Because my novel
is told from the point of view of a twelve-year-old girl, I've been getting a lot of questions lately about my own adolescence. And while I'd truly prefer to not think much about it now that it's over, I suppose it can't hurt to make a few comparisons. The truth is that very little of the book is autobiographical. I didn't grow up on a ranch, didn't have sister, didn't have a mother who never got out of bed.
Still, I had my dramas. Maybe I didn't have it as hard as my narrator, Alice. At twelve, she is dealing with poverty, isolation, abandonment, guilt. At twelve, I was dealing with gym class. Not exactly the stuff of great literature, I know. But trust me when I say that it was deeply unpleasant.
It has been the bane of my entire existence that I am not athletic. If it involves strength, speed, coordination, or throwing/kicking/hitting-with-a-stick some type of ball, I can't do it. You should try harder, you might be thinking. Well I have. And trust me, I can't.
(Just so you don't think that I am entirely inept in the physical-ability department, I must point out that I have a savant-like aptitude for the following assortment of unlikely activities: ping-pong, kite-flying, Dance Dance Revolution, and candlepin bowling. I'm not kidding. If you could see the way I took to each of these, you'd suspect me of being a prodigy.)
Sadly, these things count for nada in the average seventh grade gym class. I don't know if these eagerly repressed years flash vivid in your mind, so let me take you back to seventh grade: Everyone cool is good at gym. Everyone.
Here is me in seventh grade: tripping, falling, getting hit in the face with a volleyball. All year long, I prayed for the dance unit, mostly because it was far less traumatic than units like "football," "gymnastics," and "running-the-mile." Also, it came with the added bonus of not requiring me to change clothes in front of my classmates.
Thinking back on it, I can't really say that the dance unit did much to enhance my life in any significant way. Let's just say that if I'm ever at a party where people suddenly break into the Virginia Reel, I'll know what to do.
My point, though I'm being slow in making it, is that even the easiest adolescence is pretty wretched. I had a good home life, friends I liked, teachers who were, for the most part, pretty nice to me. But I was still miserable. School was awful. The boys were mean and the girls were meaner. I was shy and awkward and couldn't do pull-ups. Also, I thought I looked really good in neon pink.
So for all those wondering about my adolescence, there you go. It sucked. Then it was over. Let us never speak of it again.