The Pact MAG

May 1, 2008
By Helen Cooney, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

We sat around a wobbly, cast-iron table outside Starbucks around 9:30 one night the summer that I was 14. Emma, Karen, Cathy, and I had just been to a movie we had since decided was a waste of $4.50 and two hours of our lives.

Cathy was sipping her blackberry green tea frappuccino and flipping her Razr open and closed, hoping she had missed an incoming text from Jared, her current object of affection. She sighed and put the phone back in her huge bag. “Bathroom,” she said, sliding her chair out and proceeding ­inside.

Emma stirred her light vanilla bean something-or-­other she’d ordered because it didn’t taste like coffee. She twirled her straw around the small hole in the supposedly spill-proof top, wondering how long it would be until her parents picked us up. A faint humming started in her purse. After a few “Mmhmms” and a couple “Yeah, okays,” she hung up and announced, “They’ll be here in like 15 minutes.”

Karen hadn’t ordered anything. She people-watched. Seemingly consumed by an older man slowly, awkwardly mounting his bicycle, her expression held both confusion and pity. The man took a few long looks at us before pedaling off.

“Are the guys meeting us tonight?” Karen asked ­Emma. We were 14 – boys were rarely far from our minds. My ears perked up.

“I don’t think so,” Emma answered, and that was that.

Then, there was me, a bit disappointed since I had straightened my hair for an hour and was not even ­going to see anyone, witnessing these oh-so-ordinary events take place. I was drained from watching a boring movie in an uncomfortable seat. And I had bought a bottle of water instead of coffee.

I don’t remember who started the conversation, but somehow we stumbled upon the topic of “experience,” which morphed into how we all wanted to meet guys this summer and, to be blunt, make out with them.

I was spending practically the entire month of July with Cathy at her summer house on Cape Cod. There, I was hoping I would find a cute, mature, mild-mannered boy to hold my attention. Cathy promised I’d have my pick of at least three.

Karen and Emma were also leaving for a good chunk of the summer. At their destinations, like Cathy and I, they hoped to be confident, forward, and a bit lucky. That is, if they could duck their parents for a bit, since this was before any of us had licenses.

After we discussed our upcoming opportunities to gain “experience,” we came up with a wonderful idea: The Pact. The Pact was a promise to ourselves and each ­other. We each vowed to make out with a guy while away over the summer. We were 14 – this was big.

Looking back, I can’t think of a more stupid idea. Basically, we were agreeing to throw ourselves at any boy who came along, which I now know would have led ­only to ­humiliation.

The entire time we discussed The Pact, I ­remember silently panicking: Well, of course I have to do it, I can’t be the only one who says “No, thanks.” If they can do it, so can I, right? Right?!

Besides fearing embarrassing myself in front of a boy, not to mention my friends, I was freaking out about ­pressuring myself to do something I probably wasn’t ready for. We were all experiencing a bit more freedom that summer. Unfortunately, the thought of going new places with minimal parental supervision became a little too romanticized in our minds. The new teenage logic was “If we’re old enough to do this, we’re old enough to do that,” and so on. It was almost as if we were daring each other, feeding off the audacity of one idea, which led to ­another and another until we wound up with this contest.

Who did we think we were kidding? Those newly discovered teenage hormones had taken a firm hold of our hair and dragged us along way too fast, yet none of us had the confidence to dig in our heels and refuse. Instead, we complied, and though we were silently kicking and screaming, waging internal wars with ourselves, we didn’t show it.

Soon, we separated for the summer. I looked for guys. I struck up conversations with a few. But I’m very old-fashioned, and I was just too ­uncomfortable to be as forward as I had promised my friends. That promise, I rationalized, didn’t really count because I had been under the intoxicating influence of adrenaline and ­expectation.

Then, during tennis lessons that Cathy’s mother had generously signed us up for, I met a boy. Cathy already knew him and was “working on” one of his friends. It was as if our paths had been laid out for us. I was slightly scared but excited too. I thought, This might actually happen!

Cathy announced one afternoon that there was going to be a bonfire that evening, which she made sound like the event of the year. I eagerly agreed to go. And the guys we were interested in would be there too.

After the excitement of arriving ­dissipated, my mark decided he wanted to take a walk with me. Alone. And everyone knows what that means.

What’s wrong with me? My mind screamed as we walked slowly down the beach. It was the perfect situation. He was well-mannered, intelligent, a bit older, and very cute, and I felt like ripping my hair out I was so annoyed with myself. There must have been a thousand awkward pauses, but all of it added up to a lot of nothing.

On our return route to the fire, I stole a glance at him. I realized that if I was a different person, this night would have been a walk in the park, and this guy next to me would now have a smug look plastered on his face instead of the nervous what-did-I-do-wrong look that he kept shooting at me.

However, the sad part was that this realization only made me want to go sit in a corner and cry. I couldn’t be a bigger dork, I thought.

I returned to Florida the exact same person I was when I left two weeks earlier. This thought alone was enough to make my stomach drop. I hadn’t completed The Pact. What would my friends think? Trying not to think about it only made me think about it more, which made me increasingly nauseous. When Emma called about getting together for a movie since we were all back, I wanted to pretend I ­already had plans. But I didn’t, because everyone was going, and I still wanted to be part of “everyone.”

At around 9:30 that night, we were sitting at the same Starbucks, with the same drinks, at the same table. I knew what was coming – the discussion of The Pact.

Who went through with it? My heart thudded. Maybe no one. Maybe they all had chickened out too. I desperately hoped so – I didn’t want to be the only loser. What if everyone had done it except me?

As it turned out, none of us had mustered the courage to attempt anything close to what we had so confidently promised. I was relieved that I wasn’t the only lame one in our circle. And I was thankful that I hadn’t actually pushed myself to do it. I knew if I had, I would have regretted it. We all were smiling, but there was something uncomfortable hanging in the air – we knew how stupid we had been devising The Pact in the first place. We weren’t ready; it was as simple as that.

I began to realize what peer pressure really is. Who knows where The Pact could have led. What if we had all returned with success stories? What crazy idea would we have come up with next? Would anyone have had the gumption to say “Stop”? A month ago, I would have agreed to anything my friends proposed without hesitation. But after The Pact, I realized that they had no more of a clue what they were doing than I did.

After that, I started making decisions for myself, based on what I ­believed was right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate. What if I had come back from Cape Cod and been the ­only one who had “succeeded”? I would have felt embarrassed, ashamed, betrayed by my friends, and disgusted with myself.

Ben Franklin would have a field day with this story. “Trust thyself and ­another shall not betray thee,” he said. I wish I had known that before I spent one of the most stressful months of my life ignoring my instincts and letting others lead me astray.



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This article has 86 comments.


Anna_Ingalls said...
on Sep. 21 2017 at 1:41 pm
Anna_Ingalls, West Plains, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
This was an amazing article, your experience will surely help others in the future to stand up or themselves and say "no" to peer pressure. Thank you for sharing!

Arti.M BRONZE said...
on Feb. 24 2017 at 2:05 am
Arti.M BRONZE, Tirana, Other
4 articles 0 photos 46 comments
Great writing piece. Keep up with the good work.

on Jan. 7 2014 at 12:50 pm
Sandy193 BRONZE, Noida, Other
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments
Engrossing piece! Great job of pouring your thoughts out on paper! Keep writing :)

on Jun. 14 2012 at 8:32 am
expressionconfession GOLD, Cooper City, Florida
16 articles 0 photos 7 comments
great piece! even though i've written some non-fiction i don't usually read it because pieces tend to be very long but yours kept me engaged :) 

on Apr. 17 2012 at 5:44 am
IAmWhoIWantToBe PLATINUM, Manila, Other
41 articles 0 photos 650 comments

Favorite Quote:
‎"I’m learning how to drown out the constant noise that is such an inseparable part of my life. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I only have to follow my heart and concentrate on what I want to say to the world: I run my world." - Beyoncé

A nice article about peer pressure. Kudos on getting to the Mag. I really like this article and I relate to you! :)

KatsK DIAMOND said...
on Mar. 25 2012 at 5:39 pm
KatsK DIAMOND, Saint Paul, Minnesota
57 articles 0 photos 303 comments

Favorite Quote:
Being inexhaustible, life and nature are a constant stimulus for a creative mind.
~Hans Hofmann
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
~Ray Bradbury

Good job for not succumbing to peer pressure . . . I am almost that age as well, and curious about what the next chapter of my life might bring. This was really good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

on Dec. 29 2011 at 7:52 am
HippieJuggler BRONZE, Naples, Maine
3 articles 73 photos 1 comment
This was beautiful. I love how you are so honest about the adrenaline and hormones in your body. I'm 14 almost 15 right now and being honest about those crazy hormones has helped a lot with dealing with peer pressure and wanting a guy. It's normal (I hate saying "normal" but it really is! everyone deals with it- it's supposed to be that way). I'm glad you didn't make out with the guy. It would have left you with regret. Now, you have a love story of your kiss that you're proud to tell.

on Dec. 8 2011 at 10:21 am
MarissaWhitecloud SILVER, Oskaloosa, Iowa
7 articles 0 photos 84 comments
This was really good! I loved how you wrote it. Very interesting.

on Dec. 7 2011 at 9:53 pm
otherpoet SILVER, Wayland, Massachusetts
6 articles 9 photos 254 comments

Favorite Quote:
"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone." - Audrey Hepburn

I thought this was great! I'm close to the age you were while experiencing this, and I realize how interesting it will be to look back years from now on my actions today. This was a very mature piece!

on Nov. 15 2011 at 8:34 pm
kaylarocks SILVER, AURORA, Colorado
9 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The more you take responsibility for your past and present, the more you are able to create the future you seek." - Author Unknown

Very good point! I love your writing stucture, and maybe it is good to live life as a child!

td720 said...
on Nov. 15 2011 at 4:09 pm
td720, Oviedo, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
great job!

on Nov. 15 2011 at 2:35 pm
rainbowgirl BRONZE, Ijamsville, Maryland
2 articles 3 photos 50 comments

Favorite Quote:
My work has been modified to fit your brains. :)

loved the story, <3 very valuble life lesson, thanks! :)

on Aug. 19 2011 at 12:51 pm
Lola_Black GOLD, Harrison, Michigan
11 articles 2 photos 276 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I've always been famous. It's just everybody's just now finding out." --Lady Gaga

♥Nice! And you've got to admit that The Pact did have one major benefit; an important lesson in peer pressure. Well writen, and I just love that it's non-fiction! ♥

on Aug. 19 2011 at 9:57 am
parker_01 BRONZE, Fort Worth, Texas
2 articles 1 photo 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Oh. You were serious."
-Vampire Academy-
"Every little girl should be told she's pretty; even if she isn't."
-Marilyn Monroe-

Like sunset_on_tomorrow said.. This is a nonfiction piece and she can't change the story. Changing it would make it fictional.

on Jul. 28 2011 at 6:33 pm
andromeda13 SILVER, Barrie, Other
8 articles 0 photos 174 comments
loved the story :D it was great

on Jul. 6 2011 at 8:10 pm
sammyjanee GOLD, Plantsville, Connecticut
12 articles 1 photo 15 comments
The ending of this actually surprised me, probably because it was a work of nonfiction... your writing made it very enjoyable to read, and it's inspiring that you found such a lesson out of this experience.  Thanks for sharing it :)

on Jul. 6 2011 at 4:47 pm
Sunset_on_tomorrow SILVER, Atlanta, Georgia
9 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the WORD of our LORD stands forever."
Isaiah 40:8

I love this too, but this piece is nonfiction! You can't change a nonfiction piece! I'm glad you realized your mistakes before anything bad happened!

jader547 said...
on Jul. 6 2011 at 9:47 am
I think this was a very good piece except, it is to jumpy arond and goes through a lotta time in a short sentence, also, it is too goody, maybe you should put some excitement, like, maybe one of them found a guy, just out some excitement into it, overall, very good! :)

on May. 23 2011 at 12:40 pm
Bence Szechenyi BRONZE, Cambrige, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Interesting!! I love hearing about friends and thier falures during the summer. I have a LOT of those!! :)

 


Merway5 said...
on Apr. 9 2011 at 6:06 pm
Merway5, Hammondsport, New York
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Great piece!  I think alot of girls might go through a similar situation and its good that you learned from the experience and warn others of the danger.  Awesome job, keep it up!




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