My Own Punches This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   When I was younger, about nine or ten, things were cool. Everything was different, then. I played with boys and it was so natural; I was carefree and I didn't worry if I did something un-cool around them. I was just like them; nobody was smarter or dumber than anyone else and we got along. Life was pretty easy.

I used to get to do things. I would play hide and seek, and sit and listen to music. We would listen to anything we could dance to, only I wouldn't exactly call it dancing. We would just wiggle around and jump up and down. We would all go swimming in the neighbor's pool, and we didn't care about how our bodies looked. We were kids. I used to hang out with the guys all the time. We used to wrestle and punch fight. I was the master of punch fighting. The idea of the game was to keep away from someone else's punches, and to punch the other person as much as you could. I could hook a pretty mean punch and this was considered normal.

Then, bam, I was suddenly hit by my own punches. Adolescence struck me hard in the face. When I was invited to go swimming, I didn't; I was worried that I was too fat or that the boys would stare at me. The guys were different, too. They didn't want to punch me anymore; they were afraid they would hurt me.

The person who changed most, though, was my friend Jason. He would actually ask to carry my books, and he would make his voice squeak so I would laugh. It was very funny but I didn't really like it. I wasn't even sure why I didn't like it. I wanted to tell Jason to shut up and give me my books back because I was very capable of holding them myself, but I didn't. I just handed them over and said nothing.

I wondered what was going on. Any other time I would tell Jason off, and he would punch me. I would punch him back, we would smile and everything would be fine. Now I was turning into a baby who was too afraid to give some kid who called himself a male the knockout he deserved.

I really didn't know exactly why I was mad, but Jason just made me furious. I normally would think it was funny when he did something stupid. He made faces behind the teacher's back. He put a slimy slug in Michele's hands, anything to make me laugh. So why was I getting so mad at him? He was supposed to be my friend.

The gross part about this was that I actually thought that Jason was cute now. My mom told me that this was normal and not to worry. I said it was because I was becoming a girl and that was not my idea of fun. My mom just laughed. I didn't want to start acting like a girl; the boys I hung out with hated anyone who acted like a girl. Now I was starting to see, however, that the boys were changing, too.

I realized how much I was acting like a girl when my mom took me shopping. I had always hated going shopping with her. First of all there were always these annoying salespeople who asked if they could help you. Then they had this gagging music that made me want to be sick. I really did hate shopping. I went past the girl's section and saw a beautiful dress. Mind you, though, I would never have before been seen in a dress, not for a million dollars. I loved this dress; it was like one you saw in a storybook. It was pink with white flowers sprinkled all over it; there were puffed sleeves and lace on the collar. My mom saw me looking at it and told me if I liked it to try it on.

When I tried it on, I didn't know what to expect. I had my eyes closed and when I turned around and opened my eyes to face the mirror, I realized I, too, had changed. I saw a totally different person. I think my mom realized it, too. She just looked at me and said, "My, you have grown. It seems like only yesterday when you were off playing with the boys, and now you're here trying on dresses. You know, you are so pretty in that dress! Come on, let's go buy it."

I wanted to tell my mom that it was only last week that I was playing with the boys. The reason I didn't though was I didn't exactly know if I fully understood what my mom was talking about; I didn't want to sound dumb.

I went to school on Monday wearing my new dress. I was really nervous about what Jason would say. He was acting so weird lately I wasn't sure what he would do. When I got there, he came up to me and told me I looked really pretty. He said he never realized I was so pretty because I never wore a dress around him before. I wondered now if guys really did hate people who acted like girls or if they just said that.

At lunch we sat outside together, just Jason and me. We sat in the grass covered field beneath our favorite tree. It was really peaceful and yet I felt nervous. I longed to have my friends there with me so I could be my normal self again and not blow it. I could see my friend, Lisa, not far away. She was, as usual, hitting some poor kid on the head with her pink Barbie lunch box. I wanted to call her over but Jason insisted I didn't. This fact didn't help any; he wanted to be alone with me!

I tried to talk but nothing would come out of my mouth. It was strange; I always talked up a storm before. My nickname was Chatters and now I couldn't even say a word to him. I think Jason noticed this; I think he was feeling the same way. We sat there and ate our lunches without talking. Somehow, it didn't matter that we didn't talk; it was as if we knew what each other was thinking.

"Nicole, can I walk you home today? I want to talk to you."

"Sure. Meet me in front of the school; I'll wait for you."

I wondered what exactly it was he wanted to talk to me about. I thought of all the things that Jason might say. Would he tell me he didn't want to be my friend anymore? I could hardly wait for the end of the day; at the same time, I didn't want the day to close. I was nervous. It was strange being nervous around Jason. We had been best friends.

Finally, the end of the day arrived. I was so nervous I could hardly stand. I saw him by the front of the school doors and he started walking toward me.

"Hi, I wasn't sure if you saw me. Is everything okay? You look kind of pale," he said as he nervously moved his book bag to his other shoulder.

"Oh, that. No, I'm okay - just a little tired." I tried to say this calmly to avoid him knowing how scared I was.

"Well, then let me carry your books. You know, you've been quiet all day. Did I do something wrong?"

I wondered why this time when he asked to carry my books I didn't mind; I didn't know if I should tell him why I didn't talk much today.

"Sure I'm fine. Why do you want to carry my books though?"

"Because I like you. I wanted to talk to you about that."

"Are you kidding? I like you, too. How come you didn't say anything?"

"Oh sure and have my face punched, right!

"Oh yeah, sorry." I felt bad. He thought he would have gotten punched; the truth is, he probably would have."

As we walked on home neither of us said anything. When we finally reached home, Jason leaned over and kissed my cheek.

"Hey, you know you're pretty, don't you?" he said.

As Jason started to leave, I gave him a little punch on the arm. He did the same and we both said at the same time, "I can punch harder."

As Jason walked away, I knew we would never be the same. Somehow though, I didn't seem to mind. I was beginning to explore a whole new and bright world that was all my own. I looked down the street just in time to see the last sight of Jason as he turned the corner with his favorite red sweatshirt on and his neatly combed hair and I smiled to myself. Right then I realized that I was growing up, and it was normal. n


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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SophieSoFar said...
Jul. 6, 2013 at 10:24 am
This is superb! Its so true as we all goes through change without realizing it and i am no exception, just like you , just like million teens out there. This is a very great piece!!  
 
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