken her heart’. This one only lasted a week. The pair of us, I realize now, must have looked like those cheesy best friends that you see in all the 1990’s movies. Phoebe Smith* and I had been best friends since she stood on my foot on the first day of primary school and, at 13 years a piece, had been through so much together: first bras, first boyfriends, first break-ups, and first periods. You name it, we had been through it together.

It was around this time that my feelings towards Phoebe started to change. We went from being BFFs to me being madly in love with her and her being completely clueless as usual. I think that I’d always had a special place in my heart for Phoebe and, once I discovered it was okay to like girls, finally admitted my feelings to myself. I remember her falling beside me on the bed and asking why she didn’t like girls instead, it would be so much easier. We talked about sexuality for about an hour and both agreed that yes, it was okay to date other girls but no, she and I wouldn’t be doing it anytime soon after all, as Phoebe said “Neither of us are really lesbians”

A couple of months after the ‘bedroom incident’, a new girl showed up at school. Her name was Laura Slough and she was one of these girls that always wears designer clothes and has a giggle that reverberates around in your skull for hours after hearing it, which is why it surprised me so much when Phoebe invited her to hang around with us. Now, I’m all for making someone feel welcome, so of course I played nice.  But as Phoebe and Katy started to grow closer I couldn’t help but get slightly jealous. So, I did the only thing I could think of: not let it get to me. It worked, for the rest of that school year and the start of the next one. Sure, our cozy duo became a trio, but we were all friends and we all loved each other.  Or so I thought.

With the new addition to our group, my feelings towards Phoebe only got stronger and stronger and, I realized as the world was changing around me, I didn’t like boys the way other girls did, I liked girls and I had to face up to that fact and stop hiding it. I was happy with my new, clearer, knowledge of myself and wanted to share it with my friends, after all Phoebe had basically told me that it was okay to be gay and if Laura didn’t like it, well I wasn’t really losing much was I? So I was going to do it one day at school, I managed to get them into a quiet part of the school by telling them I had ‘something important to tell them’ but when it came around to actually saying something I found I couldn’t do it so quickly ran off leaving two very confused teenagers behind me.

I decided that the easiest way to do it would be over MSN so, during our 6pm scheduled chat I was almost forced into it by Laura. Here’s a snippet of that conversation: 

Phoebe: Or vegas! Wat bout u Ang do u wanna go vegas wiv me?

Me: I’d love to go with you Phoebe.

Laura: Oh, ang. Wat u wanted to tell us?

Me: Oh, right. Um, it doesn’t matter?

Phoebe: Go on babes, tell us

Me: Well, its kinda important.

Laura: Just spit it out!

Me: I’m gay.

Laura: WAT? Wind up rite?

Me: No, I’m being serious. I’m in love with another girl

Phoebe: I don’t know what to say baby o_O

Laura: hows bout: thats gross! Wat girl would wanna kiss u?

Me: Phoebe?

Phoebe has signed out

The conversation continued (via text now) with lots of swearing and derogatory names thrown at myself, mainly by Laura but a few coming from the girl I love too.

The next day I walked into school with my head held high even though I could hear the gossip about me spreading like wildfire through the hallways. I came face to face with the two girls that had haunted my dreams the previous night and, looking me straight in the face, Laura simply spat on my shoe and told me that if she saw me again she would do it in my face. I looked to Phoebe for support, but she just linked arms with Laura and spat on my shoe as well. I knew in that moment that letting Laura into our duo was the worst mistake of my life so far.

A few weeks later, after avoiding both girls in the hallways, Phoebe was announced to be on a long holiday, visiting family in Australia apparently. But Phoebe doesn’t have any family in Australia, so I am not certain why she is really gone, but the one thing I am certain of is that when she returns, I am going to talk to her alone.  Because, let’s be honest:  three’s a crowd.

*Actual names have been changed

About the Author:  Angel is a 14-year old girl. She has been in girlguiding for 10 years now and currently helps at both a Rainbow (young girls aged 5-7) and a Brownie (girls aged 7-10) unit, she also helps at two local charity shops (British heart foundation and Scope). In the little free time she gets she likes to listen to both classical music and the top 40 whilst writing the several novels she has on the go. She, one day, aspires to be a primary teacher along with publishing several of her own novels and leading Rainbow, Brownie and Guide (girls aged 10-14) units during the week and at the weekend continue to volunteer at local charity shops.


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Filed under books, movies, YA, writing, friends, friendship, friendship break-ups, teen writers, teenage girls, thinking about others, writing advice, young adult

True Teen Stories: Glass Houses and Shattered Bonds

Welcome to the second installment of my blog series “True Teen Stories” featuring non-fiction essays from teen writers.  For the record, I’d just like to say how impressed I am by the work I’ve received thus far.  One of the greatest challenges for new writers is the ability to write honestly.  That doesn’t mean every word the author chooses must in fact be the definitive truth, only that it represents their truth (or, in fiction, their character’s truth).

Today’s story, “Glass Houses and Shattered Bonds,” written by fifteen-year-old Emily T., does just that—detailing the unraveling of a friendship without cynicism or pretense.  When I first read Emily’s story, I was struck by how familiar it felt to me, and to the friendship break-up I had back in high school.  Sadly, I think it’s probably familiar for many girls. But by articulating those feelings in writing, Emily might just be able to get through this difficult situation with more clarity, instead of, say, waiting 20 years to write about it in a YA novel.  (In case you didn’t know, REUNITED is about a friendship break-up.)

Emily T., age 15, is an aspiring writer from Staffordshire, England.  In addition to writing, her interests include fashion design and punk rock music.

Glass Houses and Shattered Bonds

By Emily T., age 15

At the very beginning of primary school, I had one best friend, Amelia. Amelia is my oldest friend and vice versa, and though we shared a strong bond of friendship, near the end of primary school this friendship grew to include identical twins Lana and Elena. The four of us were inseparable, but the problem (according to Lana and Elena), started during our first year of high school when another new friend, Sandra, joined our group.

It all happened because of my fifteenth birthday party. As we all know birthdays are on a set date, they don’t just randomly change with each coming year. So as a normal person would do, I arranged for my party to be on the weekend of my birthday, (as my birthday unfortunately usually falls in the middle of the school term). I invited all my friends two weeks before the intended party and all was well… up until one week before my party, when Lana and Elena informed me that they had been invited to another party a month before I had told them the arrangements for mine.

Which was fine, if they’d been invited to that one first and had said yes to it, then that was fine I couldn’t just expect them to change their arrangements because that wouldn’t be fair on them. But of course, it did upset me slightly, considering they had known me for so long and had been to every one of my parties and as I’ve said before, birthdays don’t change. So not wanting to have a party without them, I graciously changed my arrangements for them, putting my entire family out, as we were supposed to be going away for weekend. But not wanting to be alone on the weekend of my birthday, I invited Amelia and Sandra over to my house for a sleepover as they weren’t going to this other party and would be doing nothing either.

Next thing I know, Elena is standing behind me saying that she and Lana will still be able to come on the original date and asking when to drop their stuff around. Usually, I wouldn’t have cared, but considering it felt like they were ditching my arrangements for someone else’s, I didn’t think it was right for them to just expect to be invited to my consolation do. So for the first time ever, I stood up for myself and said that the actual party was next week, but there was no point them coming to the sleepover as they would have missed most of it anyway by the time they got there.

This, of course, caused world war three amongst the group. They weren’t talking to me and I wasn’t talking to them. The entire week before my birthday I walked home ranting to Sandra, who patiently listened to me before we parted ways. But as soon as I was alone the tears came. I spent the entire week before my birthday feeling miserable.

Two days before my birthday, they said they wouldn’t be coming to my party because it would be too awkward between us, I of course tried to convince them otherwise but they weren’t having it, they even got their mum involved in the text conversation, painting them as the victim. This brought the total number of people in the text conversation to three against one. At this point, I could too have got my mum involved, but considering she gets paid to argue it would have been the kiss of death for the friendship. So I was outnumbered and I ended up apologizing for something that was completely irrelevant to argument and making up with them. Or so I thought…

However during the next day of school, I was sitting between them in one of our classes and none of us were talking; I was having a hard time stopping myself from breaking down into tears. Fortunately, I had to leave the room to do a job for the teacher but Elena was asked to come too. Once outside of the room, I broke down into tears and said, ‘I thought we’d sorted this out.

To which her reply was; “Why are you crying?” asked in a tone which said she couldn’t have cared less; which to me said if she really didn’t know then maybe it wasn’t worth fixing.

It was such a stupid argument, but I’d like to think it changed me for the better. Throughout this time I found out who my real friends were.

I’d like to think things got better between us from there, and for a while, they did. Until one day Lana ran off crying and Amelia went to comfort her, leaving me, Sandra, and Elena sitting awkwardly together.

Feeling fed up with the on-going argument, I arranged to meet Elena and Lana alone one day in town to discuss where we were as friends.

After spending an hour and a half going round in circles, I learned that they blamed Sandra for the friendship falling apart and wanted it to go back to just us four. Me, Amelia, Elena and Lana. When it was my turn to speak, they did what they always do and didn’t listen as to what I had to say, instead choosing to talk over me, then walking out on me, claiming they felt as though they’d gotten nowhere. Which effectively they had, because they hadn’t listened to what I was trying to say.

I still speak to Elena and Lana, seeing as they are in all my lessons, but it’s not the same. They’re not the same. I partly agreed with them when they said they wanted to go back to how it was in primary school, just not the part without Sandra. If they could go back to being their primary school selves, not repeatedly snapping at me, making me think I have to be careful with what I say when I’m with them; not being so paranoid as to what I do and who with; and less spiteful e.g. not talking to me in attempt to show me how they feel; as I can say for fact I would never do that to them. Then maybe they may be more fun to hang around with.

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You Have the Right to Remain Sexy

Since the time we became friends in high school, and all through our twenties, my friend Jane* and I had a running joke about stripper cops.  It’s hard to say exactly what we found so hilarious about the concept, but the subject often wriggled its way into our conversations with  a glib (and deeply ironic) lechery.

For me, the best moment of the fantasy was when the man assumed to be an officer of the law dropped his ruse (and his pants) and delivered his Miranda rights punch line:  “You have the right to remain sexy.”  Of course, the flashing blue lights would be the perfect accompaniment to Donna Summer’s “It’s Raining Men,” which, as all women and gay men know, happens to be the only song men ever strip to.

So when it came time to celebrate my friend Jane’s 30th birthday, it was with this deluded scenario in mind that my friend Kim* and I decided to order Jane a stripper cop.  After all, we wanted to make Jane’s 30th birthday special.  And what could be more special than a gyrating half-naked policeman?  Plus, there was already a big birthday bash planned at Kim’s house, so when the police barged in “to break up the party,” it would seem so believable, no one would ever suspect our ploy.

Kim and I booked the stripper cop, and for the next few weeks, whenever I imagined the look on Jane’s face as some handsome beefcake cuffed her against his squad car, I giggled to myself.

But by the time Jane’s birthday actually arrived, I’d started to have second thoughts.  And instead of enjoying myself at the party, all I could do was obsess about the fact that our sardonically amusing fantasy was about to become a very real reality.   Every ten minutes I’d pull Jane aside for a worried tete-a-tete.  This was going to be weird, wasn’t it? I whispered anxiously.  Maybe we didn’t really think this through.  Or maybe, Kim mused, we just need to drink more.

To make matters worse, the stripper cop was lost, and as the rest of our friends partied on, getting looser and more relaxed, Kim and I were now periodically fielding calls from this man, attempting to guide him through her labyrinthine neighborhood of one-way streets.  His gruff Boston accent was the first turn-off. But even more unpleasant was the realization that this man on the other end of the line was an actual human being.  And the only reason he was driving in circles through Allston Massachusetts at 11:00pm on a Saturday night, about to take off his clothes for a bunch of strangers, was the only reason anybody did–because he needed the money.  And the harder Kim and I tried to help this guy find us, the less we wanted him to come.  But now that we had set this plan in motion,  we felt powerless to stop it.  Plus, if he didn’t strip, there would be no birthday gift for Jane.

By this point, I was starting to feel sick, and it wasn’t from the six beers I’d chugged.

But it was too late to turn back now.  The stripper cop was already pulling into Kim’s driveway, and not behind the wheel of a shiny blue squad car, but in a rusted out 1991 Ford Fiesta.   Before he even got out of his car, all ambivalence about the issue vanished and we knew with a grim certainty that we’d made a mistake.  But Kim and I just stood there, paralyzed with dread as we handed our $150 cash to this short, unattractive stranger and told him how best to sneak attack our oldest, dearest friend.  “Use the back stairs and look for a pretty blonde about six inches taller than you.”

From the very first moment he threw open the kitchen door and announced there’d been a noise complaint, I knew we were done for.  Even if he’d attempted to hide the boom box in his hand, no one would have believed he was a real policeman for a second.  Even worse, nobody cared.  In the harsh light of the kitchen, Kim and I took a better look at this man we were now in collusion with—noting every detail of his acne-scarred face, the spiky crispiness of his thin, overly gelled hair, and his pained expression at having to go through with this.

We could have stopped it right then and there, but instead, Kim and I dutifully pointed him towards the living room, where Jane was on the dance floor, unaware that the fun she was having was about to come to a screeching halt.

She knew as soon as she saw him.  Even before he turned on his boom box, or told her, in his dull, mechanical Southie accent that she’d been “a wicked bahd girl.”  Most people opted to leave the room before the striptease began in full, but a few onlookers gathered around Jane, like witnesses to a car crash–the birthday girl, it’s only victim.

There was no Donna Summer song as the stripper cop peeled off his uniform, performed a few rusty breakdancing moves, then proceeded—with nary a hint of irony—to push Jane to the floor in order to repeatedly thrust his speedo-clad package in her face.  Because after all, what better way is there to say, “Happy birthday, friend?”

The lesson here being that things that are fun to talk about, are not always fun to actually do.

*names have been changed to protect the guilty.

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Can’t We All Just Agree? (An Open Letter to America)

 

Dear America,

 

Can’t we all just agree to put our own personal agendas aside for once and try to work together?  Most of us seem to behave ourselves pretty well in our day-to-day lives (the occasional toy store stampede death aside).  Whether we’re inviting the weird kid in class to our child’s birthday party so he doesn’t feel left out, or stopping our cars to let an old man cross the street (even though we’re running late)—we make decisions all the time that are based not solely on our own selfish desires, but on what works best for the group of people we find ourselves living among.

 

Which, last time I checked, included ALL OF US.

 

So here’s the annoying thing.  Whenever politics come up, so many of you kind, considerate people revert back to this Me! Me! Me! attitude, as if national policy decisions will effect only you.  I see it happening on a smaller scale, too, every time I go to a PTO or school board meeting and some parent stands up to the mic and says, “Well my kid hates it…” without even bothering to take even the briefest moment to consider how said decision might effect the other 3,000 kids in the district.

 

Of course, you and your family come first.  I get that.  And it shouldn’t be any other way.  But while you are thinking about what might work best for you and your family, I think it’s also important to pause at the metaphorical crosswalk to think about how stepping on the gas pedal might impact that old man crossing the street.

 

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