10 Things I Wish I'd Known As A Teenage Girl Anne T. Donahue

Well HELLO! It is I, your resident Old Lady of Old Lady Movie Night breaking from her normal role as movie-watcher and getting into “let’s talk about feelings” mode. (And yes, I know 27 isn’t old, you guys, but I named the column when I was wearing a Golden Girls-inspired sweater and drinking tea, so I figured, SURE, why not. Live a little, you know? YOU KNOW? Anywho.)

Believe it or not, I was a teenager once. Truth be told, it wasn’t the greatest time for me. BUT, thanks to sites like this one and Rookie and xoJane and Tumblr, it’s probably a lot more fun for you. First, you’ve got the internet. And not the internet like I had with dial up, and ICQ, and GeoCities — Internet like, you’ve got this endless realm of possibility that makes being a teenager actually pretty fun. Communities! Articles to read! Meet-ups! Twitter! Seriously, you’ve got this. BUT sometimes advice isn’t the worst thing, either. So because I was hanging out with MY teenage cousin this weekend (YEAH, I’VE GOT ONE OF THOSE #BRAG), I figured I’d share with you ten things I wish I’d known then that would have made being a teen a little easier.

Disclaimer: I might be way out in left field here. But at the very least, now you have a list of things to say, “Pfff I don’t THINK so” to, instead of, well… not? I don’t know. LISTEN, I’m just trying to hang out, okay? Basically for the next five to ten minutes:

Minus being a mom at all, but YOU GET IT, right? Let’s proceed.

10. Whip your hair back and forth (translation: do what you want).
Maybe you like cheerleading, or maybe you like music, or maybe you like writing, or maybe you like none of those things and an entirely new thing I haven’t even heard of. As long as it doesn’t hurt yourself or anybody else, EMBRACE IT. Don’t apologize for liking the things that make you happy. Faking an interest in sports or in music or in anything else not only wastes your time, it doesn’t help you grow into yourself. Do you know how long I pretended to care about skateboarding? A year. A WHOLE YEAR that I could have spent doing anything else in the world. But instead, I sat in the parking lot across the street from my house and watched the guys — and my friend Jess, who ruled then and rules now — skateboard. Not even girls! (Only Jess.) (Because if girls skateboarded, they were “posers,” you guys, just FYI.) And do you know what I wanted to be doing? Anything else. Well, maybe dating the guy I used to watch skateboard. But still! That would have been the worst because we wouldn’t have had anything to talk about. Which brings me to my next point.

9. Ditch those negative, mean people.
I’ll let you in on a secret: those people never really go away. (Seriously, even in work situations sometimes it’s like, “Oh there’s THIS GUY again, UGHHH.”) But a good way to learn to deal with those people as an adult, is to learn to deal with them when you’re a teen. The quickest, and simplest way? Cut.Them.Out. (Just like Uncle Joey.) Odds are, in high school, you’ll at some point end up in a situation in which, you’re friends with people who make you feel crappy or make you feel like you can’t be yourself. Those people? Not your friends.

True friends will champion and celebrate who you are. You won’t ever have to feel like you’re putting on a show for those true friends. And it might take you a long time to find them! THAT’S FINE. You will. You’d be surprised at how like-minded people gravitate to each other, and end up forming really great groups. I had a few really great, close, understanding, like-minded friends in high school (after making my way through a few groups that were THE WORST), and they’re still my close friends today. But it wasn’t until my 20s that I REALLY started to meet people who “got it.” I know that might seem like a long way off, but it’s WORTH IT, I promise.

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  1. Ha Ha I thought I was the only one around that time with pleather!! That was great, I was a “rocker chick”……I also had awful gray snakeskin pants…oh my….

  2. This is so awesome. I’m in my (ahem) mid 30s and I needed to hear this back then. I survived ok, but still. May I just say my 30s have been the BEST time of my life?

  3. This is so true! Highschool was not the best for me, it wasn’t terrible but it isn’t everything you see in movies and what not. You just need to push through it, and the people that get stuck in high school you will probably never run into again because they are still trying to be 16 and drinking vodka from the bottle! Now, I am only 20 which some will be like ‘oh you don’t know anything’ but I do. Push through high school, and know that the real world is NOTHING like it. Nothing you did in high school really matters, and you know how all the teachers try and tell you that if you fail your social exam you’ll never get anywhere? NOT TRUE. That’s not to say ‘FAIL ALL YOUR TEST, IT DOESN’T MATTER!’ because you should try. But in the end, it’s not about who was valedictorian or if you were in the ‘dumb’ math class, (I was) or a jock or whatever, you go out into the real world after high school and do your own thing. Finally free of all the retrains and insecurities high school holds. So push through, I promise things get better!!!!!

  4. I’m also in my mid twenties, and have to agree with everything you’ve said. This advice is SO WELL WRITTEN. Love your stuff!

  5. Love it! Good advice for the present High School generation :) I barely remember highschool, but i can remember watching people in silly relationships where they did nothing but cry or change their look every 5 seconds to try and fit and thinking “Why?”

    Funny thing is, in adult life i still see the same things. And respond the same way :P

  6. I’m 17, so, great advice (though I’m almost done with high school). But even some stuff you say I’ve already come to conclude, like just having fun and embracing what you like to do. But it’s nice to have it written on paper (well, a screen) by someone who’s been through high school and a lot more of life. :)

  7. I feel like these principles (almost) apply to undergrad as well. Damn, life, you just keep rolling, don’t you?

  8. Good lord this made me laugh so hard I snorted.
    I wore silver pleather pants from Gadzook’s because I worked there and was SO COOL. I can relate to each and every one of these. Especially #8 because boys were effing MEAN and we allowed them to because we thought they were so hot. If you let out even an ounce of insecurity they were all over that shiz. I’m pretty sure most of them didn’t even have arm pit hair.

  9. This is awesome. And I think that some of this advice is well-suited for 20-somethings as well (especially 1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10!) And, if we already know it, a little reminder never hurt :)

  10. Oh pleather… I saved up money to get these pleather pants, bought them, squeezed myself into them once, and never wore them again. Like it was this huge deal for me to get these pants and they were uncomfortable, a size too small, and I never wore them again.

  11. THANK YOU for writing this. I’m 24, and I really loved high school. I still have the same friends – and although I’ve made new ones through college and professional life too – my high school friends are always going to be my true BFFs. So it goes without saying that reading #2 struck a chord. We reminisce about high school so much that I feel like many of my friends would be ecstatic if we could go back, and maybe I would be too, but we all need to wake up and realize that being 24 is so much cooler. I have a fiance, so I don’t have to try so hard with boys (and don’t need makeup for him to tell me I’m pretty!), I don’t live with my parents, I make my own money, have a cool car, and can drink alcohol legally. So yes, I think I will stay in young adulthood as long as I possibly can :)

  12. You are THEE BOMB!!!!

  13. All SO very true! I can’t wait to show this to my daughter.

  14. I’m very glad this was written. So many teenagers, male and female alike, struggle with being themselves. My favorite point was #2. High school wasn’t much fun for me. My favorite memory was meeting my boyfriend and graduating soon after that. Life has definitely gotten better for me in college, and I’ve met some wonderful people that are truly my friends. I guess my unsolicited advice for all those still in high school is: “Hang in there.. it won’t last forever and it DOES get soooo much better.” (:

  15. Good advice. But I must say – I am 28 now, so we would’ve been in high school at the same time. Where in the world did you get a pleather jacket with SHOULDER PADS???

    • I’m 27 and I was thinking the same thing. I don’t remember anything having shoulder pads in high school.

      • Three words, you guys: bargain. discount. outlet. $25 at Mariposa, circa 1999.

        Anne T. Donahue | 11/01/2012 02:11 pm
  16. Great Advice, I Lovee Your Writing its soo Much Fun to Read <3….I Definately needed #8 in High School & even the year after haha. & I Wish I knew #8 instead of spending the years hiding from everyone cus I was "different"( I shouldve OWNED it!). Its been about Four years since High School & Life Really Does Get Better After, it Really Does! Mah Time to Shine ;D.

  17. I owned pleather, and it actually looked real. Which, as I am quite aware from being a teenager in the late 90s, was very rare. I went through a “I-Must-Dress-Like-Buffy” phase in my freshman year of high school.

  18. Unless you live in a small town, then high school still matters to some people! Haha, a great list though, made me giggle and happy!

  19. Oh the pleather, I actually once wore pleather pants and a red and black bustier. To family events. (Yes, multiple events. I apparently thought it was a hot and oh-so-appropriate outfit.) The shame…

  20. This was so well written and I love the ICQ mention. I am really lucky because I was able to live out #9. I had a group of terrible friends who complained about EVERYTHING and who constantly made me feel like I wasn’t cool or underground enough to hang with them. Finally I got fed up and ditched them. It was the best decision that high school me ever made.