Yes, I know, it’s been a couple of weeks. Forgive me, I sorta went off the grid over the holidays and have been a bit reluctant at rejoining society. You know how society is, there are large swaths of it that can be less than appealing; segments that make you cringe and look away; individuals so cold-hearted, selfish, and deluded they render BSC reasonable. Given that state of society, why rush, right?
Speaking of society, guess what I got for Christmas (for my writing students: that’s called a weak segue). I got an eighteen year old, five foot two, ninety-five pound bundle of estrogen and various other hormones, emotions, and hot-water-draining energy. My wife and I have a son, a thirty year old son. So, it’s been a while since we’ve done the whole teenager-in-the-house thing. Equal emphasis on the son part. Trust me, I was, and still am, ill-equipped to be the responsible party when it comes to kids of any age, let alone teenagers. And when the new houseguest is a female teenager? Let’s just say it’s been a learning experience so far.
Now, at this point you may be wondering exactly how it is we ended up with an eighteen year old female living with us. On one hand, it’s the proverbial long story. On the other hand, if I told you the details, you’d never believe them. On yet another hand (look, if you did know all the details, three hands would not only seem plausible, but normal), refer to my previous comment about the unappealing aspects of society and you’ll have a good enough idea of the why and how.
Whatever the reason (my suspicion is that karma is somehow involved), our new addition arrived a few weeks before Christmas. At first, the typical welcomed house guest aura settled over us. You know how it works: the towels are here, glasses here, computer’s in here, I’m up around 5:30, Terri rises at the elegant hour of eight, sometimes nine, occasionally ten, do you eat breakfast, let us know if you need anything else. Good night. Wait. I remembered eighteen. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and didn’t say anything more, but made a precautionary count of my beers and eye-balled the liquor levels.
After a couple of weeks, the welcomed house guest aura morphed into something akin to an extended distant-relative stay. Technically, this aesthetic rang true, as our new bundle of teenage joy and my wife are related. This phase didn’t last long. It ended abruptly on a late Saturday afternoon. Our new house guest had plans, as did Terri and I. Everybody needed a shower.
Normally, I don’t give much thought to taking a shower. For the past ten years or so, I knew that when Terri showered first, there’d be plenty of re-heated hot water by the time she finished her post shower extra-curriculars (exfoliating, extrapolating, applying creams, gels, and ointments, reading War and Peace, whatever women normally do in the process of “getting ready”). Even though I majored in English, I can do basic math. And I do teach logic in my comp courses. You’d think I’d have said, “Hey, there are two women in the house. One of those is a teenager with a date. Logic dictates multiplying the hot water usage by two and doubling the re-heating time.” One also would think this simple matter would’ve crossed my mind before the water temperature sent me to the verge of hypothermia, but no. I’m convinced the only thing that saved me from frostbite was the fact that all appendages and extremities somehow, miraculously retracted inside my body before the glacial liquid took its toll.
At this point, to reference the Bard, the gild was off the lily.
I’m not that bright, but I catch on quickly. It takes some planning as far as the rest of your day, but a hot shower around 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon is worth the sacrifices. That’s not all I’ve learned. In a little over a month, month and a half, we’ve been through boyfriend drama, boyfriend breakup, boyfriend reuniting, then breakup number two. They didn’t tell me about the second one for a couple of days. I liked the guy. Yes, I was hurt a little. Oh, and the new “they.” I’d forgotten that with Taylor, me and him were the “they.” Now, I’m outnumbered by the additional X chromosomes in the house. They’re plotting, I can feel it.
There’s a lot of gleeful squealing during phone conversations, a lot more talking in general. Terri and I had settled into old-couple-in-a-restaurant mode, able to have full and enriching conversations consisting of grunts, nods, facial contortions and nothing more. Now, it’s like, using words and all, like, to talk and stuff, like, you know? On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve discovered there’s a certain exhilaration, a sense of adventure even, when it comes to navigating rapidly changing moods.
I’m settling in, though, acclimating, so to speak. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve come downstairs to find flames leaping from the stove burner covers and the ensuing smell has nearly dissipated. I’ve accepted that a teenage girl’s bathroom, unlike the previous “male teenager” experience of one washcloth and one towel for weeks on end, is filled with many, many things that are apparently critical to said species’ day-to-day existence. I’m at peace knowing that I understand even less about teenage girls than I do women of my own age.
And you know what? That’s okay. It’s more than okay. Baby Girl—yes, she already has a nickname—makes me smile. She makes me laugh, too. We’re bonding—she doesn’t like Beiber anymore than I do. I find myself worrying about her, hoping she has a good day, hoping she finds kindness and compassion, hoping she stops, breathes in—breathes out, and appreciates the beauty and joy in the world around her even when it’s sometimes hard to see it, even when society tries to blot it from her sight. Yeah, maybe this crusty old hippie has a soft spot, but it doesn’t really feel like an extended distant-relative stay at our house anymore. Feels more like family. Feels like a pretty good Christmas present.