Yet Another Case Of Teenage Rebellion This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
   It was just after supper one Tuesday night when the attack came. I had been getting ready to shut myself in the privacy of my room to begin my homework when I heard my mother slowly climbing the stairs. She followed me through the doorway and shut the door firmly behind her. She was wearing one of her, "Don't mess with me because I mean business" looks, so I turned immediately to face her and braced myself for the worst. I expected her to grill me about missing curfew the week before, but what she said was much worse.

"I don't like this new circle of friends you have," she said, and her tone showed me that she had put thought into this situation.

"What? What do you mean?" I asked. My mother then launched into some long explanation of her concerns, the details of which have all blended together. I shut my ears to her voice. Looking down, I saw that my hands were beginning to shake, something that always happens when I'm nervous. I concentrated on taking deep, steady breaths until I could hold myself upright without trembling. I let her go on for several minutes, hoping this would all just disappear. I'd heard it all before: I had new friends who dressed differently and spoke their minds. They were influencing me. I was changing. I was not her little girl anymore.

"And furthermore," she continued, "I don't want you to think that you'll be hanging out at the coffeehouse downtown. I've seen those kids and experienced their rudeness one time too many times."

Having just calmed down, my mind began to race again. What had brought this on in the first place? I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and did my best to look her in the eye.

"Mom, they're not like that. The kids who hang out at the coffeehouse are my friends, and they're not rude when you're part of the crowd," I said in a steady voice.

"Well," she sighed, "don't plan on becoming part of that crowd."

She settled back against my door frame, seemingly satisfied with herself. The anger began to boil up inside of me. Who was she to tell me who to be friends with? She'd never met the kids she was putting down. I, on the other hand, had spent a lot of time with them. I'd found them all to be good people - caring, funny, creative, intelligent. But I couldn't tell her, because she wasn't really listening. Nevertheless, I realized I had to say something.

I took a breath, "I already am a part of it." There, it was out. I'd said it. I'd laid it all on the line, and now I had to wait for her response. Could she ever accept the fact that over the summer I'd developed friendships with a different crowd? Could she approve of the new me?

Until my sophomore year in high school I had been straight-laced. I'd dressed nicely, taking pains not to upset anyone - least of all my parents - and made every effort to be accepted. Then, that November, I'd met the boy who was to be my first real relationship. We were an odd couple, me the cheerleader and he the new kid from New York. When he first arrived at our school the year before, his purple hair and combat boots took people by surprise. Though our relationship eventually ended, this boy helped me learn a lot about myself. I was not happy with my predictable life. I'd always had a sense of style that I was a little scared to display. And most important, I realized that I had a voice. I had opinions, and suddenly, I wanted to speak them. I wanted to scream them!

I began to undergo a change - not a drastic one, but a slight change. Bit by bit, I became more aware. I realized that certain things around me were wrong. Favoritism in the classroom. Ignorance. Prejudice. The way I felt I needed to live up to the standards of society. Before I opened my eyes, I could find something positive about mass suicide, if I had to. But I began to act on issues instead of glorifying them. I took issue with people when I felt they were in the wrong. I tried to get my classmates to open their minds and give "different" kids a chance. I still took great care never to be rude, and I never tried to force my opinion on anyone. I simply made my thoughts and feelings known.

Then, the summer before my junior year, I came to discover the whole "teenage rebellion" clich" was a real occurrence. I'd always had a wonderful relationship with my mother, but suddenly I had a hard time putting up with her criticism. I began to feel that she couldn't possibly understand me, that she'd never been my age. I had always scoffed at these ideas before, and it scared me to know I was actually feeling them. I was also getting my first taste of a little freedom, since my friends now could drive and I was allowed to stay out later than ever before. A certain group of us would go out every weekend. These kids helped me more than they will ever know. They made me realize that I wasn't alone in feeling these things. They helped me get over the loss of my first relationship and the feelings that came with it.

Toward the middle of summer, I came across a hole-in-the-wall coffeehouse in a nearby city. With it came handfuls of new and interesting people. Many had orange or streaked hair, and most of them carried skateboards everywhere. Each was different, and everyone was friendly and accepting. This quickly became a favorite hangout of my group.

Through it all, I never abandoned my old friends. I only added. I never became disrespectful or rude at home, and I even got more involved in my music, which my parents would always blame on my friends. Once when I complained about being tired, my father said, "You wouldn't have that problem if you didn't hang out with kids who smoke." I had to laugh. It sounded ridiculous.

The truth is I'm a better person today because of these kids. They've taught me to be myself, no matter how strange I may be. Because of them, I've had the strength to resist peer pressure and to start new, promising relationships.

Someone said to me, referring to my variety of friends, "There's no middle ground." I find this statement hard to swallow. I believe that if you don't judge people, you can be friends with kids from every group. Just because I'm close to some "preps" doesn't mean that I can't hang around with "different" kids, too. I like variety. It helps me keep my life in perspective. After all, in the real world you will run into every type of person.

So, as I braced myself for my mother's reply, I grew more confident that it didn't matter what she said. Sure, I wanted her approval, but realistically, you can't always please your parents. You can only please and satisfy yourself. I knew in my heart that my friends were good people, and that was all that mattered.

Before my mother could issue her response, I looked her in the eye and told her something I will always use to guide myself through life. "Mom," I said, "Don't you know that diversity is a sign of intelligence?" c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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