“Like a teenage girl” is not an insult.

I’ve abandoned this blog for the better part of a year and a half. I’ve been saying for at least a couple of months now that I’d like to dive back into it, and right now– I’m angry, I’ve been angry for a long time, and I’m at the righteous stage of angry, which at least tends to lend itself more to coherency that hulk keysmashing, so. Why not?

When I was 16, I took a lot of pride in not being “like the other girls.” I didn’t listen to pop music, really–I traded my pre-adolescent self’s devotion to Britney Spears with a lot of really deep, angry journaling to Brand New and Dashboard Confessional, because I had feelings. I read Salinger and Hemingway and honestly thought I was Rory Gilmore. I developed a super quirky affinity for cult-favorite flopped musicals (does anyone still remember Glory Days? Because I still really want to talk about Glory Days). I literally have a journal entry from 10th grade that says “I’m probably the only girl in this school with 80s rock on her cd player instead of top 40 pop.” I wasn’t really a teenage girl, you know?

24-year-old me knows every word to Miley Cyrus’ new single, cries over especially poignant contemporary young adult romance novels, and owns One Direction toothpaste (no, it does NOT taste like bubblegum, and yes, I’m incredibly sad about the wasted self-referential opportunity). And 24-year-old me’s pretty embarrassed for her teenage self.

There is nothing wrong with what I loved when I was a teenager. I was passionate about it. I cared. It was genuine. And there was nothing wrong with it. I manic pixie dream girled through my adolescence, and the only thing I really regret is my attitude. My interests aren’t what embarrasses me, looking back. My superiority complex does. What I loved did not make me superior to my peers. It did not make me inferior. It was just what I was into. And that–that unabashed, unbridled enthusiasm– that should be cool all on it’s own.

“Like a teenage girl” has too long been used to describe a thing you don’t want to admit you like, or to write off enthusiasm as something shameful, or to insult someone for a behavior or interest you find negative–regardless of whether it objectively can be considered negative. And I want to know why. What is about teenage girls and their myriad of interests– yes, even their stereotypical ones that our society’s unrelenting marketing push sold to them–, and myriad of reactions and behaviors is so much more abhorrent and repulsive than any other group on the planet that it’s a defacto insult to be compared to them?

Yes, social media has made it scarily easy for young girls to hide behind their computers and relative anonymity and hurl incredibly vile insults at anyone who dares to make a snide remark about Justin Bieber. That’s mean. Being mean is not okay. But teenage girls did not invent being a reprehensible jerk on the internet, and they certainly don’t have a monopoly on it. It’s just what we choose to respond to, to call out and gawk at like they’re exotically hysterically half-woman creatures in a zoo. Teenage girls can certainly be gross. They definitely are, and I’m never ever ever going to condone that. But people are capable of being gross. It’s something that should be called out for what it is– mean. Not a characteristic of an entire demographic.

What else are we so pressed about when it comes to teenage girls? Screaming enthusiastically at concerts? Concerts are loud and it’s okay to be excited for an artist you really love. That’s a weak insult, get over it. Crying, over-the-top reactions if Harry Styles deigns to tweet them? Please give me an actual reason for why the way another person expresses their enthusiasm embarrasses them and concerns you. What’s actually wrong here? What are they actually doing that’s causing this knee jerk reaction against them?

Our society markets certain types of music, clothing, books, films, etc, to teenage girls. They’re bombarded with it. And it’s pretty insulting to say ‘hey, you’re fourteen, you’re female, you’re going to like x, y, and z.” But it’s also pretty insulting to sell these things to their demographic and turn around and collectively mock them for it. And I’m so mad.

Teenage girls behave a lot of ways, good and bad and subjective. Teenage girls like a myriad of things–popular and unpopular, with great elements and problematic ones. Teenage girls are just as varied as every other group of people on the planet. Because that’s what they are. People.

Stop putting a target on their backs. Stop dismissing legitimately mean and problematic behavior as rabid teenage insanity. Stop dismissing what someone loves just because it’s marketed to them– or isn’t marketed to them. Stop deciding a collective is wrong and think about why you think it’s wrong. Are they expressing themselves in a reprehensible way for a human as a part of society? Or do you just not think they’re very cool?

Get off of my lawn, YA Lit!: a rant

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(The following post has slight spoilers for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Nothing too revealing, but if you know literally nothing and want to remain knowing literally nothing, skip this.)
Seriously though read this. I cried. Seriously,
Story time: Out of the 18 seniors in my English Literature graduating class, 6 of us did our senior theses on YA lit topics. Our professor tried to dissuade those of us who weren’t planning on going into education from doing those topics, and to consider something “more literary.” She flat out told us she didn’t see much merit in it. My own research discussed how subtext effectively functions for adult readers of The Hunger Games, which sort by nature goes against her point, but I swear I came up with that before she was telling me and my classmates that we should do our papers on Caribbean literature instead.
(I should also say I had another professor who used Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian for our Native American literature class, and it was probably the most effective book we read—not because we weren’t capable of digesting the denser texts, we were, but because even though we’re a bit older than the target demo, it still had and honest, blunt, engaging, funny voice. Never underestimate the power of well-done bluntly honest humor. More on that later.)
As someone who is no longer a teenager, but (I think) still qualifies as a “young adult,” as someone who reads a lot of YA books, as someone who attempts to write fiction for teens and young adults, let me just say that there are so many inherently problematic things with the criticisms of YA lit that actually have nothing to do with the actual books they’re supposedly critiquing. This actually is probably a set of many, many issues I have, rooted in various things I’ll probably go on about in the future, but for now I’ll start with the big one.
That was a really long, expository way of saying: here, have a rant.
So, I recently read John Green’s newest book, The Fault in Our Stars. I think it’s a brilliant book for many spoiler-laden reasons I won’t get into here, and I highly recommend it—it may be my favorite book of his. And I adore everything John Green writes—because John Green writes about incredibly smart teenagers being incredibly thoughtful about the same existential panic that much of culture seems to think is reserved for a mid-life crisis. I love John Green because a common (and utterly absurd, in my opinion) criticism of his books is that his characters are too smart: they use big, sprawling SAT words and memorize the last words of famous people and read a lot and celebrate metaphorical resonance.

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I could be the voice of my generation. Well, a voice. Of a generation.

I’m going to start this off with the sort of statement that’s really controversial on the Internet right now.

I kind of loved the pilot episode of HBO’s new semi-sort of-sitcom Girls.

This show centers around recent-ish female college graduates in a major city that is both terrifying and thrilling that they are both totally game for and totally unprepared for. These characters are me. I really, genuinely enjoyed the pilot because they dress like me, talk like me, use circular logic like me, whine and make poor decisions  just like me.

I also kind of really hated the pilot of Girls because these characters dress like me, talk like me, use circular logic like me, whine and make poor decisions just like me.

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Grasping for Adulthood

I did a myriad of things this weekend that I think sort of constitutes adulthood. Maybe.

1. I filled out paper to rent my very first post-graduation Big Girl Apartment in a Major City that is Not In My Homestate.

Not really adult: One of the deciding factors was that my building is the one closest to the laundry, so I only have to drag my stuff the shortest distance possible. Also I’m like five minutes from a Nordstrom. Love Nordstrom.

2. Bought Actual Kitchen Necessities for my Big Girl Kitchen where I will do Real Cooking that doesn’t involve prepackaged boxes. Also fell madly, irreversibly in love with Ikea. (I honestly don’t know how I’ve gone 22 and a half years of existence without setting food in this magical land of home goods but I never want to go back to that dark time.)

Not really adult: I bought things mainly based on how cute the colors were and where they would fit into my decorating theme of French-ish Hippie Meets Lots of DIY Crafting. Also complained about being too tall/old to go play in their magic forest kids thing. Also the highlight of highlights was the chocolate bar I bought. The three chocolate bars I bought.

3. A pre-ordered  copy of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which comes out today and is probably one of those books that will just make me want to give up because no other books have the right to even try to follow it, is sitting at my favorite indie book store with my name on it. As we were in another city and driving home, I couldn’t go pick it up and I DIDN’T hint/ask/borderline demand that my mother drive an extra half hour each downtown and back so I could get. This is the height of maturity, if you ask me.

Not really adult: I did, however, whine a little when the bookstore called me to let me know it was in. Actually, I whined a lot.

I’m trying, y’all. Baby steps.

(But seriously, I know I haven’t read TFIOS yet, but I probably highly recommend it. John Green is the epitome of what contemporary American literature should look like. That’s your PSA for the day.)