Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Where Have All the Children Gone This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   It was acold, bright day, and I was babysitting my one-year-old neighbor, Grace.Since there was absolutely nothing to do, I made the effort to squishGrace into her marshmallowy snowsuit and head to the mall. I can't speakfor all malls, but the one near me is infested with teeny-boppers wholook like they fell out of a rock video or a teen catalog. My unusualshopping technique includes planning what to buy, running directly tothat store and then fleeing the scene, leaving little evidence behind.This particular day, however, Grace decided to flip out in the middle ofthe mall (drawing even more stares from those already assuming she wasmy child) unless I bought her a pretzel. A few shades of red later,Grace and I were sitting on a bench, eating pretzels andpeople-watching. The scene I am about to describe has disturbed me eversince.

I saw a typical cluster of eleven-year-old girls in frontof a store window. One of them started to walk away as the othersentered the store. As she came closer, I noted her outfit. She wassporting a pink tube top which, given her age, more closely resembled agiant Ace bandage than a shirt. Her jeans were flared and just aboutconcealed her high-heeled sneakers. She looked extremely uncomfortableas, I imagine, anyone who wore a tube top that didn't fit would. She hadon more make-up than I own and had the classic, carefully placed piecesof hair over her eyes. I then noticed a boy swaggering down the mall,about the same age as she was, although considerably shorter. They wereobviously meeting each other; the boy called out, "Hey, babe"and put his arms around her, protecting her from the big bad world ofthe mall, I guess.

At this point, Grace had stopped mauling herpretzel, and we were both intrigued. Imagine our surprise when - and Iam not exaggerating - they simultaneously pulled out their green andpurple cell phones and made calls. Checking in with parents, perhaps?Nope. Seconds later, the group of girls I had seen earlier came rushingout of the Gap, one chatting on a phone, and from the other side of themall came a group of boys wearing sports shirts and oversized jeans. Bythis point, Grace and I must have been blatantly staring because the"babe" whispered something in her boyfriend's ear and heturned around and scowled at us. Then, in the deepest voice he couldmuster, he said, "Hey you have a problem with my chick? 'Cause Idon't appreciate you looking at us." After initial silence, I burstout in hysterical laughter.

On the way home I was stillchuckling. A boy the height of my elbow with oversized clothes that didnothing but accentuate his smallness, was protecting his girlfriend fromGrace and my unappreciated observance.

I also thought about whatmy life was like at that age. When I was eleven, the mall wasn't ahangout; no one really had boyfriends - at least not ones that calledthem "babe" - and my outfits were spandex and oversizedsweaters with a matching hair accessory. I still played with Barbies andI certainly didn't wear make-up. My dad didn't even have a cell phone.

I'm not an old woman reflecting on my past - I'm only 17. Elevenwas just six years ago. I can't believe so much has changed. Preteensare so affected by teen stars and magazines; the media is controllingthem, and my age group, too. There is no reason for girls' magazines toconsist solely of a list of the "hottest" guys or instructionson how to be the perfect date. By the age of eleven, young girls'ambitions and individuality are stifled by the media imposing artificialsocial and physical standards.

Teen magazines should ensure thatgirls know they are worth more than being called "babe." Theyare individuals who possess many talents that should be cultivated,instead of focusing on appearance.

Unfortunately, society hasdetermined the mold many girls feel pressured to adapt to, and it takesa lot of courage to break out.

As I pulled into the driveway, Ilooked back at my little marshmallow friend, covered in chocolate - atleast I think it was chocolate - and promised her I'll be there for herwhen she wants to reject the mainstream and become her own person. Shelooked at me like I had nine heads, but I know from experience thatshe's going to need all the help she can get.




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






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback