I think that I have lived my life out of order (out of the usual order, anyway), feeling like an old lady when I was a teenager, and finally deciding to be a teenager now, when I can really enjoy it. Being an old lady was great in a lot of ways. It made me able to claim my own authority, to speak with integrity, to avoid things I didn’t enjoy, and to know my own deep wisdom. And now it has made me able to embrace my new life, the life of newness and developing new abilities and being unsure of myself, the life of being excited about silly things and giggling a lot. So many teenagers are desperate to prove how grown up they are, and they don’t get to fully appreciate how great it is not to be so grown up yet. It takes the wisdom, experience, and bold authority of age to do that.
If you know me, you probably know me as my new self, my young self. Please don’t be alarmed if I get even younger as I walk the circuitous backward-to-go-forward path of the Labyrinth that is my Life. I might be several different ages in the course of any given day. Rabbit says that I am the age of whoever is with me - this explains why I have always had so many friends under 6 and over 60. I think, though, that it can work the other way, too - I can give the person who is with me permission to be the age that I’m being, whatever age it might be at that moment. I can show a 13 year old girl how to act with maturity and conviction; I can show an adult how to be overcome with transports of Delight over a Dandelion.
Speaking of Delight, I spent a delightful evening yesterday, in the company of a large group of teenage girls. I went so see the Exceptionally Ordinary Variety Tour, http://exceptionallyordinarytour.tumblr.com , featuring performers who usually connect with their audience through YouTube. All these talented people who do not think of themselves as famous but who have large numbers of admirers scattered all over the world decided to travel some of the world and meet some of those admirers in person, and a large percentage of those admirers are teenage girls.
I discovered the amazing world of people creating their own content on YouTube only a few months ago, and it has fed my teenage girlness like nothing else! These musicians, comedians, video bloggers, and generally interesting people form the nucleus of an online community that lets all the isolated weird kids find each other and know that they are not really alone. I would have loved that soooooo much when I was chronologically in my teens and in high school and surrounded by people who were not kind and who did not care for the things I loved.
I remember being in places where hordes of squealing teenage girls (my own age then, but they seemed a separate species from myself and my close friends) were gathered, and finding them extremely annoying and a bit frightening. They seemed to have no idea who they were or what they wanted, but they chose to show off how supposedly excited they all were about whatever ridiculous thing du jour that someone wanted to sell them.
I also remember seeing films of teenage girls screaming and completely losing their minds over the Beatles, and I could sort of understand that - they needed to stop playing their roles for a moment and just be made entirely of all the emotions that usually go unexpressed. A few months ago, I heard Keith Richards on the radio, talking about his autobiography, and he said that the scariest thing in the world was being chased by 13 year old girls. You have no idea what they will do if they catch you, they have no idea what they will do if they catch you. They have no idea what they want or what they are supposed to want, and yet the force of their wanting is so powerful, it could tear you apart. Then I realized that Maenads still exist, but their power is channeled in directions that do not bring them freedom or ecstasy, only pain and confusion. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I was undecided until the last minute yesterday whether to go and be excited about meeting people from YouTube or whether to attend the One Billion Rising event in Berkeley
http://bayarearising.org , a ritual to end violence against women and girls, where the speakers and performers and ritualists included Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues, champion of demanding respect for girls and their experiences, whose new play, Emotional Creature http://www.berkeleyrep.org/season/1112/5846.asp , is being premiered in Berkeley this month. I almost felt guilty about doing something fun instead of doing something serious, but then I found myself waiting in the hall outside the theater with dozens of my fellow emotional creatures, and I knew that this was the right place for me to be honouring the experience of girls.
I can’t call this group of teenage girls a horde or a mob. There were a lot of them, and they were very excited, but they were also polite and intelligent and considerate. They were not a separate species from me, they were my own kind, they were unabashed geeks happy to share and celebrate their personal obsessions with those who could understand. One of them told me out of the blue that I was the coolest adult she knew (although we had just met at that moment), because I was there for myself and not as anyone’s chaperone. No one was worried about trying to be cool, though; they all just gave themselves permission to be happy to be there. They talked and danced with joy and sang show tunes and showed off their home made jewelry and hand-painted t-shirts and the gifts they had made for their favourite performers.
And then we all watched the show, and applauded enthusiastically for each performer, with no out-of-control screaming, even when Tom Milsom came on!
http://tommilsom.com , http://www.youtube.com/user/hexachordal , http://www.youtube.com/user/tommilsom
Actually, the crowd grew a bit more quiet as he tuned his electric ukulele, and then we sang along with him, songs about love and colours and the death of his childhood cat, songs we were used to singing along with by ourselves in front of the computer. The parents in the audience were noticeably impressed by how very nice was the very nice young man adored by their daughters, and by the fact that he is obviously genius personified.
And then the show was over and this non-mob, non-horde of very intelligent and creative and friendly and respectful and orderly teenage girls waited in line to meet Tom Milsom and get autographs and pictures and hugs. Some of them were shaking, but they kept their composure and were brave and let themselves, and everyone else, really enjoy that beautiful moment. And then it was my turn, and I got to hug Tom Milsom, and he was very nice! It’s good to be a teenage girl!
So now, I give you Permission to be Young!
If you are an adult, think about how much fun it can be to get excited about things, to make the things you love the center of your life, to share that excitement with your friends, including those you just met a moment ago! If you are a teenager, realize that there is grace and power and dignity in being exactly the age you are, and that you don’t need to race to become what you think an adult is supposed to be. If you are a child, appreciate how wonderful it is to be always learning something new, noticing the way things really are, not thinking you already know everything. Of course, you can also be or become an adult who is always learning something new, noticing the way things really are, not thinking you already know everything. Let’s all do that!
Let’s fill the world with the Power of our Excitement even as we behave with dignity and respect. Let’s fill the world with the Power of our Creativity, making simple but wonderful things as gifts for the people we love. Lets fill the world with the Power of our Unabashed Joy, shared guilelessly with everyone who wants to share. Let’s fill the world with the Colours of our Love! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPd8mHXap_U
Wishbringer Molly Blue Dawn, High Priestess of Serendipity