When I was a little girl, I’m pretty sure I was my girlfriends’ parents’ worst nightmare. I had a big, bold personality, I was attention-needy and theatrical, I was easily hyper and I loved soda and junk food. Sure, I had a good heart but that didn’t go very far if you were that parent who for the last time said NO to running through the sprinklers, because chances were when I was around, we did it anyway. I didn’t mind getting dirty or leaving things half played, and I really didn’t mind not cleaning up after myself. I was a picky eater, (for some reason I thought the color red was gross, so no ketchup or pasta sauce for me!) and my greatest dream was staying up ALL NIGHT at slumber parties.
I never looked before I leaped, and I would do anything, and I mean anything, to get a laugh from a gal pal.
I don’t know why I was like that. Perhaps it’s the aged old philosophy that the youngest in the family was goof ball, one that parents are more lax with when it came to discipline. Maybe it was because for a huge portion in my childhood all my friends were boys, my best friend being my neighbor Johnny. So, in that regard, I was a pretty run of the mill child when it came to being hyper and getting dirty with little dudes over little ladies. I didn’t start making close girl friends until I was in the double-digit zone, age: eleven, twelve and thirteen. Perhaps in regards to being a little girl, I had some catching up to do.
I didn’t consider myself a mean girl growing up. In high school I was wound a little tight because I put so much pressure on myself to succeed, but that’s a different beast than being a mean girl: that’s a high school nut job. When I was in the young tween age (a word, which by the way, that didn’t exist until I was in college. As far as I was concerned, I was never a tween. I went from kid to girl with period. End of story. Period. Period.) I don’t think I had to energy to be giggly, boisterous and mean all at once.
That isn’t to say I never did anything bad.
I still cringe at this story, which is perhaps why I feel the need to write about it today. Maybe it’s self-serving, to get it off my chest so I can feel better. Or maybe I’m hoping that if I just talked about it, I’d realize it wasn’t so bad after all. But honestly, in the end, it’s really just my attempt at an apology to no one in particular.
I want to set it straight that even nice, good-hearted (albeit obnoxious) girls like me had a few bad moments growing up. It’s an important lesson, I think. A reminder that we are not perfect, but also a reminder that we should always strive to be better, to be nicer even if we are already built that way.
I regret this story forever, as silly as it all may seem now.
Also, for the first time ever on this blog, I will be using fake names. Normally I just completely omit names if I want to keep the distance, but considering this is a tale from my childhood with all it’s childhoody details, it’s easier to use false-y names instead of playing the pronoun game. (She, He, They…)
Besides, it’s not really about the names in the story. Because this story is about no one in particular. It’s more a fable about looking before you leap. Even if you land safely, someone else surely won’t.
Seventh grade. Slumber Party at Joanna’s house. Eight girls were invited, and I was one of them. Joanna had all the classic fixings of sleep over perfection. A giant tent was set up in her backyard, and with it a long extension cord connecting the house to a tiny TV we placed in the corner of the tent to watch scary movies later. We had snacks and Surge (SURGE WAS MY CRACK) classic party games, and as the sun went down we even lit up a fire pit and roasted s’mores.
Then, in true girl party form, probably after discussing which twelve year old boy had the cutest butt in class but before discussing if we were actually going to watch Tremors (the movie we deemed scary at the time), we landed on a party favorite. PRANK CALLS.
I sometimes wonder in today’s day and age of smart phones and texting if prank calling even exists anymore. Back in the day, we knew all the tricks to blocking the number so even if someone had a new fangled caller ID (IT TELLS YOU WHO IS CALLING, TECHNOLOGY TO THE MAX!) they couldn’t track us. Pranks calls were both covert and exhilarating. There was a chance of getting in trouble, but the repercussions were small. Still, the majority of those at Joanna’s party were nice girls, fearful of trouble so we began to brainstorm numbers to call that wouldn’t wake parents at this late hour of probably 9:30PM at night.
Then we remembered a girl from our class had her own personal phone number. (The coolest of the cool things to have. How I longed for my own phone number so I could be like Claudia from Babysitters Club. I only had a cordless phone in my room, but it was the same number as my parents so totally not personal. LANDLINES, AM I RIGHT?) The lucky girl with her own personal number was named Tara, and I remember she was even close friends with some of the girls at the party. Chances are she wasn’t invited because Joanna’s tent could only fit eight girls and Tara would’ve been one too many. And maybe Joanna wasn’t great friends with Tara or something. Oh, who am I kidding! Tara wasn’t invited because she wasn’t invited, doesn’t matter the reason. And it doesn’t matter who was friends with her. Even years later I’m trying to justify our actions toward this girl from this night. The truth was, a girl our age had her own personal line and was not at the slumber party where a group of girls wanted to be giddy and prank call someone.
The first call to her number would’ve been just fine. A simple “Is your refrigerator running” and goodnight. But Tara didn’t pick up for us to drop the hilarious line. We sat squeamish as her sweet answering machine picked up “Hi this is Tara’s phone. Please leave a message.” (Yes, this girl had her own answering machine. So. Cool.) I, seeing this as a moment to get the group laugh that I always desired, grabbed the phone and in a funny voice left Tara a long ranted voicemail.
I really am digging back to remember what was said, but I can almost certainly vouch that what I said wasn’t mean. As stated before, I wasn’t a mean girl. I was a goof. I don’t think I had it in me to be verbally nasty at age 12 or 13 or however old I was at the time. I think I was just being silly.
But it wasn’t about what was said, it was the action that was nasty.
Because as the girls howled in laughter, it was decided that everyone wanted a go at this hilarious “prank call” to Tara’s answering machine.
Thinking we were so smooth by blocking Joanna’s home phone number, we proceeded to call Tara’s personal line and leave voicemails seven or eight time sine a row. It was a mixture of us a) being fearful to call other people, b) too naïve to be more original than doing the same joke over and over again and c) not looking before we leapt. Each time we dialed, we spent the calls talking to each other and passing the phone around, doing bits and making funny noises. And with me enjoying the run of classic comedy characters I was impersonating, I am certain my voice landed on every single message.
After all our “pranking” was done, we shit our pants watching Tremors and fell asleep in sleeping bags and smelling of popcorn seasonings.
The next day we didn’t think twice about pranking Tara. It was just as wholesome as the Mickey Mouse pancakes we ate that morning. It didn’t come from a place of ill feelings toward Tara, at least not from me. It came from a place of antics, the silly things you do late at night when you’re a kid.
Then the next day my mother came to get me at a friend’s house, looking more angry at me than I think she had ever looked at me before.
And for the first time, I got the view from Tara’s perspective. Her mom had called my mom because, no, we did not successfully block Joanna’s parents number from the caller ID, and after calling Joanna’s mom, Tara’s mom got a list of every girl at that party and proceeded to call every parent. As she should have. I would have if this had happened to my daughter. (Though again, do prank calls happen today?)
Can you imagine being twelve years old and having you own personal number filled with silly messages from a group of girls from school who were all at a party, a party that you weren’t invited to? Maybe you were excited to give out your own personal number to people, because it was a cool thing to have, only to have girls prank call you late on a Saturday night. Maybe you were there, not answering, hearing them as they happened. Or maybe you weren’t there, but heard it the next day after the fact. Both would be awful experiences. I couldn’t imagine. When you are that age, you are wreaking of insecurity as it is. All you want at the time is to belong, and probably a greatest fear would be to discover that you were somehow the butt of a joke at a party you didn’t even get invited to. My soul hurts as I write this because I remembered how it felt to feel like an outcast. It took a while for me to get girlfriends, remember? And I knew the stares I got from parents when I was invited over. Heck to this day I am certain parents of old friends think of me in terms of an eye roll. I remember wondering why no one would ask me to the dances in high school, unaware that my Type-A personality and tiny boobs were probably a massive turn off to boys who probably just wanted girls to stop talking and have sex with them already. I remember being dumped in sixth grade by a boy who told people I forced him to kiss me at a make-out party. And I remember said make-out party, a party that was one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life because, quite frankly, I didn’t know what to do. I remember crying about that whole series of events for a long time. To be the butt of the joke because you’re simply growing up, Jesus, it hurts.
Humiliation is a feeling you never forget.
And I was part of the group that humiliated Tara that night. And all I can say, after all these years, is I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to humiliate her. I just wanted to fit in myself. I just wanted to make the girls laugh with my theatrics, funny voices, and take no prisoners front. I wasn’t thinking about hurting someone’s feelings, or making someone feel small, or hurting someone like I had been the year before from the make-out party, or the years later when I didn’t know where to stand during passing periods at my high school.
Childhood is a big mess of angsty hurtful times. I remember my mom scolding me, I remember the veiled threat that Tara’s mom was going to call the police and press charges of harassment, I remember calling Tara personally to apologize, and I remember her accepting it, even though I could tell she felt it was a forced apology. Tara, if you ever come across this blog, I promise you, it wasn’t.
I think I hung out with Tara after that even. We had a few extra curricular activities together, and I remember most of the girls at that particular party felt extra bad as well and we spent the rest of the year being extra nice to her because we couldn’t believe what we had done, that we were in fact mean girls for one night. Or maybe some didn’t care, but were just extra nice so they didn’t get in trouble again, but I hope that’s not the case.
We signed each other’s yearbooks, started shaving our legs and moved on. After all, we still had high school to endure. And our first significant death.Our first true love. Our first year of college. Our first brush with adulthood.
The fact of the matter is, there was more pain to be had. More scarring events to go through. I certainly got mine, so if Tara ever wondered if karma was true, for me it was. I was teased probably on through to college. I didn’t get pranked called or anything like that, instead I was called a bitch straight to my face, and cheated on, and dumped more times than I can count.
I always wondered what happened to Tara. I thought about emailing her sometime, but found she was no longer on Facebook, basically my only contact with my former high school world. (Same goes with my old high school sweetheart and a friend I had a falling out with. Tell me, do all people that I think hate me stay hidden from me on Facebook?) I think she went to school out of state where she rocked college and probably landed a job she is super good at and got married to a handsome dude and is very happy.
Who knows? Maybe she forgot about that night of silly prank calls. I hope so. And if not, I hope she knows that even more than fifteen years later, this older obnoxious, theatrical, funny girl, is now a comedy writer in LA and is still sincerely sorry.
Okay, I feel better now.
That’s my fable. And if I were to give young girls any advice. It would be this:
a) Don’t be a mean girl.
b) Look before you leap, otherwise you can be a mean girl.
c) Don’t worry so much if parents dread you coming over. Surge doesn’t exist anymore so you have nothing to worry about.
– One L
“Be kind. Rewind.” – The profound philosophy of the VHS tape.
One thought on “Surge, Slumber Parties, and Humiliation”
Great story, nice advice, good person, talented daughter!