Friday, July 8, 2011


Eleven started off with a bang. Three days into eleven, I dug a tube of what looked like pale pink lip gloss out of my Christmas stocking and ran eagerly to a mirror to apply it. To my horror, the gloss was colorless, and I ran just as quickly back to the room where my mother was sitting, happily watching the children playing with their loot.

"It's clear!" I shouted, and flung the offending cosmetic at my startled mother.

At eleven, I had all of the neediness and lack of self-control that I'd had at ten, but also had the firm conviction that I was now a grown-up and should be respected. At eleven, I was furious at Miss Joy for talking baby-talk to us at Vacation Bible School, and for expecting us to call her something as babyish as Miss Joy. At eleven, I grew five inches and found that my hips suddenly banged into doorknobs. At eleven, I woke up one morning to find that the shoes that had fit the previous day were now a full size too small.

My mother checked a book out from the Bryan College library. It was a book on puberty, published in the 1970s. The opening chapter introduced a classroom of well-behaved children who asked their biology teacher conveniently leading questions. One day, the children arrived at school to find that their hamster, which had given birth the previous day, was now alone in her cage. The teacher explained that sometimes first-time parents, too young to emotionally handle giving birth, will devour their offspring.

I didn't finish the book.

At eleven, I waited at home for my mother to return from an emergency trip to Eckerd. She walked awkwardly into the house, half a dozen plastic bags stuffed with hygiene products radiating out from her like a lumpy tutu.

"This is so cool!" she said, letting the bags tumble to the floor. "They didn't make anything like this when I was your age. There were so many options that I kind of panicked and bought one of everything." (This stash lasted the seven years until I left for college.)

At eleven, I sat down to watch a VHS tape of Star Trek and realized that it had a plot and that I understood the plot. I proceeded to watch every video in the house over the next several months, marvelling at how the stories that had once appeared as a sequence of random events now made sense. It was like finding a new favorite movie inside each old one. (This doesn't explain how most TV programming aimed at adults gets away with being as pointless as the programming aimed at kids.)

At eleven, none of the boys were five foot six, and so one day I cornered-- me, cornered-- Gerry Woodworth in the church library and told him to quit picking on my little brother. And he did. The power!

At eleven, I knew that I was going to be single my whole life and that I'd become a famous children's book illustrator and that I'd adopt a baby girl from China someday. I was blissfully unaware of the horrors of orthodontics lurking just a few months away, and I expected that any day now the adults around me would recognize that I was one of them and would start treating me with a little respect. 

Eleven was growing pains in the middle of the night and four helpings of Thanksgiving dinner to fund an overtaxed metabolism. Eleven was most of the bad things about younger and a preview of the bad things about older. Eleven was rude and demanding and swelling with more confidence than any other age could muster, in order to survive the sudden transition from one form of person into another.

Thank God it only lasted a year.

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