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A guy at the gym I work out at—a big, burly guy—came
into the weight room yesterday wearing an XXL blazingly yellow T-shirt that
announced, in 2-inch-high letters, SAVE THE DRAMA FOR YOUR MAMA. In between bench presses (him) and triceps
kickbacks (me), we shared stories about teen drama.
OK, I shared stories. He grunted and occasionally nodded with that particular combination of
pity and cluelessness that I see on my husband's face when I recount the
roller-coaster ride my daughter and I have been on through her teen years. This high-stakes drama began when she turned
10, signaling the end to that golden era, that magic first decade when mommy
is a saint and a genius, beautiful and beneficent, the font of everything cool
Since then, not so much. In the ensuing years, I have apparently become infinitely less saintly,
kinda' dumb and not at all cool. Since
then we have "issues." Since then, there
Lizzie can regale you with tales of the
drama inherent in a teen girl's life. Been there. Done that. Done with
that. Here I'm talking about the drama
of the mother-daughter relationship: that joyful, painful, hot, cold, ying,
yang, dizzying, tumultuous blend of intense bonding and icy distance, long hugs
and exasperated eye rolls, deeply shared moments and stone-cold silences,
glorious sun and ferocious storms. The
random acts of kindness. The random acts
This drama my daughter and I enact most
every day is an action-packed, dialog-rich story of conflict and emotion. It is loaded. It is fraught. Psychologists say the connection between a mother and a
daughter is the single most important relationship in a woman's life, the one
relationship that can affect every subsequent intimate bond in a young
woman's life. Yikes. No wonder it's so
much work. No wonder it's simultaneously
the best and the worst thing happening in my life.
My husband has a mystifyingly—and annoyingly—comfortable
relationship with my daughter. They
don’t fight. When he talks to her, his
words are all text, no subtext. Mine, on
the other hand, drip subtext. Sometimes they are all subtext. Here's how I
make sense of that: He doesn't see himself in her. He doesn't see his own
teenage years being played out in her life. He doesn't—can't—resonate to her issues. He sees her at a remove: a
girl. She is what she is. And she doesn't see herself in him. He is not her future. I, on the other hand, might be. I'm the
yardstick. I'm the one she needs to push
Of course she saves the drama for her mama.
It's about trying to make your life seem more interesting than maybe it is.
And now, a word from the teenage daughter:
I am so anti-drama. In middle school it was all about girls telling secrets and talking
about people behind their backs. You
know, hallway whispers and giggles. In
high school, it was all about, you guessed it, telling secrets and talking
about people behind their backs. Maybe
the topics changed. In middle school it
was gossiping about some girl's wardrobe "issues" or how she wore so much
makeup she looked like she could make a living on the streets. In high school it was about boys and who did
what (or didn't do what) with (to) whom. At parties, the drama-talk is about boys, generally bad boys and just
how bad they are, but also about school. (Like this: Oh my god. Like I stayed up till 4 studying for this exam. I'm
so gonna flunk this class if I don't pass the test.)
Just shut up already.
I mean there's a lot of talk but no one actually tries to
solve a problem. They're not interested
in solving a problem. They just want to
talk. And talk. I have this friend who constantly
complains about her slacker boyfriend, about how he misses classes and sleeps
all the time and doesn't pay attention to her. OK then, drop the dude. Move
on. Why are you still talking about it?
Oh, I know! Because
it makes for good drama. Here's what I
think is going on. All this drama is
about making yourself seem important or making someone else seem lame. It's about getting attention and making sure
the spotlight is on you. It's about
trying to make your life seem more interesting than maybe it is; taking a simple
problem and making it seem huge. About
This might sound like I just figured this out after all
these years, but actually I've felt like this since as long as I can
remember. I think that's why I've mostly
hung out with boys since middle school. They're just less dramatic with each other. They don't really talk about topics that lead
to drama. Instead they talk about video games or movies or music. They don't talk about themselves so much,
they talk about what they do. And guys
seem to be OK with silence, just sitting next to each other, controllers in
hand. Quiet. With girls there's never silence. I know this sounds like a stereotype. But, guess what? It's real.
My mom says that girls are the meanest they will ever be when
they're teenagers. I hope so. They make movies about this stuff, comedies,
but the mean girls thing is really not funny. My mom has some good female friends that she hangs out with. Maybe that will happen to me someday.