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.



Similar Articles

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This article has 86 comments.


on Apr. 9 2011 at 8:04 am
Tbug1997 PLATINUM, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
29 articles 1 photo 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
When in doubt... Blame it on your siblings
when life gives you skittles throw them at random people and yell FEEL THE RAINBOW

this sounds like something me and my friends would do

TheGoodTwin said...
on Mar. 18 2011 at 9:12 pm
TheGoodTwin, Fort Mill, South Carolina
0 articles 0 photos 70 comments

Favorite Quote:
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

--Shakespeare

wow. Truthfully? Sounds like something i would do with my own friends. LOL. 

on Feb. 24 2011 at 7:35 pm
NeD97163 BRONZE, York, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you will never see the shadow.”
-Helen Keller

Woww!! great piece of writing, very well written :)

on Feb. 24 2011 at 3:20 pm
splinteredsunlight GOLD, Williamsburg, Virginia
15 articles 0 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some meaning in that suffering." -Friedrich Nietzsche

This is really well-written, and I admire the thought behind it. I wish I had as strong convictions as you. I lost my virginity at 13, not because of peer pressure but because I was dating my first boyfriend and I thought I should. I don't really regret it, because I think it was the right guy, but it was too soon. Good for you to only move at your comfort level.

marei2331 said...
on Feb. 24 2011 at 9:37 am
marei2331, Lubbock, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 73 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.

i really enjoyed this piece! Keep it up!!! And please post more! :D

on Feb. 2 2011 at 12:19 pm
shelterisland GOLD, Montclair, New Jersey
14 articles 0 photos 175 comments

Favorite Quote:
-Biting's excellent. It's like kissing only there's a winner."-Doctor Who, The Tardis

I'm glad to know I'm not the only 14 year old who might be nervous about making out with a guy... awesome piece!

on Feb. 2 2011 at 12:16 pm
shelterisland GOLD, Montclair, New Jersey
14 articles 0 photos 175 comments

Favorite Quote:
-Biting's excellent. It's like kissing only there's a winner."-Doctor Who, The Tardis

Because then everyone would be nervous to rub our ears together! :)

AmeeBay said...
on Jan. 11 2011 at 5:16 pm
I liked this but maybe more dialouge...

on Dec. 20 2010 at 2:20 pm
Suziepatricia BRONZE, Wickliffe, Ohio
4 articles 0 photos 11 comments
well-written, and original(: I liked it.

gaby23 SILVER said...
on Nov. 6 2010 at 11:36 pm
gaby23 SILVER, Larkspur, California
7 articles 0 photos 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."
~Christopher Columbus

this piece was really well written!

It had a perfect balance of so many great aspects of writing

great job!


on Oct. 28 2010 at 11:56 am
Nice job! I love this piece, it's very well written. Keep up the good work- you have talent!

on Sep. 23 2010 at 11:30 am
Chitra.I PLATINUM, Dubai, Other
44 articles 2 photos 131 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything makes sense if you think too much about it.

I know how this feels...I'm pretty old-fashioned too, and am often teased for it. But that's okay, because we know where we're going. This was a very good way of putting it all in, in so many words. Good job!

no.thanks said...
on Sep. 1 2010 at 5:47 pm
It's not a poem...

on Jul. 19 2010 at 12:36 pm
writerinfinity PLATINUM, Arlington, Texas
35 articles 0 photos 105 comments

I think this is very good, peer pressure is a hard thing. Keep writing!

If you read this can you please read some of my stories. Thanks :)


paperflowers said...
on Jul. 2 2010 at 7:32 pm
paperflowers, Imaginary, Indiana
0 articles 0 photos 176 comments
haha, I like this! Personally I would be happy if I never did that, not even when I'm 34 :) I don't really see the point in kissing... why do we do kisses, instead of... rubbing our ears together, or something? lol

on Jun. 27 2010 at 1:53 am
xAllegria BRONZE, Singapore, Other
1 article 2 photos 112 comments

Favorite Quote:
Ça fait tellement du bien d’aimer les gens qu’on aime, que ça finit par faire mal. Je sais pas comment on survit a ça. Non franchement, je sais pas. LOL (laughing out loud) ®, Lola.

I really like the way you described the feeling of being a teenager, discovering new things and pushing boundaries. Nice work.

on Jun. 5 2010 at 8:41 pm
TheMalfunctioningWallflower BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 45 comments

Favorite Quote:
"GET THE CAT!!!"

"I did wood paneling."

"Do not FEAR the Crooked Zipper!! EMBRACE the Crooked Zipper!!!"

"What's better than infinity?"

"Wear your helmets, we'll be reaching speeds of three!"

"You could walk on your hands and catch up to him!"

I think it was a good story that told you about what really goes on in other people's head. sometimes people just want to know what the others are thinking or doing to stop them or decide it was right

cecerox08 said...
on Jun. 5 2010 at 4:36 pm
It's not a poem, it's nonfiction.

sulamansk481 said...
on May. 14 2010 at 4:35 pm
sulamansk481, New York, New York
0 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
give me liberty or give me death

 

I think that this was a wonderful story, with all of the passion and she was happy at the end of the story. All of the excitement she got thinking that here friends did not do the sae thing of making out with a boy at the end of the summer. Also that if I was there I would've done the same thing if I was a girl


. said...
on May. 14 2010 at 1:59 pm
I second that!




MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!