The Return of the Itsy Bitsy Spider
by Sorcha Blaine
I'm not gonna get maudlin about this;
my niece Kate isn't much different
from other girls her age.
Except that she heard The Speech.
I have four nieces and nephews. I
decided early on that I would never lie
to them about anything. I gave each
of them the same talk just before they
"You're about to be a teenager," I'd
begin. "A lot of adults will say to you,
'This is the best time of your life!' or
'Enjoy it while you can!'
They're wrong. A lot of years have
passed and they don't remember. So
listen to me. I'll tell you the truth.
Yes, you'll have some wonderful moments.
You'll make friends you'll keep forever.
You'll be given opportunities to explore
and learn that will never be repeated.
But mostly, though, on a day-to-day
basis, it's absolutely horrible being a
teenager. You'll feel sadder than you've
ever felt in your life. You'll feel happier
than you've ever felt in your life. Sometimes
you'll experience both these emotions
within the same five minutes.
You will have no control over the way
you look. Pimples and hair will appear
overnight. The parts of your body you
want to stay small will get big and vice
versa. You'll notice every change the
instant it happens.
When you enter a room or talk in class,
you will feel like every eye is judging you.
You will be right: at school you will be
surrounded by 600 other human beings
equally desperate for acceptance and
looking to gauge their place against yours
in the pecking order.
You will be judged ruthlessly for the things
you own, wear, drive, say, and do. Make
sure you get it right the first time: you will
be given no second chances.
You will be excluded from some groups
without explanation. You will be included
in others without knowing why.
It will be an agony of self-doubt. You will
have your heart broken at least once.
But that's all okay. It's what's expected.
It's normal. Eventually, things will even
out again. I promise. And I've never lied to
Kate got The Speech. Like my
other nieces and nephews she listened hard.
At the end she said, "Okay, thanks" and went
outside to play soccer.
Kate turned 18 in April. She's pretty and
graceful and athletic. She's popular and
never home. She's TP'd houses on Halloween
and baked cookies with her friends and had a
crush that wasn't returned.
We haven't talked much about her life lately.
Teenagers enter the Tunnel of Adolescence
and you don't hear from them for 5 years.
Eventually, though, they stagger out. They're
taller, usually. More unsure than when they
went in. Overall a little worse for wear - like
suitcases sent to Denmark by mistake.
In the most important ways, however, they're
the same as before.
Their favorite color is still blue. They still
like Cap'n Crunch. And they still know all
the words to Itsy Bitsy Spider
(even if they wouldn't sing it to you in a
Happy Graduation, Kate, and Welcome Back.
Welcome Back to all the Year 2000 Graduates.
We've missed you more than you'll ever know.