Friday, September 10, 2010

My Bet is Kit Kittredge

Last weekend I was somewhere with a very large older woman drinking tequila. (What?) Anyway, this woman had breasts like a wobbly shelf, as big as bowling balls and heavy-looking, too, the kind of breasts that rise out of fat so you're never really sure what is boob and what is just folds of something other.

This woman told a story about when she was younger. When I was maybe 90lbs, she said, and could pass the pencil test. Remember the pencil test? And I did--do--though I never could pass it without taking a few very deep breaths. The story had something to do with her going braless in a grocery store and a woman who scolded her for it. So I told her I'd put on a bra just as soon as the weeping scars on my back healed up! That was the punchline of the story, the point being that a good comeback is all you ever really need. Honestly I was only half-listening, so distracted was I with disbelief that there was ever a time when her breasts were not heavy pendulums of resting right there like that.

There are certain stories that you just can't shake, this not being one of them. I have always remembered John Updike's A&P, the slow narrative of three sunkissed girls in their bathing suits. Without being too creepy (although there is no other way to say this), I find myself lately watching teenage girls. Maybe it's because Zoey is suddenly interested in iCarly, or because I am now exactly halfway between 18 and 58, but they are everywhere with their low-slung jeans and skin. I have always been afraid of teenagers, the way they push against each other when they walk. Even when I was one, half afraid of myself.

I have a friend who has a friend who is a teacher at the middle school here; I have no idea how big her boobs are. So this school, there is always some sort of oversized wooden cutout of a tree outside, or a thermometer, something painted with the words Help Us Reach Our Goal! and a line like a measuring cup that almost always crawls to the top very quickly. It is a California Distinguished School, and the other day my friend told me that some girls were caught soaking tampons in vodka and then wearing them in class to get drunk. Don't ask me how they got caught, but Jesus Christ. In the 8th grade I called my period Aunt Tilly and carefully folded up toilet paper because I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for a pad, let alone a tampon.

Is it even possible for a vagina to drink?

There is something dangerous about teenage girls, the way they carry their power simultaneously clueless and acutely aware. In 6 years Zoey will be 10. I can't always afford organic milk so by then she may have boobs. I cannot look away from the girls who cluster together behind the building of the movie theater downtown, though I hardly pay attention to the short boys and their skateboards. Sometimes the air smells sweet and skunky and I wonder if I should say something, though like Sammy at the A&P I know that once you begin a gesture it's fatal not to go through with it.

Deep breaths, the exaggerated rise and fall of my ribcage. Sometimes I can still get the pencil to drop.


sherri said...

beautifully written and observed. who is the big tata-ed lady you were hanging with? that std w/the american girl dolls made me spit-take my diet coke. teenage girls have ALWAYS frightened me, maybe more so when I was one. have a great weekend.

Kendra plus 2 said...

OK so, now I'm off to google the vodka thing ...

krista said...

my pencil hasn't dropped since procreating. it sits there, waiting like a weapon.
half of me tinks those vodka-dipped vaginas are rogue geniuses. the other half wants to homeschool finn without any access to the outdoors. or internet. or phone. or mail. or a&p markets and bathing suits. and definitely not herring snacks.

bronwyn said...

Good god! What twisted mind thought of the tampon thing? I was afraid of teenage girls when I was one. Then I forgot all about them until now. My daughter is Zoey's age and now all I can do is wonder how many times I've given her non organic milk. I'll never do it again, that's for sure. Oh, and my period's name was Aunt Flo.

Sherry said...

Loved this post...I have two daughters..10 and 16. Thankfully my 16-year old is in a 'good' crowd, so I feel like I have escaped a lot of sleepless nights. I've been buying organic milk since forever and I'm here to tell you my sweet 10-year old got her period this week! I was in total shock!! I keep hoping it was a mistake and it won't come back for 3 more years. Btw, I called mine Aunt Flo...the teenagers now call it TOM (time of the month). It goes by fast..but it is true. You don't love teenagers, until you have one. They actually are pretty I sit here right now talking current events with my 13-year old son (he's pretty cool).

jennifer said...

my four year old is for sure the kid who'd think up the drunken tampon. I'm scared already.
also, almond milk is better anyway!

Ceci said...

According to the news a couple of weeks ago, girls will be starting there "TOM" (i like that) at the average age of 7. That means my 4 year old neice Sarah has oh about 3more years to enjoy her childhood. And she drinks milk like crazy. Regular milk. I hope there wrong!!

Judy said...

WHERE the Hell was I when you were calling your Period, "Aunt Tilly"? Never heard that in my life.
Teenage girls scare me as well and after going through those years with you, they now absolutely terrify me. There were plenty of teen-times that I saw pure hatred in your eyes..your very own death ray directed my way. And I didn't usually know why then-especially when you started out as such a sweet, shy, loving pre-teen child. Fortunately, we both lived through to the other side. And so will you and Zoey.
As to the pencil test...ah, yes, I remember it well. It sort of appeared just after I had you and Andy. That Fucking "Test" did more to damage my self-esteem than any other one thing I can remember. Pencil, My Ass! I would have had a hard time passing had the object in question been the King James version of the Bible! As to vodka tampons, wow am I glad I'm way past dealing with teenagers. I have to check out the physiology involved. I know medication can be absorbed by the mucous membranes in the mouth,,,,but? And OUCH, pretty damn cytotoxic to the sensitive membranes involved!
Love You-and the teenager inside you still.