Saturday, July 13, 2013

The myth of carefree youth

PICTURES OF THE PAST; The photo on the very left depicts me in my favorite (at the time) outfit. An ill-fitting size large Hollister tee and size 10 adult Abercrombie jeans, circa 2005. The top right was my attempt at a sexy pirate halloween costume in 8th grade. I had a huge crush on the boy in the photo, but he was in love with my best friend in the middle. The bottom right photo is from the 8th grade dance. I didn't have a date, but I had a designer dress just like the cool girls. 

As I sit alone with my green tea and LSAT study materials in the Starbucks of my hometown, I cannot help but precariously sneak glances at a group of young teenage girls huddled in front of me. The logic problems I am attempting to solve are making me want to run out of the coffee shop crying, and I begin to fill with the greenest of envy as I long to be fifteen and free of any and all responsibility again. If I don't score high enough on this test, my entire future will be compromised. If they aren't home in time for dinner, they may lose their cell phone privileges. (Oh the horror)
At closer glance, however, I begin to notice many of the familiar markings of what it is like to be fifteen. All three of the girls are adorned in head to toe Abercrombie and Hollister, down to their barely walked in flip-flops. One girl's skin is a mismatch of drug store foundations and bronzers painted over acne filled cheeks, while another adorns rainbow colored nails and a poor attempt at cat-eye eyeliner. Relaxation rushes over me. While I may not be the exact picture of carefree youth anymore, I have one thing these girls have not obtained yet; a sense of self.
With age comes an enhanced knowledge of who one really is. That meaning; you aren't peer pressured into wearing clothing with brands splashed over your chest in hopes of landing a spot in the popular crowd, thus sacrificing your own preferences to keep up with status quo. The CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, Mike Jeffries, was quoted in a now infamous 2006 article stating, "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," Jeffries said. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely." (CNN) 
In 2006, I was an 8th grader at a middle school that could have single handedly kept every Abercrombie in south Florida afloat. I was not one of the cool kids with a great attitude and a lot of friends, but I sure as hell wanted to be. I drained my parent’s bank accounts to buy the same outrageously overpriced clothes as the cool girls, all of which were from the sale rack and none of which fit me well. At such an impressionable age, you don't have a grasp on the whole picture; only what is right in front of you. 
While brands like Abercrombie capitalize on young teen girls extreme propensity to follow the crowd and belong to the inner circle, their marketing strategy symbolizes something entirely different to me now - being a teenage girl in this day and age sucks. You are groomed to be so concerned with your outward appearance at a time where your body is being hit by puberty at the speed of train, and you are no where near old enough to see the light at the end of that dark, all consuming tunnel (aka young adulthood). My stomach still churns reminiscing about that time in my life. 
So as I finish up my three hour long study session and secretly bid goodbye to those young girls in Starbucks, I thank my lucky stars that ill be entering my senior year of college this fall and not my freshman year in high school. I am certainly not free of any and all insecurities at this point in my life, I don't think anyone ever can be, but I know who I am on a deep enough level to not spend my days longing to be popular or portray myself as something that I am not. I wouldn't wish being fifteen again on anyone, because it turns out I am the one who is really carefree, after all.