As an adult now, I try to figure out my 16-year-old self
Hinsdale 11/20/07 Western Springs Columnist: Vicki Gonia Doings photo by Steve Johnston
Updated: July 30, 2012 3:03PM
One more sign that I’m getting old is that I no longer find teenage drinking parties fun. I know, it’s a shock.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I once did. Back when I was a teenager, of course. It’s no use my pretending that I never attended one. There’s a gazillion people who live here in town with whom I went to high school who know better and will call me out as a liar if I get all uppity about teen parties.
One of my favorite things about teen parties is watching the kids who think no one knows what they’re up to. Park in front of my house and walk down the block toward where that loud music and voices are coming from? Really? That looks totally innocent. Honest. I have no idea what you’re doing. Not a clue.
I remember one party in particular, being hosted by my best friend, who lived just a block and a half away from me. The doorbell rang and I answered it, thinking, of course, that it was more fun teenagers who wanted to have fun! But no.
It was my mom. My MOM.
Go ahead. Laugh. And then picture me dropping to the ground in sorrow and begging her forgiveness and accepting my punishment with grace and maturity. Then picture what really happened. I slammed the door in her face, locked it, and ran to a bathroom and locked myself inside.
I really did that. Like she wasn’t going to find me! Like she didn’t recognize me when I opened the door! What on earth was I thinking? That if I hid in the bathroom, I was somehow going to get away with it? That my mom was just going to go home and pretend it hadn’t happened? Had I thought I could claim that all those kids forced their way in, locked me in the bathroom and had a party? I really don’t remember what I was thinking, though I do recall crouching on the bathroom floor, my heart beating fast and hard.
And I remember another friend knocking on the door and begging me to let her in, which I did. If only to not be the only idiot hiding in the bathroom from my mom.
Paying the penalty
I don’t recall what my punishment was. I was probably grounded for a year (I was grounded most of my high school career. It’s a wonder I managed to get into trouble considering I was almost never allowed to leave the house). I do recall that my mom told everyone to get lost and then brought us some garbage bags and made us clean up. And I’m sure she called my friend’s mother.
There was another party, this one in Hinsdale. Cops showed up and everyone ran. I got caught because I couldn’t get over the fence. I was told to stand in one spot and not move. Did I? No. I ran away. And like a scene out of a really dumb movie, I ran down the alley and emerged just as my best friend was passing by. She screeched to a halt, I hopped in, and we got away.
These stories seem funny now, looking back. I should probably admit that I thought they were pretty funny then. I thought I was pretty darn cool, in fact. Some of the stories weren’t funny then and aren’t funny now — kids abusing alcohol to an extreme, damage to homes and possessions, even worse.
There’s a part of me that wishes, even for just 15 minutes or so (that’s probably as long as I could handle) that I could go back into my own 16-year-old head and see just what the heck was going on up there. (Though, do I really want to know?)
It was a different kind of reality. The logic that I’m capable of now, I just wasn’t capable of back then. I understood this: go to/have party may or may not equal getting in trouble. The important part of that equation most often seemed to be the “may not.” And it translated in to “may as well try to get away with it.” Which is why I ran away from my own mother and hid in a bathroom.
Is all this an excuse for every teenager in the land to whoop it up the next time their parents are out of town or out for the night? Of course not. Am I even remotely coming close to explaining why kids do the dumb things they do? Nope, probably not.
I guess now that I’m an adult, I’m struggling with the notion that I’m supposed to judge kids who do wrong, who make mistakes. Because I made them, many times.
Readers can contact Viki Gonia by leaving a message at (708) 824-8027 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.