Tag Archives: teenager

This (diet coke filled, boy crazed, jean wearing) American Life

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I was fortunate enough to go to a boarding school for high school.  This was not because my parents were rich or I got an amazing scholarship, no.  It’s because my parents worked for a company that paid for it.  Maybe you think that a fifteen year old is too young to leave home?  Well, let me tell you, I was nervous, but I was ready.  My raging teen hormones had reached a level that was seriously conflicting with my mom’s menopausal hormones.

Hey nature!  This is a stupid trick!  Menopause should be dependent on when your child leaves home.  If they stay forever, at least you’ll be able to think, “gee, I never had to go through that damn menopause crap.”  After all, you’ll have to find some bright nugget if your kid is still at home on their 50th birthday.

I sat down before my prospective school catalogues.  They were all on the East Coast, except for a Catholic all girls school in Washington State.  Yea.  Right. Like I would consider that.  I started taking note of the ratios of girls to boys. Once I had narrowed the stack of catalogues down to the few that had at most a ratio of 1:3 I began to look at the stock photography.  Well.  Sure, I can lay on the grass in New England like anyone.  BUT, can I do it in a uniform? Ew!  I was totally grossed out.  Out of the stack went a few more catalogues.  I was down to two.

Blair Academy and Suffield Academy.

Essentially the same schools, just slightly different New England locations.  One was in New Jersey and one was in Connecticut.  Did I mention that I had the option to go anywhere in the world?  You’d think that at a time like this your parents would step in and tell you that “you are an IDIOT! Go to Spain!  Go to Italy!  Go to Aruba!”  Instead, they left the decision up to me.

I was an American teenager living in Saudi Arabia, and I have to admit, I missed the idea of being American.

The idea of being American to my teenage self: hanging out with Cory Haim and Cory Feldman, drinking can after can of diet Coke, going to the mall, wearing current styles (not the styles of 6-12 months ago.  Madonna was already on to her pointed bra stage when we were sporting lace gloves and perms), listening to boom boxes while people break-danced on a piece of cardboard next to me, going to fast food restaurants (with my boys, Cory and Cory), and for some reason imagining boy after boy hanging on my every word.

I was going to be an American in America!

I poured over the catalogues again.  Suffield or Blair.  Blair or Suffield. This was a big important decision.  I put it off.  I turned 15.  Time was running out.  I grabbed those catalogues a final time.  My best friend was going to Suffield.  This should be a no brainer.  BUT. Suffield didn’t allow jeans as a part of their dress code.  How the hell were boys going to fall madly in love with me if I couldn’t wear jeans?  Really?  Sorry BFF.

It came down to you or the jeans, and I chose the jeans.

The ratio of girls to boys wasn’t too shabby either.  I was outnumbered 3 to 1.

I packed my 15-year-old valuables, which consisted of my vast tape cassette collection and  jeans.  We flew to New Jersey.  We got lost at least ten times. Then, in our rented van, “Red Red Wine” came on the radio.  I stopped listening to my parents argue about directions.  I looked out the window.  There were gorgeous giant trees.  There were rolling hills.  This was actually quite beautiful. Maybe I’d learn to drink some red wine at a place like this.  We pulled up the “driveway” along with the exquisite cars of the other parents that were making giant pools of drool fall from my dad’s lips.  I unpacked and settled in.  My parents left.  Without shedding a tear, I might add.

I was free.

I was at boarding school!

I ate raisin-ettes by the crateful, danced to Two Live Crew with my best friends, I fell in and out of love (sometimes in the same day), and sometimes I scrounged up enough change in the couches to buy a diet Coke.

It’s official:  I was American.

Not quite all I hope for.  As I traveled back and forth across the word, writing love letters to my boyfriend of the moment (who was NEITHER CORY) I started to see the reality.

No one I knew could breakdance.

Most people ate McDonald’s DAILY, and it showed.  Sometimes the ratio of boys to girls means there’s more boys around, but our of that 3:1 ratio, 1/3 are red necks, 1/3 are gay, and the other 1/3 are not even close to resembling a Lost Boy. Americans really did have a tendency to be loud.  They often exhibited a certain arrogance.  While traveling, they were unattractive in almost every way (myself included – never could handle that red red wine – memorably demonstrated on a flight to Amsterdam when I released that red red wine in a most unglamourous fashion).  What had I done?

The important thing here is that I got my wish.  I was born American and I had returned to my country of origin.  But I missed my shwarmas.  I missed the random garbage smell that would knock you over from a mysterious direction.  I missed the incense.  I missed the women in their black abayas casting sheepish, curious glances our way.  I (almost) missed the stares of the Arab boys, because in Saudi I was different.  I was blonde.  That was enough.  In New Jersey, I was one of many (yes, I know you are weeping for my hardship).  But I kept my bubble strong.

With denim.

I wore jeans almost every day for three years.  And while I never saw either of the Corys, but I did see Lou Reed.  Americana personified.  Black leather, sunglasses, in the rolling hills of Jersey.

Good thing I was sporting my jeans.  I’m sure it mattered to Lou.

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Orange Juice Jones

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I went to boarding school for my high school years.  On breaks, we returned to our sandy, over heated, oil drenched homeland, Saudi Arabia.  We reunited with our childhood friends and hung out with our parents, whom we hadn’t seen in nearly three months (wow.  imagine.  having a teenager…and getting three-month breaks.  that’s not really fair.)

We had changed.  We had boyfriends, or new boyfriends, new hairstyles, more ear piercings, and stories galore.  We rehashed our tales over glasses of illegal siddiqui (known during prohibition and still – for some reason – in the south, as MOONSHINE).  We would steal the evil 180 proof alcohol from our parents and meet at a house to imbibe and be ruthless teens, while hopefully avoiding going blind in the process.

I had a routine.  My parents would be watching a video.  I would sneak into the garage.  My dad had put his 400 lb tool box conveniently in front of the still room door.  For you novices out there, a still is what you use to brew your moonshine.  They are dangerous and a really bad idea.  That’s why we go to liquor stores and consume alcohol from companies that have to pass certain tests, in this country.  Chances are that a fifth of Baccardi won’t blow up your house, or make you go blind.  I pushed that tool box out of my way.  Was I super human in my quest to get loopy?  Nah.  There were wheels on it, silly.  Once that was a few inches to the side, I would squeeze into the still room and fill up a cup of siddiqui.  It didn’t take much.  Normally I would fill up a jar or a Tupperware cup, but one time I made the mistake of filling a styrofoam coffee cup.

The bottom fell out after 45 seconds.  Well.  Hmmm.  Wonder what it is doing to my liver?  It eats styrofoam.  Anyway, I am a teenager, who gives a damn.  I just want to have an illegal drink!  So, I grabbed another container to put it in, instead.

And off to the party.  Parents none the wiser.  I always added some water to offset what I had stolen.  Since they rarely drank, I think that by the time they got to their stash a few years later, it was 95% water.  I probably saved their livers.  Mine probably has mutant life forms attached to it by now.  Sorry liver.  I’ll make it up to you now by giving you all sorts of organic produce.

I arrived at the teenage drunk fest, siddiqui in hand, and ran into a guy who had orange juice.  Yay!  Chasers are a necessary part of drinking 180 proof alcohol.  There is no enjoyment factor, it is all about getting it down and attempting not to taste it in the process.  And so I began my evening.

Swig.

Oh GAWD… give me that chaser dude… QUICK!

Gulp Gulp Gulp.

Ahhhgggghhhh!  That’s not orange juice!  It’s orange juice CONCENTRATE!  So not helpful to my revolting stomach.  Of course, being a stupid teenager on a mission, I continued to drink it.  Durh.

Somehow I ended up back at home, very very very early.  My parents were still awake as I stumbled through the kitchen, looking for the bread-like equivalent to a sponge… hoping to absorb some of the alcohol.  I wasn’t even laying down and I was spinning.  I managed to get my drunken teen ass into my bed, and after writing the 80’s version of a booty call to my boyfriend back in the states, and cutting off a piece of my hair to mail to him, I passed out.  I only briefly woke up when I realized I had barfed in what was left of my hair.  I washed up, and went back to bed.  I’m sure it was the orange juice concentrate.

At the crack of dawn, my parents woke me to head out to run errands.  I managed to grab the milk before we left.  The gallon of milk.  Oh.  It tasted SOOOO good.  I just kept drinking it and drinking it.  I must have consumed half the gallon before we left.

Did I mention that I was in Saudi Arabia?  As in, the desert?  Not the most comfortable location for a hangover.  If you think they hurt in the cold, just hop in a sauna and see how you feel.  You feel disgusting.  Trust me.

I made it through the grocery store.  I groaned as my parents started munching on fragrant donuts.  I staggered into the gold souks.  It was shiny and pretty in there. Red velvet walls.  The smell of incense floated around my head.  über gorgeous gold hung from every wall.  For some reason it reminded me of intestines.  Aesthetically pleasing, yet kinda gross.

All the bling was messing with my guts.  Or maybe it was the milk.   My parents haggled.  The owner of the shop bargained.  They haggled more.

A wave of milk was rising in my stomach.  I fought hard.  I swallowed it down.  I did not want to mess up that man’s velvet walls.  And then my parents made the mistake of asking my opinion.

I ran.  It was just too much.  The milk and the orange juice concentrate.  The heat.  The smells of sewer mixed with donuts.  The haggling.

The siddiqui.

And there it was.  I ran to save the gold.  I ran to save the walls.  I ran to save my parents.  I aimed for the gutter.  Unfortunately I missed and nailed the sidewalk in front of the beautiful gold souk with what resembled cottage cheese.

Too.  Much.  Milk.

My parents laughed.  I sniffed.  They laughed some more.  The poor store owner came out and mopped up my whole evening of illegal boozing.  I crawled into the air-conditioned mecca of our car and covered my face.

All I heard from the front seat was laughter, the entire drive home.

I’ve learned some lessons in my bubble…

Number one: don’t drink homemade moonshine.  Not ever.

Number two: don’t drink concentrated orange juice.  Not ever.

And number three: never follow up a night of 180 proof teenage angst with milk.  It curdles.

I wonder if my boyfriend was confused when he got my hair.  Well, at least that was one thing I hadn’t puked on.