The Husband and I watched the movie Thirteen last night. (Yes, we are behind the times. To have a baby is to knock out a complete year of popular culture from your memory.) Neither one of us is particularly naive about some of the more unsavory activities of teenagers – We are not Angels ourselves, despite the cherubic moniker I apply to my husband at times. He may be an Angelic Husband, but both of us were more the spawn of Satan as teenagers and young adults. But when I think of the Wild Children I knew as a teen, I think of them as maybe 16, 17, or 18 – Not as 13 year old sex kittens!
To say the movie made me feel uncomfortable is an understatement. Here in all its ugliness is laid out for all to see what it is to be a 13 year old girl. The yearning to be part of the in crowd and being willing to do things you know you weren’t brought up to do to get there. The shunning of your old, stable friends for racier, way more exciting models. I have been that girl shunned and I have been the one that walked away from my childhood to put on the lip gloss. This movie brought back all the torture of being 13, of being trapped in a 13 year old girl’s skin. It is agony. When the absentee father asks his son to just tell him what is wrong with his daughter, he doesn’t know how. But there is no doubt that being Thirteen is a nameless cry for help.
Yes, I understood the need to belong, the need to feel adult, the desire to cross boundaries I knew I wasn’t supposed to cross. But there was more to this discomfort. I may have seen and partaken in many of the activities portrayed in this film. But NOT AT THIRTEEN. At thirteen, I still wanted to play with my Barbies (although, admittedly, I didn’t want anyone to KNOW I was playing with them) and to play dress up. But the dress up that the girls in this movie play is no game. Sure, I remember the thrill of wearing too-short skirts, and black eye makeup, and red lips. But I sure as hell wasn’t thirteen at the time. I remember the drugs, the huffing in the bedroom, and the drunkenness, and the shoplifting. I remember the violence and just wanting to feel anything that I wasn’t supposed to experience. But I wasn’t thirteen!
The real torture of watching this movie was knowing that the mother really did love her daughter, but that there might not have been any way she could do to control the tailspin her daughter went into. The real torture was knowing that in 12 years, I might be suffering the same disbelief and disillusionment. My only saving grace and hope is that I have a boy. Yes, I know that it sounds archaic to say that I don’t worry about a boy as much as a girl. But I also know that the movie, while it made my husband a little uncomfortable, made me absolutely want to crawl out of my skin. Because I knew what a tenuous grasp on sanity it is to be a teenage girl. I knew the hatred of self and others. I can only guess that a boy must have somewhat more of a grip at that age.
After the movie, my husband and I, who are already considering having another child, discussed the fact that if we had a little girl, we’d have the GPS tracking device installed before leaving the hospital.
And for now, thank heaven for little boys.