Attack of the Tweenysomethings

I had to buy a birthday present recently, so I did some online shopping. A mood ring and a bottle of color changing nail polish? A solid option. Or maybe one of the board games I liked when I was in middle school – you know, Mall Madness, Girl Talk, Dream Phone. Ebay and Etsy are goldmines for vintage Lisa Frank stickers and accessories. Throw in some miniature glow-in-the-dark fairy figurines, and you’ve got yourself the perfect present for any little girl. Except I wasn’t shopping for a little girl. I was shopping for a friend in the 25-34 age bracket, and no, she’s not emotionally stunted or trapped in a 13-Going-On-30 situation (although if I did know someone in that pickle, she would absolutely be my favorite friend).

The thing is, the person I was shopping for isn’t even unusual. I’d consider getting these gifts for many of my adult female friends. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to THE TWEENYSOMETHING: adult women obsessed with the trends, fashion, entertainment, and culture of girls half their age.

Before I go on, I feel the need to explain that I am definitely a tweenysomething. In fact, I’ve always been a tweenysomething. My interests haven’t changed – at ALL – since I was a tween myself (of course back in those dinosaur days we were boringly called “pre-teens”). My twitter handle is @shinyunicorn, my boyfriend gave me a Pillow Pet for my birthday last year (and I was psyched), cards from my family members always come from the children’s section, I routinely and inexplicably have glitter all over my hands, and my favorite show is Pretty Little Liars. Unironically.

Believe me, the list goes on. But there’s more to tweenysomethings than choosing Lip Smackers over lipstick or painstakingly applying cutesy stickers to our neon fingernails. We’ve invaded present-day pop culture. In fact, we’re shaping it. A few examples:

The Twilight Phenomenon – This was a book series targeted at ten to thirteen year old girls. And yes, the majority of its ardent fans are tweens, but a huge portion is also grown women. They call themselves Twihards, they create Twilight-themed Twitter accounts, and they write fan fiction, much of which consists of distinctly non-childlike fantasizing about Edward Cullen. Without this adult fan base, Twilight would not have been nearly so massively successful. Which brings me to…

The popularity of YA – i.e. Young Adult fiction. Except we are not young adults. We are just adults. My entire group of friends (and the rest of the country) obsessed over The Hunger Games series last year and passionately debated the casting of the movie this spring. Did I mention that on Amazon this book is categorized as Teen Fiction and labeled “For Grade 7 And Up”. Thank god for the “And Up”, or else we’d really be pathetic.

Silly Bandz – At least five of my adult friends gave me these sparkly, multi-colored, animal-shaped rubber band bracelets for my birthday last year, and traded with me when they had a shape I desperately wanted. Never mind that the twelve-year olds I babysat at the time were already too cool for these pointless accessories. Of course, that was last summer. This summer we’ve moved on to the super sophisticated trend of friendship bracelets. Yes, bracelets we made out of those spools of colored thread that we carried around in their very own Caboodle. Better start practicing your Chinese Staircase and Candy Stripe stitch.

Justin Bieber – This pretty much sums it up.

Cupcakes – This is such old news at this point it’s almost not worth mentioning. But the overwhelming development in recent years of trendy cupcake stores, couture lollipops, and upscale sweet shops like Dylan’s Candy Bar is at least in part due to their popularity among tweenysomethings, for whom candy is a dietary staple.

Nostalgia for Tweendom of Years Past – Have you noticed there’s been a crop of flashback tweets, blogs, and articles lately? Women in their 20s and 30s are suddenly quoting Judy Blume (ahem, myself included), re-imagining the Babysitter’s Club girls as women our own age, or salivating over the newest addition to the Sweet Valley High series. This is an interesting tweenysomething compromise: we may not have sunk to the level of (admitting to) DVRing Wizards of Waverly Place, but we will be the first to claim Full House, Punky Brewster, and Hey Dude as shows we still watch and love.

But what effect will this explosion of tweenysomething influence have on the television shows and films that are being created today, right now? It’s not totally clear. First of all, this is not necessarily a brand new concept. Lorelai Gilmore of “Gilmore Girls” fame is a total tweenysomething (she owns multiple Hello Kitty kitchen appliances and her favorite movie is “The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking”, not to mention her junk food addiction or colorful fashion sense). And it would be impossible to talk about grown-ups acting like children without acknowledging Judd Apatow’s model of the “man-child.” Beginning with “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” it was suddenly okay – not only okay, but funny, even preferable – to be a man in your 20s, 30s, or 40s who still plays video games, loves gross-out humor, and doesn’t want to grow up.

Is the tweenysomething the long-awaited (long-dreaded?) female counterpart? Not quite yet, but we’re getting there. Of course everyone’s been talking about “Bridesmaids” (another Apatow production), in which the female lead was a hilarious, gorgeous, late-blooming, emotionally non-commital, mess of a woman. But she wasn’t really a tweenysomething. No, it’s movies like Natalie Portman’s upcoming “Best Buds”, a female-centric stoner flick in which, from what I hear, the pot-smoking leads are childhood best friends who still share the interests of elementary schoolers. There’s also Alicia Silverstone’s “Ass Backwards,” centered around two tweenysomething adult women road tripping to compete in a children’s beauty pageant.

We’re all aware that women are having a moment in TV and film – half of the new shows coming out in the next year have a premise that goes something like, “Girls living together in an apartment”(full disclosure: I write for the upcoming aptly named HBO show, “Girls,” also Apatow-affiliated). But will these girls be tweenysomethings or actual grown-ups? Until I get my strawberry-shimmer-scented, bubble gum pink nail-polished hands on these pilots, it remains to be seen.

Featured image via bellacozy.blogspot.com, other images via lissasnails.blogspot.com, thevine.com.au, rad80sfashion.com, delleicious.blogspot.com, and liketotally80s.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennyftw Jenny Lazo

    i’m definitely a tweenysomething myself! i also received a pillowpet as a gift from my dog for christmas, and it was by far one of my favorites! [yes, my dog gives me gifts. i am his mother after all ;)] i may or may not sleep with it every night. 😡 as much as i love some of the new tween shows that are on now, they will never compare to punky, rainbow brite, or even my little pony. just saying :). i enjoyed this, TONS!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alissa.lima Alissa Lima

    tweenysomething!!! I’m 20, on my b-day i said i was 20teen. I super loved ur post Sarah! Still have my teddybears n i dont wanna loose them anythime soon. I also looove Hello Kitty products! I Love House, Castle, Bones, True Blood …. but i sitll watch Hanna Montana ( all the disney shows =x ). And i have to say that some ppl here dont understand “the tweenysomething”. Poor ones, they don’t deserve my frendship lol
    (omg i want those cupcakes)
    xo xo

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bambiandbuddies Liz Merrill

    oh man…I’m thirty FIVE. I’m just outside the age bracket listed. This means I’m pathetic, huh? 😉

    • Sarah Heyward

      NO! That was just the age bracket of my friend! Tweenysomethings can be ANY age and we are all equally awesome!

  • http://www.facebook.com/molliecain Mollie Cain

    Thank you.
    I’m so glad that someone addressed this. I am not the only one who still LOVES Lisa Frank & writes real letters just to use said stationary. I am not the only one who got totally excited that Netflix Instant-View has added Rugrats and the real PowerRangers. Yes, I have all of the Twilight books (which, content-wise I don’t agree that tweens should be reading, book 4 is graphic! – This is also how I justify owning these books.) I LOVE glitter & prefer to receive cards from the child’s section.
    Basically, you have described me, given me a title, and told me that I’m not alone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/macy.madison Macy Madison

    I love those Lisa Frank nails!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirsten.lopezpalm Kirsten Sasha Lopez-Palm

    I have never identified more with an article. I received a unicorn pillow pet for my 25th bday. Please look up Space Unicorn on youtube to watch the awesome song i named him after. I have this duvet cover on my bed: http://ow.ly/5nJCN and I still draw pictures in crayon. In my thumbnail pic, you can’t see it, but I am holding a pink water bottle that’s shaped like a dinosaur. Thanks for making me feel less weird about being a tweenysomething! <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/prayingtowardsbecca Rebecca Doris

    I looooove Hello Kitty and stuffed animals and silly logo t-shirts. Definitely a tweeny-something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sunburn88 Melanie Kathryn King

    This is such a great entry, I am definitely a tweenysomething. I like making jewellery out of toys, sweeties, biscuits and joke shop things, I like glitter make-up and bright coloured clothes, my boyfriend and I skip with joy to the local retro sweet shop, I still love going on playgrounds that are meant for kids, I love magazines and I still use colouring books! I don’t think I’ll grown up any time soon. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/valerie.huerta1 Valerie Yvonne Huerta

    I’m more of a Selena Gomez/Miley Cyrus fan. Oh, and Harry Potter! And all those shows on the Disney Channel!

  • http://www.facebook.com/erinelisesmith Erin Richardson Smith

    I fear that I may be a tweenysomething. I’m 26 and the only way I enjoy working out is either with a hula hoop or a skip-it. I still have a huge container of Lisa Frank and Sanrio stickers that I (excitedly) use for craft projects with my kids. I also sit in my bedroom and eat haribo gummies and I don’t share with my kids. Send help.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CrysOlson Crystal Olson

    YES! My love for Bieber may never reach Zach Morris proportions but at least I know I’m not alone!

  • http://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.p.fink Elizabeth P. Fink

    I blame most of my tweenysomething tendencies on my 11 year old sister (who gave me an awesome Japanese puzzle eraser for my birthday last week shaped like an elephant, have you seen those things?). But truth be told I’m the one who watched the Lizzy McGuire Movie with friends in college in preparation for our trip to Italy. And I have been seriously considering digging out my old trapper keeper to organize my life!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kalifoxman Kali Dawn Foxman

    LOVE this article! My friend just sent it to me because it basically describes me. I love that there’s a term for it–tweenysomething! Perfect. At least my fiance understands my tween tendencies and often indulges them. (He’s reading “The Hunger Games” now because I was so obsessed with it!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pinkgrapefruits87 Lauren Nespoli

    I definitely have some tweenysomething tendencies! Good to know I’m not alone!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daye.t.hut Dayeanne Terese Hutton

    So perfect. Not to forget constant reminiscing of old school Nickelodeon and Disney shows along with the constant complaint of how much better they were back then and how kids these days totally miss out. And today I admittedly bought a size large Hello Cupcake Hello Kitty nightgown from the little girls section in target…for my camp counselor job… =]

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730621511 Kristine Songco

    HA! It’s so nice to read all these comments from kindred spirits. I work at a cartoon studio and STILL feel like I’m the only one who actually watches our channel in their free time. I resent how much YA stuff is looked down upon. Stop judging me for not watching Spartacus! But I will definitely be on the lookout for Girls, which seems like an awesome show :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/MaryJoe28 Maria Jose Rojas

    Well, I’m just under 23 (birthday’s in September) but I’m always confused as older and yet, I consider myself a tweenysomething! I love this article and thou I’m not too crazy about Hello Kitty (I love her, I’m just not cray-cray for her) if you searched in my crafts box inside my closet, you’d find a very big and extensive collection of Spottie Dottie paraphernalia,stickers,crayons,etc,etc,etc….) I guess I’m more of a dog person 😉

  • http://www.facebook.com/melaniebiehle Melanie Antley Biehle

    Hi, my name is Melanie and I’m a 41 year-old tweenysomething. {Hi, Melanie!} I love Gossip Girl, the color pink (http://re.pn/b/9XYq), the Twilight books, unicorns, Hello Kitty, heart shaped sunglasses, YA novels (especially those by Rachel Cohn), and hats/clothes with ears (inwardfacinggirl.blogspot.com/2011/06/pinspiration-with-ears.html).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=567427526 Tiffany Basilio

    umm have we met? because you just described practically my entire life!! except i’m a thirty-something, so i’m more in the thirtween age bucket. haha! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/annemari Anne Mari Donato

    As a kid, I wasn’t able to afford ALL of the things (toys) I want. Now that I can, it’s wonderful! I have a Little Mermaid sticker on my hairbrush. I’m not afraid to put stickers on my stuff, or use Sanrio keychains. Ahh, I want some Lisa Frank stickers!!! Brb, going to eBay.

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