I Refuse to Call This “Sweet Sixteen”

Although I was. Sweet, that is. Innocent, really. Had never been kissed, until my sixteenth birthday. Really.

My mother had given me a pamphlet called “What Every Girl Should Know,” a kind of watered-down version of the facts of life. We had never had “the talk.” My grandmother told me to “keep my skirts down” (she told me that after I divorced at forty, too). About this time, a girlfriend and I took one of her father’s medical textbooks down from the shelf one day and greedily read the facts. I was partly astonished, partly appalled. And during my junior year, this year called sixteen, another friend dropped out of school, pregnant. She would never go back.

Meanwhile, I went on my merry little innocent but angst-ridden way.

This diary should be burned.  It’s solid evidence that I must have been the silliest sixteen-year-old who ever lived.

Diary. To be burned.

I was silly-sick in love with a boy who knew I had a crush on him, and he played me like crazy.  He would put the word out that he was going to ask me for a date for something big–like the Junior-Senior Banquet–and then he’d wait until the very last minute to ask. I was oohing and ahhing and Dear Diary-ing, page after page about how he called or he didn’t call. Meanwhile, I seemed to be having a pretty good time! I had great girlfriends, although my best friend would move away at the end of that school year, and I would never see her again. I was dating at least one other boy, and there was a lot of driving around in cars and meeting up with boys at the Dairy Bar and going to movies and meeting up with boys there.

But this one boy who mattered to me more than the others–he could be loving one day and cruel the next. Looking back, I believe he introduced me to emotional abuse, only I didn’t know what to call it. It was good practice for later, I suppose. If I had understood it better, I would have realized that I was pretty and smart and talented, and he was good looking and not smart and very insecure. The only way he could be with me was to put me down. Sad, isn’t it, that I took that for two years. In my defense, I was only sixteen, and back then, sixteen was very young.

Here’s a quote from the diary: I will never understand boys or men! That about says it, doesn’t it?

Tell-tale words

When you close your eyes and look at your young self, what do you see? 

16 thoughts on “I Refuse to Call This “Sweet Sixteen”

  1. Gerry, I too kept a diary – beginning at age 13. And it began with a crush on a boy a year ahead of me in school. I’ve been writing ever since, but when I have re-read the early journals, it hardly seems possible that silly, boy-crazy girl could have been me!


  2. You know what? When I was a very young adult, I did stumble across my diary from my early diary-keeping days and I did destroy it. Too bad, because it would have been fun to read to put me in the mindset of MG/YA for my stories! I think I thought I had grown beyond all the stuff that preoccupied me back then, but you never do. Those same topics: boys, acceptance, friendships, rule our lives. We never outgrow it!


  3. It’s so fantastic that you kept a diary. I didn’t, but my children kept travel diaries since they were 9 or so. Treasures to look back on. Boys! I don’t think any of us can figure them out. Do you wonder what ever became of the people we used to be so close to? Sometimes I do.


    • Veronica, I’m catching up on comments, and I’d missed this one somehow. Yes, I do wonder about people tucked away in the past. Some of them I know about. Some I’ve reconnected with through Facebook. I lost contact with the high school boyfriend, though, and learned of his death a couple of years ago. I wonder if he ever got over being angry with me. Long ago, someone told me that the day I married, he rode up and down the street past the reception hall. Sad.


      • Aw, sad. I wonder too, and, I always remember this: somewhere I heard that people come into your life and then it’s time for them to go and you just have to let them go. It’s like a plumber comes to fix your pipes and when he’s finished the job you don’t say, “stay, there must be more pipes here”. I try to remember that. (No worry about not replying Gerry, life is fast like that, completely understand.) 🙂


      • Sometimes don’t we feel like “there are more pipes,” though? I love that analogy. Yes, people come and go. It’s sad when they go and we have regrets. Not so much when we’re able to let them go.


  4. I hope you still laugh at your grandma’s advice, and the fact that she said the same thing to you after your divorce!

    Glad to hear you had so many GREAT things going on when you were 16, like good friends, other guys to date, and a diary for keeping track of everything.


    • Thanks, Emily. The diaries (there are two of them) really should be destroyed. Not that I ever did anything terrible; they’re just embarrassing because I was so immature. But that’s why we have to grow up, I guess (most of us, at least).


  5. Aw, Gerry, I hope you’re not too hard on that girl. What did she know? I cringe when I think of my puberty-immersed self. I cringe when I think of most of my past, actually. Last Tuesday makes me cringe.


  6. I was so innocent, too. I’d forgotten until I was reading my diary for this challenge that I had really confusing signals from a guy — a couple of really nice presents that weren’t followed up by dates that I expected and would have appreciated more than the gifts. Even now, that strikes me as so odd.


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