This Is Thirteen

Thirteen has a small cozy room that you love, with its twinkling lights, its huge posters, and its scented candles. Unfortunately, Thirteen’s door is often closed, which is how she likes it. Thirteen reminds you a bit of yourself at that age, and when her bedroom door slams, you find yourself marveling at this more than anything else.

Thirteen takes showers that go on forever. This is because of her hair, which apparently needs a lot of conditioning, which she thinks is probably because of the terrible haircut she got at the place where the stylist tried to give her side bangs. Which is completely your fault. “Do you think you’re going to be out anytime soon?” you ask outside the bathroom door. “Do you think you could stop talking to me so condescendingly?” Thirteen answers. And instead of saying anything back, you smile to yourself at her perfect imitation of you and her excellent vocabulary choice.

Thirteen stays up way later than you do each night (maybe midnight? you don’t want to know) and sleeps until nearly noon on the weekends. You almost forget she is home until she wanders sleepily out of her room. “Why is there never anything for breakfast?” she demands, even though there is plenty of breakfast food. It appears that she is grumpy.

Thirteen actually has two settings: giddy and grumpy. The simplest things make her giddy (buying her a plain bagel, talking about Sherlock episodes) but the simplest things also make her grumpy (eating dinner, the couch). You are never quite sure which it will be, and if giddy makes you a little bit confused at times (so giddy) you will take it anytime over grumpy, which casts a dark shadow over everything and everyone. Weren’t you just like this? Of course you were.

Thirteen has a curvy woman’s body that seemed to appear overnight. You can kind of handle it now. She wears flannel shirts over tank tops and skinny jeans. Also Converse low-tops, which breaks your heart literally every time you see them. You take Thirteen clothes shopping and, though you have to wait about a million hours while she tries on the same three shirts, she is ultimately giddy with all the purchases. She wears her new clothes to school the next day and you make sure to compliment her. She really does look great in them. In about a month, she will hate every item of clothing she owns.

Thirteen has a device that is either in the back pocket of her jeans or in her hands; that is all. Sometimes she looks at this device and starts laughing. When you ask what is so funny, she says, “Nothing.” You almost believe that this is true. Once you suggest that actually you are pretty cool. Thirteen smiles at you quizzically and says, “O…kay.”

One time you show Thirteen and your younger daughter what is possibly your favorite thing on the Internet and Thirteen literally falls onto the floor from laughing so hard. Tears are pouring out of her eyes. Your younger daughter says, “I kind of get why it’s funny, but I don’t see why it’s so funny.” She’s not there yet.

But Thirteen is there. She has remarkable moments of clarity and wisdom. She makes pancakes that are much better than yours because she takes the time to let the griddle get hot before pouring on the batter. She reads your favorite Kurt Vonnegut book and loves it. She draws a chart of all the cliques in her grade and gives each clique a hilarious name. She tells you she wants to do something important.

And you look at Thirteen sometimes, you squint really, and try to see the tiny girl face in her adolescent face, and for a moment you almost catch it, usually when she is laughing. Other times you look at Thirteen and see the woman she is becoming, right in that same face, and you feel astonished. And scared. And thrilled. Mostly thrilled.


5 thoughts on “This Is Thirteen

  1. This makes me weep. Yes, yes, yes. In my 12 year old I see the baby she was and the woman she’s becoming at breathtaking speed. It’s all so heartbreaking, all of it – and joyful of course, but it’s the heartbreak that has surprised me the most about this parenting thing. xox

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