Because I am only seventeen and a half years older than the eldest step-daughter, the line between us is a bit blurred. As a step-mother, this is somewhat of a dubious honor. They girls tell me everything and will say anything. And constantly. Last night, I found a split second of privacy to sit on the front porch and regroup from the shock of—well, the memory of myself at the age of twenty or so. I sent my husband a text message which played on a favorite quote from The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain: The creatures… they won’t stop talking.
My husband’s girls had a friend over, so the gossip and analyzing taking place was multiplied by three. The stories exchanged were so funny that I could not have paid to hear a comedian entertain me so well. On occasion, I was slightly marked with horror about how open they were, down to choice of language even, but as I told my husband later, getting to really see how they were living their lives was a kind of gift. Receiving the girls with grace and humor is my gift in return.
The friend told a story about how a young male acquaintance of hers had too much to imbibe and had boldly asked her mother, “So, what do you think about premarital sex?” (I love this question. It’s as if once we age we are the poster children for abstinence or worse yet, chastity.)
“Well,” said the woman carefully, “it has its places.”
At this point, I said, “Its places?? Like in the back seat?”
Earlier, we had a rather enlightening discussion about piercing. These days, the trend among college age youth is to pierce anything that counts as yielding flesh. The ladies knew well which parts of the body healed the fastest, the likelihood of nose piercings to close overnight should a stud fall out, appropriate sanitary procedures for the initial professional piercing, and the funny name for that part of the ear behind the cheekbone and below the hairline. This was all news to me. I wished for a pen to write it all down. We discussed why one should not pierce genitalia—the mere thought of which makes me want to run around with hands over my own in protection, but the best part of the conversation was the curious note that nose piercings can catch onto other things when a couple is making out, thus making for quite a tense and awkward moment as fabric, the other person’s nostril, whatever, is extracted so the session can resume.
Oh, the places they go. They things they do. What they say. At one point this week, the eldest girl told me about a certain bar fight, the resulting drama, and ensuing comedy. I looked at her, took a breath and offered gently that one day, these things would not be part of her life at all—that the environment in which these things occurred, the people or their strange, hormonal, and unpredictable behaviors would be absent from her life. This would be a good thing, I offered.
“This stuff, “ I said laughing as I drew a circular motion in the air, “is not even remotely in my world.”
Ah, youth. Watching the girls pal around and giggle is refreshing. I have a full reminder of my youth and a glimpse into my children’s. Parents should never be so foolish as to forget their own comedic entrance into young adulthood, nor should they aspire to entirely prevent poor choices (or bizarre ones) from taking place. It’s how we learned. And frankly, years later, it makes for wonderful writing.