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.


on Feb. 15 2010 at 5:09 pm
PaRaNoRmAl627 GOLD, Mountainside, New Jersey
15 articles 0 photos 297 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Do what you want. If it's something you'll regret in the morning, sleep late."

I was 14 when I had my first kiss, and since then the pressure has escalated immensely. I'm proud to say that I still haven't done much more than kissing, and honestly do not see the draw to doing anything before you're ready. Girl power! :p

on Feb. 15 2010 at 12:30 pm
musiclover114 SILVER, Woodstock, Georgia
7 articles 0 photos 82 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

born an original, why die a copy?

wow it takes alot of confidence to admit what u were feeling and then submit it.great work!!!!!!!:)

on Feb. 15 2010 at 9:34 am
.:Echo:. BRONZE, Austell, Georgia
3 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Im smiling, that alone should scare you."
"I'm not evil..I'm good with a twist."
"Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the crayons."
"Good friends don't let you do stupid things..alone."
"I dream of a better world where chickens can cross roads without having their motives questioned."
"It's all fun and games till someone gets hurt.. Then it's hilarious."
"Team Jacob. I like my guys with a pulse thank you."
"I never got my letter from Hogwarts so I'm packing up and moving to Forks to live with the Cullen's."
"No camera could catch the look in her eyes and the feeling in her heart when she looks at him."
"I love how you make me laugh when I don't even want to smile."
"If I had to chose between you and breathing, I would chose you and then I would use my last breath to tell you "I love you."
"And he asked “Is everything okay?” and she blinked away the tears and said, “Yeah, I’m totally happy for you.”
"In Kindergarten we learned about cooties, in middle school we learned about relationships, and in high school we learned the definition of heartbreak."
"Sometimes when I say “oh I’m fine” I just want you to look me in the eyes and say “tell the truth.”
“He looked at me and said “do you ever feel like you’re working for something you’re never going to get? A shoot + miss kind of deal. Like no matter what, you just can’t have it, but that makes you fight for it just a little bit more?” I looked at him, stared at him for just a second and said “everyday.”
"Never say I love you if you don’t really care. Never talk about feelings if they aren’t really there. Never touch a life if you mean to break a heart. Never say you’re going to if you’re not planning to start. Never look me in the eye when all you do is lie. Never say hello is all you mean is good-bye."
"We don’t talk anymore and I don’t understand why. It’s like you gave me wings and told me it was illegal to fly."
"My friends and I are the kind when a house burns down; we’re roasting marshmallows and crushing on the firemen."

I love this! I like how you included your own voice and mind in the story, and how you were feeling about the whole thing. This really demenstrates peer pressure, and it's a good story to share also. Great work, and keep writing! :)

on Jan. 24 2010 at 11:24 pm
HA saadd!!

SillyMonkey said...
on Jan. 24 2010 at 1:18 am
Very well written I think you really captured the presence of peer pressure and wanting to fit in. I enjoyed reading it

on Jan. 2 2010 at 12:23 pm
onehandoneheart, San Marino, California
0 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
"In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language." - Mark Twain

Great story everybody should be reading this! Well written, with a good message.

on Nov. 8 2009 at 4:16 pm
CaseyLeigh PLATINUM, Moraga, California
31 articles 6 photos 137 comments

Favorite Quote:
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to.

I love this piece, and the truth in it.

on Oct. 19 2009 at 6:15 pm
Phantom_Girl GOLD, Ft. Carson, Colorado
14 articles 0 photos 279 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If it comes out of the lion's mouth...it will be on the test."
-Mr. Bala

Incredible. This is something all teenage girls should read. You don't need to get with boys. I am proud to say that I am 15-years-old and have never even been on a date.

SloopyMcCoy said...
on Dec. 16 2008 at 1:01 am
It is amazing. It makes me realize stuff. I love it.

on Nov. 14 2008 at 12:33 am
Wow! that was an amazing story!! I really liked it, very well written!

awsomeaugust said...
on Nov. 11 2008 at 9:29 pm
Brilliant! We've almost all been under some kind of peer pressure at one point in our lives whether we realized it or not. This is wonderfully written, and shows an every day happening very well

Texasgurl said...
on Nov. 11 2008 at 1:22 am
i think it was a good story. the beggining is what really caught me.

Ashwee09 said...
on Nov. 9 2008 at 2:29 am
I really enjoyed reading this story, and I honestly am glad it was written. Not only does it help ease off the stress of the whole boy girl thing for young readers, but it's a great way to help teach younger girls or boys a good lesson in self-respect. Too often in this world Hollywood and other sources can cause the youth of today to get the ideas or images, of what is...expected, or what they're...supposed to do. I just feel like this can help reinforce some morals that have been lost. Great job on the story. Thanks so much for writing it!!!!

SwimChik said...
on Nov. 7 2008 at 6:17 pm
Your story was really good and helpful after reading this I know that i will never let my friends pressure me into doing something stupid

on Nov. 5 2008 at 9:43 pm
Nice job! Very well written!

ash said...
on Oct. 22 2008 at 8:24 pm
“The Pact” is a very good story about the simplest little thing. I loved how Janet turned making out into doing only what you want to do. You should never feel like you “have” to do anything, and she did a wonderful job of explaining this. The tiniest events in life can turn into the biggest if you’re not careful. Believe in yourself and do only what you think is necessary in life.

.Miranda. said...
on Oct. 22 2008 at 4:54 pm
After reading the article “The Pact”, I was amazed. The main character was under a lot of peer pressure and ended up making her own decisions and believing her own ideas. She didn’t make such wise choices in the beginning, but she may not have changed if she didn’t learn from her mistakes. Everyone in her circle was young, and didn’t know what they were doing. We all make mistakes in life that we need to learn from.

ellyxx said...
on Oct. 22 2008 at 4:34 pm
This story was really good. The things that she stated, for some reason, sound so familiar. Ha. Not only did my friends and I all try something like this, the same exact thing happened. Nobody followed through with it. Even though we were a bit younger than 14 at the time, to this day we look back and laugh for thinking it was some big deal. I really liked the Benjamin Franklin part at the end. This story just goes to show you how you should always think for yourself.

Jchang504 said...
on Oct. 16 2008 at 11:01 pm
Great inner thought and a nice length too.

on Oct. 13 2008 at 10:21 pm
Wonderfully descriptive and thoughtful.


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