Tag Archives: teenagers

Thoughtless Gestures of Love

A story for you, written in 20 minutes
3:06 a.m.

We drove from my Mom’s house to my Dad’s house. This was my Friday night. Headlights going down the highway in the rust polka-dotted, old geo-prism. My sister wasn’t with us. It was just me and Dad and NPR. I passed the time by road ogling for an hour fifteen.
I think he was trying to bring up a woman’s issue. I was in 8th grade. About to be a real teenager. About to be in High School. He brought up the importance of self-confidence for young women. He didn’t mean me specifically. He meant, young women as he knew them, as the idea ideal. I said, “I have like zero self-confidence.” I’m not sure if I was joking or not. Self-confidence isn’t something someone tells you how to acquire, they just seem to measure. My Dad turned his head from the highway to look at me. He usually spoke to you like he was a recording, and when you were talking he was only on pause. But this time, he seemed to look at me. I knew I’d done something wrong.
From where he drove, I was his little girl. He didn’t get to spend enough time with me. I was just growing up so fast. I seemed happy enough. I talked about my friends. I was good. He had nothing to worry about. I made my grades. Not the grades he wanted, but the grades I worked for. He wasn’t sure about my school. The history teacher seemed to have his facts and opinions too close together. But I’d be fine. Grades don’t matter till high school. I seemed to care.
He must have read a book about this somewhere. Mom told me once he was so nervous about being a Dad he read those books. A good student till the end. A student of black and white in print. And this self-confidence thing, now that was something bad. He had to fix that. That couldn’t go on. Self-confidence was very important for young women. I was a young women. He had read this is important. He must have decided he knew he could improve my confidence.
On the way home, we stopped at the library. I picked out a couple movies. At the checkout counter he said, “these are for you.” He handed me a stack of books. I walked out to the car with them piled in my arms. I read the titles once we were half-way home. They were themed. Improve you self-confidence, how to be a better you, how to love yourself the teenager, find the good inside everyone.
Right then, I think, no I know, I saw my Dad for his faults. First time. How did he not know this wasn’t how to fix me? How did he not know his own daughter well enough to know when he did something to upset her. Worse, when he upset me, why didn’t he care? He never should have told me there was something wrong with me or my confidence. He never should have given me a book. He never should have tried to fix me. I learn through talking. Why didn’t he talk to me instead of past, over, and to my sister? I put those books down. In one of my first acts of teenage rebellion, I never touched those books again. He condemned me with a library card. If he would have said anything to me, I would have been better off.
He scared me. In retrospect, he might have asked those questions, and I probably wouldn’t have answered. I was just nerves. I worried whatever answer I gave might not be the right one, and I’d get a lecture, or he’d raise his voice. So I started not telling him. He couldn’t hurt me that way, if I didn’t tell him something might be wrong. I can’t be fixed if I won’t tell you anything important. So I stuck to safe topics. I learned to have non-issue opinions that would keep him talking. No one could tell me something was wrong with me. I’d be perfect in the middle of the road, normal. You can’t suggest to the perfect.

10 Poems in 20 Minutes (Day Fifty-Seven)

Welcome to October, in case no one welcomed you yet. Please read my poems.

I Wrote 10 Poems in 20 Minutes
Day 57

Poem 1:
You wanna get an attitude with me
I can get an attitude with you
I don’t need to put you on the car insurance.
Screams rifle upstairs
The first of the teenage battles.
How quickly he finds the parental boundaries of love.
Their voices sound so similar
When raised in anger.

Poem 2:
I shut the trunk
My keys locked in
Helpless and stranded
It’s, how, nothing I can do
I sit on the trunk
Metal seems so thin
I wait on metal for the little metal I need
Pieces of metal, bits
I use one to call for a spare
Metal metal metal
Simpler with less, worse if I can’t call.

Poem 3:
Went to buy paperclips
On an errand
She just said paperclips
There’s a whole section
I don’t need options
Just give me the box
A box
One package of paperclips
You’ve made me put so much
Into this little task
Blue or pink or silver
I just wanted damn paperclips

Poem 4:
A little blond boy and his mom
Walked with their dog in the park
I passed then on the left
Her idea for sure
Let’s go so we can say we went
It sounds so nice
A nice idea
To say, to say to yourself
I walked with my son in the trees
Next to the river
Even though they looked forlorn
And he seemed bored

Poem 5:
I’ve made good at stopping friends
I mastered how to make them step away
Inch and inches farther from me
Once they did something I disliked
Call less
Decline once
Look that a way

Poem 6:
Who I saw in Goodwill today
Older couple speaking Spanish digging through plates of brown used china
Two teen brown haired boys with popped collars and skater shoes
A grandma with the old white woman’s afro sketching through sweaters
Pack of high school girls giggle gazing at dresses and gowns
Middle aged woman who talked to the cashier in a voice
Sounded as though she hadn’t spoken to anyone else today.
I don’t belong here with my money.

Poem 7:
Nothing sounded good
No food
Upset at myself
Won’t eat at myself

Poem 8:
If I wore a pink sparkly ball gown
Into the halls of government
To proclaim we’re all beautiful
And dusted passerbys with fairy magic dust glitter
It would be fun.
Let me go insane
So I can have fun.

Poem 9:
Well if my opinion doesn’t matter
Then I won’t say anything at all.
His retort to losing an argument.
Self-deprecation at your hands.
Cannot change course to cope
With a varying mood from another
All must deal with him.

Poem 10:
It wasn’t even to the point
Where I remember what I did.
Only that he told me.
You’re the reason I went back to smoking.
Being the first time I’d heard that phrase
I took it for true.
Fault, mine, responsible to accept it.