The Wrong Crowd: A Tale Of Teens Behaving Badly
Meg Wolitzer is the author of a book for young readers, The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman.
In reality, I may be a middle-aged woman with two nearly grown sons, but in my heart I am a teenage girl who has found herself pregnant and doesn't know what to do. For if you came of age, as I did, reading Paul Zindel's My Darling, My Hamburger, then you probably still feel that you know what it's like to be a high school student whose life almost derails.
I sometimes take out my old copy of this book and have a look; not because it's a cautionary tale (the writing is too subtle) or because it speaks to today's young readers (in some important aspects it seems dated), but because it reminds me of who I was when I first picked it up.
I turn the first page and recall my goofy adolescent self with the Keith Partridge shag haircut and the Huk-a-Poo blouse and the orange-tinted lotion supposedly hiding — but really highlighting — a breakout on my chin. I was pretty nerdy, and I didn't have to worry that I would get pregnant like one of the novel's main characters, Liz, who is popular and beautiful and has sex with her boyfriend, Sean, then gets an illegal abortion.
The character I could most relate to was Liz's less popular friend, Maggie. Like her, I enjoyed the excitement of being around someone cool — and I made friends with a group of kids who were definitely cooler than I was. Sometimes I would hang out at their houses, and we would order pizzas to be delivered to the house across the street. Occasionally, we made prank phone calls. When I did these dumb things, I was both mortified and thrilled — scared to be seen as a bad girl, but desperate not to be entirely good, either. I liked the idea of being in the neighborhood of bad — not the one who makes the call to the pizza place, but the one who listens in on the other extension. Not the one who sleeps with her boyfriend — which of course isn't in and of itself "bad," though in my view back then, pretty daring — but the one who's sophisticated enough to offer advice to the girl who does.
But they also kept me safely knowing: It would probably never be me.
Now, thank God, it's way too late for me to be teenage and pregnant, or teenage and emotionally disturbed, or teenage and falling in with a rough crowd. One of the fringe benefits of middle age is never having to think about being a teenager again. But some part of me likes to think about it.
And when I do, I know exactly what to read.
My Guilty Pleasure is edited and produced by Ellen Silva with production assistance from Rose Friedman and Sophie Adelman.
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