Recently I read (yet another) thread on Facebook that went like this:
Main post: “Teenage boys are so hard.”
Comments in thread: “You should be glad you don’t have GIRLS.”
At least you don’t have GIRLS. OMG TEENAGE GIRLS.
They are THE WORST.
Insane, emotional, slutty little things. Mean. Irrational.
I’m paraphrasing, but you know the story.
Get your shotgun out. Lock em up. But goddamnit why are they so ANNOYING?
I have a daughter. She’s 13. I don’t see it. I don’t see the horrible. I don’t think I ever will. Tell me I will. Tell me she’ll be “the worst” in a few years.
What would happen if we dropped the storyline that teenaged girls are “the worst” and just let them fucking BE?
Well, since we’re on the topic, American teenage girls, I would like to provide a few guidelines for keeping yourself safe and navigating these awkward teenage years:
Do not wear revealing clothing like short shorts or leggings because boys just can’t control their hormones at this age and your skin makes them want to rape you. Yes, this is your problem. This could get complicated because you may have sexual feelings too and maybe WANT to show a little skin and explore the sensual side of your existence – OR MAYBE IT’S JUST A HOT DAY AND YOU ARE ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY HOT – but this makes you a slut.
so don’t do that. nobody likes a slut.
Yes, that’s right: What’s unavoidable in boys is equally unavoidable in girls but in boys it’s expected (and possibly celebrated as a sign of virile heterosexuality) but in you it’s just dirty and shameful and your virile dad will need to protect you with a shotgun from virile boys whose parents dressed them in onesies at 6-months-of age that read: “Lock your daughters up.”
Now’s the time, daddy.
Lock.Your.Daughters.Up with those wild breasts and vaginas JUST OUT THERE FOR THE TAKING.
On to the topic of friends: Don’t be a “mean girl.” When boys have problems with their friends they are humans having problems with friends, or “assholes” or bullies, but when you do it there’s a special classification called “mean girl” because we need to make sure we establish early on that you are catty, simple-minded, and trite.
Newsflash “mean girl” is not actually a thing.
Assholes come in all genders.
Speaking of assholes, hormones rage in male and female teenagers, resulting in mood swings, tears, uncontrollable emotions and rage, but when you do it it’s a result of your vagina and uterus and menstruation and ohbytheway you’ll carry that with you your whole life. The irrationality. The emotionally unstable. When men cry we either deem them “pussies” or laud their gorgeous sensitivity. (Oh yes we’re screwing them too but that’s a different blog post.)
Have you dropped out of math yet?
Good. Stick with literature. Our emotional brains function better in those tender humanities.
Anyway, in short, teenage girls, this is why people hate you and why you read Facebook threads of grown-ass adults lamenting your existence and claiming you are WORSE than “boys:” Because you’re crazy and mean and irrational and emotional and slutty and your potential to get pregnant and evoke the (obviously unavoidable) rape drive in boys makes you a liability to yourself and your family.
Welcome to femaleness. Welcome to womanhood.
Welcome to the motherfucking jungle.
Oh shit wait! I forgot. How to not get your throat cut by strangers (this is from an actual list of helpful citizens on Facebook who commented on the occasion of a woman getting her throat cut by a stranger on the street):
- do not get out of the car at night
- learn self defense
- always carry pepper spray
- do not know bad people
- don’t be a prostitute
- do not go into bad areas of town
- don’t walk alone ever on a street ever.
(Why are they virtually unconcerned about the human who MURDERED another HUMAN? Well shoot your guess is as good as mine.)
WELCOME TO WOMANHOOD NOW DON’T GET OUT OF YOUR CAR LEST SOMEBODY SLICES YOUR THROAT AND YOU GET BLAMED.
Lemmetellyousomething my girl:
I don’t see this and I never will. Oh okaaaaay I see difficulty and I see pain and I see emotions and I see the hormones and the silliness woven with grown-up-ness and I see myself.
I see your father.
I see a child. I see a woman-child. I see a woman-child becoming woman. I see emotional turmoil. I see upset. I see rage. I see building moats in the sand and looking for seashells and painted nails and pedicures and long lean muscular legs and new curves and unruly curls on rainy days.
I see perfection.brokenness.gaping faults.attitude.
I see the difficulty of any kid that ever lived. I see all the boys and girls.
I see helpful. lazy. I see easier than my 4-year-old. independence. separation. wit and sarcasm and naiveté.
I see myself.
I was a teenage girl. I didn’t know the world hated me. Maybe because there wasn’t social media.
I see exploration. I see changing. I see life. I see a couple text messages to boys and a few discussions about this one and that one and I see you learning navigating working to understand other humans, life, sex, bodies, school, futures, loveheartangerragepainhystericalLaughingFriendsSiblingsFamilyandTomorrow.
(and you drive me nuts BECAUSE ALL KIDS ARE FUCKING ANNOYING.)
Heyyyy daughter, I don’t hate you. I don’t think you’re slutty or evil or mean. I expect you to be irrational and emotional just like I am sometimes, and your dad is sometimes, and your brother and every other person ever.
I want to lock you up, but not because of your gender.
I want to hide you away from the idiots. I want to hide you away so you never think you are the worst. So you aren’t ashamed. So you aren’t embarrassed. So you don’t gaslight YOURSELF when you’re emotional and unstable and irrational in your room away from the family for a few moments telling yourself “Well here I am just another faulty female fulfilling those prophesies all over the internet.”
And I don’t want you to not see that you are growing up in a clusterfuck of rape culture victim blaming female-body shaming (all hail the thigh gap) – WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN – and it isn’t you at all at all at all. It’s us. Them. Them. Them.
We plunk you down in an insane world then belittle diminish fault and blame you as you struggle to find your place in an insane world.
You are me. You are him. You are her.
You are not the worst.
You are the motherfucking best.
Ours, at least.
If you read it, all that nonsense, don’t believe it.
Believe this. Believe it to the end, and I’ll see you on the other side, kid.
My dear friend Sarah Maren and I are teaching a writing & photography intensive workshop in Sacramento next month and it’s going to change lives. Well, maybe not. But it will be fun, and you will become a better writer and photographer.
8 spots left.
GET ON IT LET’S HANG OUT DAMNIT.
(also, how cute and innocent do I look in this drawing?!)
AndreaMonday, 4 May, 2015 at 15:22
Git it, mama. That is all.
itzybellababyMonday, 4 May, 2015 at 15:25
As a mamma of a daughter I say yes. And thank you.
And can I add- screw pink because don’t put me in a color assigned box..
BoganetteMonday, 4 May, 2015 at 15:57
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
DanMonday, 4 May, 2015 at 16:07
Yeah so I actually did know the world hated me as a teenager, mostly because of the time I disclosed my childhood sexual abuse to a friend who went home and told her mum. The next day she wasn’t allowed to be my friend any more because her mum told her she couln’t be friends with ‘girls like me’, a sentiment which my mother mostly agreed with so she was never told. So anyway fuck her, that was the beginning of my shameful spiral downwards, from which my children and their father saved me. My 14 year old and 11 year old daughters are both so real and smart and gorgeous and annoying and dammit have minds of their own and are lazy as fuck (mostly, except when there is something in it for them, like a normal self centered and self respecting teenager does) but I hope like hell they don’t think the world thinks they suck for being themselves or for anything that has happened to them. I have worked with teenagers for the last 10 years. They are actually way more awesome than their parents and our culture think they are. Especially when their parents aren’t around to make them nervous about being themselves.
JessicaMonday, 4 May, 2015 at 16:27
Wow… Just wow…
I really wish I could have had you as a parent figure growing up…
This one hits me real deep… But in a good way
Keep at it momma!
Be you’re family ROCK!
Brynly BrownMonday, 4 May, 2015 at 16:46
MaryMonday, 4 May, 2015 at 17:29
I teach art in a public high school. I feel like I am swimming upstream when I hear the ridiculousness spread thick about teenagers. A lot of the time I am appalled because of things other teachers say (so sad, right?) or policies like dress codes that are not even trying to hide the rape culture that inspired them. So I say so, and my big mouth and I have kids who would walk through fire for me….and I them.
Anything that creates a box, a label or a category to put people in needs to be deeply questioned and blown apart whenever possible. That’s my calling as a teacher. And the mom job is the greatest teaching job there is. Awesome teaching there Janelle.
JanineMonday, 4 May, 2015 at 17:33
I have only boys. I love it and do believe I was meant for it BUT it also means I get to see/listen to/hang out with the lovely girls they bring home. And it’s awesome. I might adopt some.
On another note, I just realised that we are nearly neighbors. My son goes to the HS that you may be watching on the news tonight as having just lost two girls (and their mother on the 505.) Such lovely lovely girls. My heart is very much broken so it was kinda nice to read this. About girls. In a weird way.
KagiTuesday, 5 May, 2015 at 2:39
I envy your daughter her mother, so much, so much. My mother was my rock, my shield, from the worst of it, but she was nothing like as aware as you. I grew up in cult-like relgious puritanicalness, added in with perfectionism and legalism to the point where you could never, ever win, not if you were a woman.
I was gay, and I was different, and I didn’t fit. I never did. But I tried, I tried SO HARD. And no one ever told me that it was okay to be different, to be me, not until I was almost thirty. Not until after I had fled in pain and rage and bled all over half the state.
I am not a mother, will never be a mother because genes are against me, but I keep reading your blog because you give me hope. That parents like you exist. That not everyone screws up irretrievably. Thank you, thank you, for always admitting when it’s hard, when you just don’t know, when you feel like you’ve failed, but always making up for it later.
You are the best. When it counts, when it matters, you are the best. And trust me, your kids will be grateful for it. Eventually.
JulieTuesday, 5 May, 2015 at 5:47
My daughter is 16, and she’s pretty awesome! She is hard-working, independent, helpful, compassionate, creative, sensitive, expressive. She spends 2-4 hours a week volunteering, she takes care of her younger siblings, she takes the marginalized kinds in her school under her wing and stands up to bullies. She loves music and can often be heard singing in her bedroom, composing new songs, discovering great indie artist, teaching younger children, or singing in the choir. She is curious and constantly asking questions about social justice and other powerful issues.
My other daughter is 13, and she is pretty amazing. She has overcome challenges that made her young childhood difficult, but those same challenges are now a source of power to her. She is brilliant and brave, and a constant source of energy. She is uninterested in trends or popularity, and as such her self-confidence has become a magnet for attracting friendship. She and her classmates make being smart the coolest thing in their grade. She cheerfully helps with everything from walking the dog to cooking supper whenever we ask. She is constantly challenging herself, whether it be trying new gymnastic stunts to finding new novel series to read.
I think teenage girls are the best, not the worst!
TaraTuesday, 5 May, 2015 at 6:04
Thank you for this. I have two boys now, and a third, unknown baby due any day, and so often I hear from people: “Oh, you should be happy you have boys! Girls turn into little bitches as soon as they hit their teens. Boys will love you forever!” I never know what to say to this (except maybe…um…fuck off?) People seem to forget they’re saying this to a former teenaged girl. It is such a negative, hateful message that dooms a baby girl before she’s even out of the womb. I don’t get where this idea came from. Thanks for calling it out.
LisaTuesday, 5 May, 2015 at 7:12
I so needed to read this. Thank you. I have a 14-year-old girl and she’s delightful. People keep telling me, “Just wait….” Naturally, I’ve assumed I have a particularly awesome daughter who isn’t “a typical” teenage girl. I’ve even been known to use those exact words: “She isn’t a typical teenage girl.” Geesh. You flipped it for me. Thank you
leslieTuesday, 5 May, 2015 at 7:24
My 19 year old daughter is one of the kindest, smartest, funniest people I’ve ever met and always has been. I kept waiting for the horribleness that everyone said was coming. Didn’t happen. Hasn’t happened with her 15 year old brother, either. Don’t anticipate it with the next three either. I think to a large extent that teenagers are as wonderful or horrible as we expect them to be. They’re kind of like people that way. Thanks for writing an amazing blog post that I get to send off to my (math major – just sayin’) daughter at college today!
CarolinaWednesday, 6 May, 2015 at 3:47
Thank you for writing this.
PeggyWednesday, 6 May, 2015 at 6:11
<3 If I were your mama I'd be so proud.
I hope my girls know this deep in their souls.
EmilyWednesday, 6 May, 2015 at 15:17
I don’t get this either. But if I were meant to, I would’ve been assigned a penis, I guess. I had a close call when I first started working here, my (female) supervisor went to my (male) boss to ask him to let her manage me better (her job) because he was hampering her ability to do so and she thought I needed more guidance than he was getting. Silly girl! Fortunately, my boss recognized that we were just having “girl issues” and told her so.
EmilyWednesday, 6 May, 2015 at 15:18
Edit: than *I* was getting. Not he.
JessicaThursday, 7 May, 2015 at 19:58
LOVE this! You are an amazing mother.
JessicaFriday, 8 May, 2015 at 11:19
And there’s also the self-fulfilling prophecy thing. If we tell teenaged girls they’re the worst in subtle and not so subtle ways, they’ll just think they’re the worst and why bother trying to be anything else? And if we expect them to be the worst, we will interpret all their actions through that lense and not even give them a chance. It’s not good for anyone.
My daughter is only 2 right now, but 2 year olds are the worst too. Except she’s not. She’s just a toddler trying to figure out the world.
Thanks for this post.
RoseSaturday, 9 May, 2015 at 11:45
Yes! I have 4 teenage girls ( yes 4) and I hear all the time “oh my God how do you handle it”. I have never understood the question. Age range is 15 to almost 19 now and never have they been a problem. They just are. All different, all with good days and bad days, all with ups and downs; they are themselves and have never been “hard”. Well at least not any harder than life in general!!!
NatalieTuesday, 9 June, 2015 at 12:16
I have three in that same range (15-19) and I also do not get it. People look at me funny and say stupid shit when I tell ’em I have three teen girls.
WTF are you talking about? We have a great time together!
DanielleTuesday, 19 May, 2015 at 9:54
Just shared this for all of my surrogate daughters and their actual mamas. Fierce and brilliant. Love it. Thank you.
AmyThursday, 4 June, 2015 at 9:22
As a Mama to a freaking AMAZING 14-year-old daughter, I applaud you! I couldn’t have written this any better and I WILL be sharing it with her…and all her friends! <3
MyrindaThursday, 4 June, 2015 at 15:04
Well I kinda can’t wait until my girls become teens. Maybe my oldest will take a TEENSY bit more interest in her appearance and I won’t have to bribe her with sushi to take her shopping. Maybe my super free and crazy younger daughter will be prom queen and have lots of boy/girlfriends, whatever!!! They will just BE who they are and so far, even on the days they drive me kind of NUTS, I wouldn’t trade them for any other people AT ALL!!! Except that they can’t drink yet. So sometimes I DO have to go out with my mom friends and sometimes we can take their daughters and then I can look into the future and imagine all the wonderful,crazy,painful friend-ness that is yet to happen. I LOVE my daughters and I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t love them any less, HATE them? No way, INSANE. And fuck anyone who would. No one needs that.
LaurenMonday, 20 July, 2015 at 15:22
Hey Janelle and friends- I just want to take a little risk here and say something, so no hate mail, please, ok? I LOVE what you have to say, and I think you really have a chance here to make this world a better place, but in my opinion, it’s a little hard to get past so much swearing. I do understand that sometimes it’s necessary to use such STRONG language to draw attention to your point, but personally I find it difficult to share your articles without apologizing for any offense that the language might cause. I don’t know if one person’s opinion matters in the grand scheme of your business model, and I do know that your communication style resonates with lots of readers. I just wonder if you would possibly have a greater impact on the world if you toned down the language some. What you have to say is so worthwhile, and it makes me sad to think of anything limiting your readership. Only you can decide if broadening your audience is worth whatever impact that would have on your loyal readers, but I thought you might like to hear from the other viewpoint, so I hope this helps. Thanks for what you do, Lauren
renegademamaMonday, 20 July, 2015 at 19:56
Thanks for the thoughtful comment. And there is no doubt in my mind I’d be way more popular if I didn’t swear so much. But this is a blog. It’s a casual form of communication. I write this blog the way I speak, and I cuss like a sailor. I’m really not worried about people who are “offended” by my language because I’m not writing to them. I’m writing to people like me. I write in other forums: articles, books, currently writing a screenplay, and I cuss less. WAY LESS. Or not at all. But this is a personal blog. I’m not going to censor myself to make my voice more palatable to the easily offended. I’ll leave that to people more devoted to their “business models,” as you say. I’ve never been interested in pleasing the masses on this blog and I hope I never place a shred of importance on that, particularly in the hopes of making more money. Yuck.