Tuesday, March 13, 2012

my life: the 'tween years

***To catch up -- read "the kiddo years" post {here}***

As many kids do, I gradually morphed from an adorable little blonde girl, with round rosy cheeks and just the right amount of pudge, into a tallish, scrawny, awkward pre-teen with braces.  Seemingly overnight I went from a confident fireball, to an angsty, goofy, odd duck.

Boys were starting to matter.  Looks were starting to matter.  Weight was starting to matter.  Even trivial things, like breast-size, were starting to matter.
{11 years old - awkward!}
I was skinny {good?} and flat-chested {bad?} --  "Good" and "bad" being completely relative and ridiculous terms, forced upon young girls by who????  I don't remember who made the rules.  I simply lived with them.

Regarding  boys:  Attending a tiny church school out in the country, there were not a lot of options.  Technically, I wasn't allowed to date until I was sixteen anyway, but there was that whole concept of "going with" a boy that somehow skirt-tailed my parents hard-and-fast no dating rule.  I "went with" {i.e. held hands with and wrote notes with and made googly-eyes at} several boys in my little school.  Nothing major.  We never actually went anywhere together.  Never kissed or anything like that.  Yet we "went together."  Yes, confusing times, the 'tween years.

In sixth grade my best friend since kindergarten, Lindsay, decided to move on to the large public middle school..  It was rather devastating for me, as up until then we were inseparable.
On the positive side, the parting helped me to branch out and become better friends with the girls in the grades above and below me.  

During the middle school years I rode the public school bus for a whopping two hours every day.   My little brother and I were some of the first kids picked up, and the last dropped off.   I loved the bus.   I got to know different types of kids.  From different worlds, it seemed, than me.  Some became friends.  Others were...not so nice.
Some kids deal a lot with bullying.  I was lucky and only had a few issues.  There were the boys who teased me on occasion, calling me "flatsy" and "no boobs" ...and there was Melissa.
Melissa was one of the "rich kids" on our bus.  They lived in the mansions and were all dropped off pretty quickly.  Way before us "country kids."  She was a year older than me, tall, blonde, and absolutely gorgeous.   She hated me, and yet we never had spoken one word to each other.  I will never know what it was about me she disliked; however, every day she would sit behind me and punch the back of my seat.   She would sit with her friends and make really rude comments about my clothes and glare at me from the moment she got on the bus to the moment she got off.  {Praise God she was one of the first ones off, but that first ten minutes of the bus ride every day could be pretty brutal.}  She would throw candy at me with wicked precision.  Once she put a huge wad of gum in my waist-length brown hair.   It got so mangled in that I had to chop it out with scissors.  For months I had a weird chunk of hair that stuck straight up.

I don't know why I didn't turn around and clock her right in her face.  I certainly fantasized about it.  I still had a wicked temper.  I still spoke my mind a lot.  For some odd reason I endured her torture in silence, choosing instead to just write about it in my journal.
But it was because of her that I stopped being a person who teased, and started being a person who stuck up for others, and was kind to the those who weren't necessarily "popular" - a term  I began to question early on.   
So thank you, my bully, Melissa, for showing me who I did not want to become.  :)

I dealt with my pre-teen inner struggles, not quite knowing how to define them.  I had anger and depression issues, which bewildered my parents.   No one in my family understood my sudden outbursts or the dark, sad place my mind would sometimes wander.  No horrific event had happened to me, and I didn't drink or do any type of drugs.  Nothing had "made" me angry/depressed...therefore I couldn't explain my feelings to those close to me. I felt bad about myself because I thought something was wrong with me.  I felt bad that I wasn't "good" - I acted out much more than my siblings.   The truth was that wasn't bad...the depression and anger were bad...and there were ways I could deal with them both positively.  But I hadn't quite figured out how yet.

I also had distorted body image issues.  Sometimes what I saw in the mirror was different than reality.  I never had an eating disorder...I actually ate quite normally.   However, I would occasionally write ridiculous things in my journal like, "I am so fat -- need to lose 4 pounds!" or "I'll never have a boyfriend when I look this big!"  Reality: I weighed around 100 lbs and looked like a twig.  Makes me sad to read those things, because I know that so many young girls struggle with these irrational thoughts.  One of the many reasons I fear having a daughter.
{barely fourteen - on a church youth hiking trip in Texas}
Okay, now before you go thinking I was sad all the time...I  wasn't.  I just think it is important to be honest with you, my friends and readers.  I think with social media {especially Facebook and blogs} women try to present these "perfect lives", and act like we are so together...and it's just not reality. It can be damaging to read/compare yourself to other people's one-sided representations of themselves. Reality is that there is good and bad in everyone's lives.  Everyone has some sadness and flaws.  Sure, I had some dark stuff - but we all do.  Maybe bad things happened.  Maybe bad decisions were made and the consequences were a struggle.  Or maybe, like me, there were thoughts and feelings that were hard to control.  I feel pretty fortunate that I was eventually able to come to understand my anger/depression and go on to live a very healthy life.   {stepping off my bloggie soapbox now...}
Despite my "dark stuff" -  life was generally good as a preteen.  When I turned twelve I was finally old enough to join our church youth group.  It became the central focus of my life all the way through high school.   Perhaps it would have been expected of me, as the pastor's daughter, to be ultra-involved...but I loved it so much that no one had to twist my arm to go to every single function and help organize every trip.  My sister was also very involved - she was five years older than me, in high school during my pre-teen years.

I looked up to my sister immensely. My perception was:  She was pretty, popular, and perfect.  She dressed in the latest fashions, always had a TON of girlfriends, and the boys all liked her, too.   She had what I deemed a fabulous life that I hoped I could have someday.  She even had a serious boyfriend she was in love with {and eventually married!}  I would pore over all their letters to each other, attempting to live vicariously through her.

She thought I was annoying {I totally was} and occasionally we would fight.  I had crushes on many of my sister's friends who were boys; however, there was such an age gap I was never any competition for her.  All the guys treated me like a kid sister.   I enjoyed the attention all the same...which I got only because of my "little sister status."

I borrowed her clothes...well, stole her clothes out of her closet like a thief in the night.   I looked ridiculous in them, because I had no curves.  The frocks hung on me like potato sacks.  I thought I was being fashionable.  My sister thought I was nuts and hated the fact that I tried to wear her clothes.  Despite all our drama, as with my little brother, Sister and I ended up okay.  We now have so much in common and are as close as sisters can be...despite living over a thousand miles apart.
Here I am with my beautiful sis, both older and wiser, and much more appreciative of the gift of having a sister:
As a pre-teen, I was in love with love.  I romanticized everything.  I watched movies {my mother owned every movie/musical known ever made} and desired my own silver-screen-esque romance.  Favorites were the Anne of Green Gables BBC mini-series {Will I ever have my own Gilbert Blythe?} and Rogers and Hammerstein musicals {I'll ride in your surry, Curly!}  :)

My lack of athleticism continued.  However, I got plenty of exercise walking the perimeter of our 11 acre farm.  These jaunts through the woods were less for my body and more for my soul.  It was when I did my dreaming, my imagining, my brooding.  I treasured the hours {yes, hours} a day I would spend wearing down the trail that skirted the cornfields surrounding our land, and cut through the woods.  I loved being outside - the fresh air, the sunshine, or even at dusk with bats swooping above my head.
During my walks, I dreamt of my future -- what it would include.  Above all, a great romance.  I imagined my future husband -- how we would meet, every detail of our courtship, and our eventual marriage.  Then there were our four {yes, four} kids.   I even envisioned the personalities of each one.  I had a lot of time on my hands.

I still loved reading -- had graduated to Christopher Pike and RL Stine books...and whatever else looked interesting in the young adult section at the library or bookmobile -- remember those???

I graduated 8th grade at my tiny country church school as the valedictorian.  This was not a great feat, as there were only two other students in my class - both boys who didn't seem to care all that much about grades.  But still...I got to give a speech, which was always a thrill for me to get up in front of an audience.
{last day of eighth grade - always writing!}
I continued to try to find my creative outlet through writing and acting.  I became quite obsessed with our ginormous, old-school VHS video camera during this time.  I made countless films - shorts, documentaries - starring myself and whoever I could convince to do whatever I told them to do in front of the camera.   In fact, I wrote, directed, and starred in my first feature film: The Pennington High Murders -- a horror film.  None of them are very well made.  Most are me acting extremely goofy.  I pray none ever go viral.
{my eleventh birthday party}
The summer before my freshman year of high school was pivotal.  I met my first boyfriend, and had my very first kiss.   On a church canoe trip, standing in the river, behind some weeds.  My dad, the pastor, was only ten feet away.  It was definitely a memorable moment, to say the least.   The "relationship" didn't last long {neither of us could drive, I technically wasn't allowed to date, and we lived in different cities.}

Not surprisingly, this was around the time my father gave me his one and only piece of "boy advice."  More like a warning.  "All men think with their penises, and no boy wants to be just your friend."   He said it with the fiery passion of a protective father.  Of course, I didn't believe him.  "Um, ya right, Dad. What-ever." I responded, probably making the "W" sign with my fingers.   I'd still like to think he is wrong...but I will say this:  If I ever have a daughter I will tell her the exact same thing.  With probably even more fiery passion.  Yet another reason I pray I have all boys.

Next I was off to high school.  No more backwoods country school for me...now I would drive an hour each way to attend a Lutheran high school in "the cities," as we say in Minnesota. St. Paul, specifically.  

The high school years - up next!


  1. I hope this Melissa girl reads your blog, maybe she will apologize to you. I had one girl that tried to bully me when I moved states. I took it for about a month and then flipped out on her. I pointed out to her that I have two sisters and if I could "take them" I was no doubt sure I could "take her". She left me alone after that. :) Some girls just know they are destined to grow up to be losers, so they bully the people around them that are most likely to succeed to some how to make up for the poor life the will have someday.

    Also, I think having a messed up image of yourself during the tween years is pretty common. I remember obsessing over a nose job and a forehead reduction. Pretty sure boys during that time in my life didn't even notice. I wish I could go back and have a sit down with myself sometimes, but I guess those are the experiences that make us who we are. Can't wait to read the high school years!

  2. very interesting! oh, the tween years. what fun memories. ;)

  3. I love this post! Thanks for being real, it is very refreshing. It's funny how skewed our vision can be when it comes to ourselves.

  4. body image, boys, & sisterly squabbles... yup, sounds like me tweenhood, too! & among all the tweens i've taught, i'd consider every single one an "odd duck" - don't think there's any way of getting around that phase, lol. ;) and so glad you found ways to deal with your "dark stuff." <3


I adore comments. So leave one. Or two. Or as many as you want.