I’ve been living my adult life in the absolute conviction that I was the greatest child and the least troublesome teenager ever, who never gave any reason to her parents to worry, freak out, or be unsatisfied. I excelled in school; I was good at sports; I had drama-free friends (sort of); I didn’t drink alcohol and never used any drugs. What else could a parent dream about, right?
If I could choose, I’d still prefer to be a college student for the rest of my life, but being a grown-up has its advantages, I can’t deny that. I’m wiser and understand things better. (Or so I believe.) I see things from a different perspective and finally have a normal relationship with my mother. We can actually talk for an entire hour without getting into an argument.
Taking advantage of that, a few days after my thirtieth birthday, I took my mom out to dinner. I planned to have one of those groundbreaking mother-and-daughter talks where we bond over a glass of wine while she’s telling me hilarious stories about my childhood and adolescent years. I started our conversation with a bold “I was a really awesome teenager, right, Mom?” question, which was more of a statement. This created an expression on her face that people would have in a packed metro car if a passenger took off all her clothes and started belly dancing. Confusion, a mixture of shock and surprise, and a sense of insult. “I wasn’t?” I asked in such a high-pitched voice I didn’t even know I was capable of. And then she started to talk.
She said it was “extremely” difficult to deal with me. (How dare she?) I got upset and gave her a dirty look. “Why?” I asked again in the voice of a Japanese cartoon character. So, here is a collection of anecdotes she recalled about my “easy” teenage years.
I love dancing. And I loved it already when I was fourteen years old. (That’s practically a child. With boobs. Barely noticeable boobs, in my case.) I had some older friends I hung out with those days, but they were fine, and Mom knew and trusted them. Kind of.
One night, I decided to go out dancing with my “mature” friends to a club out of town. I was going to stay out all night, of course, because that’s what disco is about, right? Dancing all night. According to my fourteen-year-old self. I started getting ready in the bathroom when my mom appeared in the door and asked me where I was going. So I told her I was going dancing.
She didn’t get mad or anything. She quietly said, “You’re not going anywhere,” and calmly walked back to the living room. I ignored her and continued whatever I needed to do to feel pretty that night. Every now and then, she would pass by while I was doing my hair and repeat in a measured tone: “I told you, you are not going anywhere,” but I pretended not to hear it. When I finally got ready, I – very thoughtfully – reminded her that she shouldn’t wait up for me because, most likely, I would come home only in the morning.
That’s when she lost it. She raised from the couch, walked up to me, and shouted in my face: “Are you out of your fffff… mind?” That’s how she said it. Fffff. “I told you, you are not going anywhere, so you’d better move your ass back to your room and chill out.” We started arguing. It was pretty boring for the first couple of minutes. She would say I couldn’t go, I would ask why, then she would reply that because she said so, and I would say that was stupid and I was going anyway.
After minutes of word battling, I made my way to the hall and announced that I was leaving. She blocked the door with her body and wouldn’t move. We started shouting at each other and when I had enough of it, I looked her straight in the eye and in a calm but firm tone, I articulated, “I am going, Mom,” emphasizing every syllable, and with a gentle but solid push, I got her out of my way and left. Horrible, I know. But back then, I had absolutely no idea what her problem was, knowing that I was a “good girl.” In my understanding, she just forbade me from dancing, and that I found unreasonably stupid.
My next “stunt” that caused my parents a micro heart attack occurred when I was sixteen. It was in tenth grade, and I was still a top student. On a lazy September afternoon, I decided that I didn’t feel like going to classes anymore and I’d rather be home-schooled – only without any parental or tutorial help. I thought I could manage it all by myself without going to classes and only taking exams at the end of the school year. I’m not sure how this works in other parts of the world but where I come from, you can’t just not attend your classes if you are enrolled in a school. You have to be present all the time and can only miss a certain number of lessons if you have a medical certificate to prove that you were ill.
There are two ways, however, you can go around this. Either you have to be an exceptional talent in sport (and I’m talking Olympics level here) or a doctor, a neurologist or psychiatrist, has to give you a piece of paper, which states that school visits are not recommended for you. (Basically saying that you are mentally impaired in some way.) My decision to join the basketball team was solely based on the fact that I was in love with one of the players, so you can guess which option I went for.
My mom went to school with a guy, who – lucky me – became a neurologist. So I convinced my dear mother that she asked the dude to give me the required document. And she did. And then he did. So I filed the paper and stopped going to school.
You need to understand, though, that my intention was never to not finish school or not go to college. I wanted all that. I liked studying and I was good at it. I just felt at the time that I couldn’t be in the school, among all those people. (Whom I’m still friends with.) But no matter how hard I tried to explain to my parents that I still wanted to be an exceptional student, they took it all in the wrong way. Huge drama.
My dad thought that beating me up would be an efficient tool to change my mind, but all he’d achieved was that I got upset and didn’t talk to him for months. Mom was only desperate and confused, so she cried. But the point they both agreed on was that I needed to get a job and pay for my lodging because “now that I stopped going to school, I obviously had all the free time in the world.”
This I found unreasonable and ridiculous because I thought that learning everything on my own was much more difficult than sitting in school and absorbing everything there. (And boy, I was right.)
I couldn’t see how I would have the time to work after all the studying I had to do, but in the end, I did take a part-time job to make them feel better and also enrolled in a Saturday language course to prove them that I was still into studying, and that gave them some peace.
The school year flew by quickly. I passed all my exams with good results, and one day, I woke up with the idea that going to school wasn’t that bad at all and I wanted to go back. So I started the eleventh grade in the same class with my old classmates like nothing had happened. Until this very day, I couldn’t figure out what made me not want to go to school in the first place. But who understands teenagers, right?
Another episode of my adolescence my mom didn’t handle well was dating a guy, who was ten years older than me and had a girlfriend he shared his home (and life) with. Our affair lasted for more than a year, but eventually, I dumped him. He didn’t take it well, which made him do all sorts of stupid things. He followed me everywhere; threatened every single human being I was in any kind of relationship with; stalked my new boyfriend and held him captive in his car for hours; ruined my holiday with my classmates; and made a habit of embarrassing me in front of the entire school.
But that’s a story for another time.
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