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It's Hard to Be a Teenage Girl

August 2022

Ali was fifteen. On paper, she had a good thing going. She was intelligent: enrolled in honors courses and getting “A’s”. She was athletic: on the basketball team, even making varsity as a freshman. She had a good family: her parents, married, cared for her tremendously, and her brothers didn’t give her too much trouble.

But to Ali, things weren’t quite so straightforward. At school, she frantically balanced too many advanced courses, but somehow managed to ace all of them. This was in spite of her twice daily basketball practices — one at 6 a.m. and one at 5 p.m. Where sleep was to fit in among all this was uncertain.

At school, she suffered from the worst kind of bullying a girl of fifteen can be subjected to. It was not the simple, unintelligent form of bullying boys would carry out. For boys you get shoved into a locker, beat up, or called a ‘fag’ and then you move on. Girls somehow exact a form of mental and emotional warfare that ought to be classified as domestic terrorism. It is a vague form of bullying, which is where it derives its potency. It does not begin and end with a quip or remark, this is only the beginning. The victim’s mind does the rest — agonizing over the phrase. Is it true? What did she mean by that?

A popular girl once mentioned to Ali “your hair looks…interesting today” in an artificially friendly tone about three octaves higher than normal. Ali’s brain was lit afire for the whole week. In class: what did that mean? At basketball practice: maybe my hair is ugly, is that what she meant? At the dinner table: how do I fix my hair? In bed, spending another sleepless night: I’m so ugly! Teenage girls can be devilishly mean little bastards.

And so Ali was stressed. She was tired. She thought she was ugly. She thought she was dumb. She was unhappy. Her brothers picking on her at home likely didn’t help. Her often-traveling father could only help so much. Her ever-loving, ever-caring mother nonetheless could not connect or empathize with her on the level Ali needed. And so on top of all this, Ali was alone.

Her mum tried getting her meditation CD’s and soothing ambient music, herbal teas, and more to help her sleep at night. Nothing seemed to work. Ali tried to journal, to see therapists, she tried everything under the sun, to no avail.

One night, in an attempt to relax — no school, no bullies, no basketball, no brothers — she arranged some candles around her room that she bought earlier in the day (with money she made from tutoring, yet another obligation of hers I forgot to mention). She lit them all slowly, ceremoniously. She turned off the lights, turned on the meditation track. She sank into her bed. Against all odds, she somehow felt relaxed for a moment. Her anxieties, while not totally gone, at least abated.

Then the smoke alarms screeched and howled and blared. Her dad yelled from downstairs as he ran towards her room, “What the hell is happening!” Ali screamed and screamed and cried and cried in confusion and terror and a deep, deep sadness. It’s hard to be a teenage girl.

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