I used to think I grew up too fast.
Look at the facts: I quit computer games on my own sometime in the early teens, I replaced my steady diet of horse and pet series with à Kempis and Luther, and I felt awkward among kids my own age--what’d we have in common? And so I felt grown up, far above the elementary and faddish. I was proud of my nerdy accomplishments. Talk about denial.
Then, making faces in the mirror on the way to a CLEP exam (with those cool college kids), it hit me: What cool teenager exposes herself to roadside ridicule by scrunching her nose at her rearview reflection? What grown up lady goes about with no purse and no eye shadow? What mature woman hates coffee and shopping? How’d I get along in life without learning to do my hair or coordinate colors until sixteen?
Seriously, kids. I didn’t do nothin’ with my hair until last year. Pictures to prove it. And I dared call myself “woman”?
This year at camp, hanging out in The Girls’ Bathroom: A Social Place®, I realized I lacked the most basic female skill: putting one’s hair up in a towel wrap. As the big sister, I’m supposed to initiate these things, have the fashion mags memorized, take over the shoe shopping. My poor, poor sisters. For almost seventeen years, I’d never successfully put my hair up in a towel—nor have I the slightest clue how to apply mascara, curl hair or diet. Things were pretty bleak. And when I met all these towelled heads, I excitedly burst out, “How do you do it?”
Blank stares. Someone said something to the effect of “How do you breathe, girlfriend?”
So I’m not very grown up at all—no boyfriend(s), iPods or Facebook. Not very sophisticated—no French twists or nail polish on Tuesdays. Not very culturally literate—what’s a Kardashian?
In the eyes of the world, I’m still a little girl in most cases. Stunted. Unaware of my social potential. In my world, bad people can become good, the world can be changed and hugs should be given by the hundreds. Boil it all down to this: innocence.
The worst word I knew up until a couple years ago was “shut up.” And believe me, if you applied that word to me, I would go home and cry. Stupid was the lesser of two evils—well, didn’t your mother tell you not to say it too? I didn’t even know what bad words were, though the alphabet seemed to play a big role in defining them. When I stumbled across my first bad word in a how-to publishing manual (yes, I planned on being published by my fifteenth birthday), I wondered why on earth they kept repeating the same meaningless word over and over again. It was the dumbest literary move I’d ever seen. Oh, the innocence of fourteen-year-old children.
Some of it’s that unsocialized homeschooler syndrome—that geeky part, that Anglo-Saxon literature lovin’ part, that what on earth is a blind date part. But honestly, there were homeschoolers in that girls’ bathroom would did the make-up and the towel wraps, read the magazines, shopped the shoes. They knew.
So I think it’s just me, a totally random, innocent person who hasn’t the slightest idea how to function in a world of hipness.
I confess: I’m ignorant of everything essential to modern womanhood. But you know something? It doesn’t bother me. A bit. I’ve got the bare essentials: a brain, a love and a purpose. I know who I am—a girl who doesn’t operate according to fads and fashions (not to say I couldn’t benefit from a proper curling iron). I won’t ever be called cool. My sisters won’t call me at midnight to figure out what to wear to church the next day. I’d stick out badly in the Big Apple. I may not be as put-together as the average American girl.
Oh, I am definitely not as put together as the average American girl. My brain hasn’t been organized for years.
But I’m innocent. That’s freedom. Frankly, I wouldn’t trade that for the whole world.