As an 11 year old girl living in Homewood, AL during the summer of 1978, I loved things like: football, baseball, riding bikes, skate boarding and boys – especially older boys. I lived in a neighborhood where there were a couple of other kids that were my age and several boys that were 4-5+ years older than us. They all rode motorcycles and seemed like “men of the world” to me. I was fascinated with them, and completely frustrated with the fact that the females they would talk about or go out with, were high school girls who were apparently way cooler than 11 year olds recently out of 6th grade. I can recall during this time, that one of the most pervasive thoughts in my mind quite regularly was, “I wish I was 16! If I was, I could drive a car, be cool and I bet I could even have a real boyfriend!”
Never one to accept defeat, I kept my eyes open and my mind engaged upon thoughts of how I could overcome this frustratingly obnoxious hurdle of being 11. Deep down I truly believed that there simply MUST be a way to usurp the 5 year gap, so that I would in fact NOT have to endure being viewed as an “immature little girl”, but rather as an attractive teenage version of Farrah Fawcett! My sister, who happened to be 16, seemed SO mature and SO together to me. Everything about her life as I saw it was completely cool and exactly what I wanted! The way she made her hair look with her curling iron – cool! The clothes she wore and how they looked on her – cool! Her makeup kits, brushes and how she applied them – SO cool! The way she read Seventeen, Glamor and Cosmopolitan Magazines – BEYOND cool! But above all other forms of coolness, was that she had a bikini, Candies high heel shoes AND sunglasses! I would watch her day in and day out; fueling my resolve that somehow I indeed COULD find a way to pull this off!
One day, as I watched her leaving the house, with her pool bag containing her beach towel, Coppertone lotion and magazines in hand, make up and sunglasses on, with her Candies that had the small sparkling clear rhinestones, topping it off with a really cool turquois terry cloth bathing suit cover – it hit me…THAT IS IT! All I need to do is LOOK LIKE HER! At that moment my plan began coming together: I would have to wait for a day that my sister was gone and take her pool attire and accessories. I could wear make-up like her, dress like her, go to the pool and FOR SURE, everyone would think I was sixteen! I don’t know how long I spent planning and waiting for the chance to arise…certainly more than a week and possibly even multiple weeks, but finally a knock came upon the door of opportunity and I was there to answer it! My sister was gone, my parents were out and so I grabbed everything I needed:
Electric blue eyeshadow – check! Red cream stick blusher – check! Candies – check! Bikini – check! Bathing suit cover – CHECK! Pool bag and all needed items INCLUDING magazines – CHECK! I went to a neighborhood pool and got ready in the bathroom, including “tissue stuffing” in an effort to pull off the look on my little plum shaped body, with wobbly ankles, as I attempted for the first time to walk in heels. Taking a deep breath I made my way to the pool, prepared to AMAZE the older boys with how very cool and glamorous I actually was. Sadly, I wasn’t on the landing beside the pool more than a few minutes at the most, before I felt myself being hurled into the water. As my head went below the surface, I wished with all I had that THIS moment was just a bad dream…but unable to “wake up” or stay under…I slowly returned to the surface, horrified to find the “stuffing” floating all around me, as mascara ran down my face. I retrieved everything and made my way out of the pool amidst what seemed unrelenting laughter from the boys I’d hoped to impress. Needless to say, that was the last time this particular attempt was made on my part…well, at least to such a grand extreme.
But how often do we do this in our lives? Like, beginning a new job with a belief that the best way to fit in and do well is to behave as if you’ve been there much longer or know much more than you actually do – only to have it backfire by either messing up in your work or worse yet, having your co-workers view these attempts as “arrogance” on your part. Perhaps it is meeting someone new and after only a short time into the relationship, desiring to get past the awkward newness, by attempting to behave as if it’s been much longer, ultimately making a commitment without really knowing what you were getting into.
In my life, as a very new person to recovery, I would listen to the “old timers” who seemed so wise and spoke so well – leading me to try and emulate them, rather than taking the time to do the work that leads to possessing that kind of wisdom…only to end up in relapse with pie on my face. Indeed, I came to learn the unavoidable truth is that when you are 11…you will simply have to LIVE five more years before you’ll truly be 16.
©2015 Rebecca Balko