By Alyson Noel
Last Saturday, I took part in an author panel where I was askedâ€”How do you write in such an authentic teen voice? I expected you to be fourteen!
To which I repliedâ€”But I am fourteen.
I wasnâ€™t lying, wasnâ€™t trying to be coy about my age or revive a well-worn punch line, because the truth is, for better or worse, deep down inside Iâ€™m still stuck in adolescence. I mean, sure I can legally drive, vote, and drink (though not all at once). But just because I have a standing appointment at my hair salon where it takes two hours to recreate the color of my youth, just because, through some enormous fluke, I ended up with a house, a husband, and a handful of credit cardsâ€”the usual trappings of a grown up lifeâ€”that doesnâ€™t mean Iâ€™m an adult.
I never feel grown up. Iâ€™m not even sure what it means. Grown ups used to be my parents, teachers, and characters I watched on TV. A grown up was June Cleaver with her sweater sets and pearls tucked neatly beneath her apron, a grown up was Lauren Bacall exchanging witty, sophisticated banter with Humphrey Bogart in the old black and white movies my mom made us watch on rainy Sunday afternoons. A grown up always wore shoes that matched her handbag. A grown up was able to make her point without ever resorting to slang.
I donâ€™t own an apron. I live in flip-flops or Frye boots depending on the season, and carry whichever purse holds all of my stuff. I blast my stereo when I drive, singing at the top of my lungs, like I did at sixteen. I over use words like totally and awesome, and when Iâ€™m especially enthusiastic am known to say, totally awesome! I still get rock star crushes. I still act immature and giddy when Iâ€™m with my friends. I still struggle with a problematic T-zone.
So you can see how getting inside a teenagerâ€™s head isnâ€™t all that big of a stretch.
Though I do remember back when I was an authentic teen, back in the days when everyone over twenty-five seemed old, thirty tragically old, and forty downright ancient. And how my mom tried to explain it, telling me how despite the accumulation of birthday candles and wrinkles, deep down inside, she still felt like a kid. And how every time she caught her own reflection, she couldnâ€™t help but thinkâ€”whoâ€™s that old lady?
At the time, I just laughed, thinking she was, well, old.
But now I know she was right. Because depending on the day, Iâ€™m 14, 16, or at the very mostâ€”25. But rarely, if ever, do I feel grown up.
What about you? To quote my favorite birthday cardâ€”How old would you be if you didnâ€™t know how old you was? And how does it shape what you write?
Alyson Noel is the author of Faking 19, Art Geeks and Prom Queens, Laguna Cove, Fly Me to the Moon, and the upcoming Kiss & Blog (May 2007). You can visit her at: www.alysonnoel.com
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