So much has happened in the last 18 hours. I’m having trouble processing it – struggling to arrange it all into a coherent story. Perhaps I’ll start at the beginning.
I was sitting in the junk room yesterday afternoon, minding my own business, when a chat window appeared in the browser – a friend who lives across the way. She asked after me – asked if I was doing anything for my birthday. I said no – and that it really didn’t matter – there were more important things to worry about.
Ten minutes later there was a knock on the door. I opened it, and discovered the same friend standing on the doorstep brandishing a red party bag, and the cheekiest grin I have seen in quite some time. I invited her in, and followed her through the house towards the kitchen – laughing when she agreed that her arrival was as much an escape from her own house, as an opportunity to deliver emergency birthday supplies.
The party bag contained two bottles of beer, and a bar of chocolate. I smiled as I lifted them out onto the kitchen counter, and offered a cup of tea.
“No thank-you. You always offer me a cup of tea when I come to visit, don’t you”
“Yes. I’m going to have one anyway”
We caught up with what our respective families have been doing, and I found myself listening, smiling, and realising how lucky I am to have at least a few really good friends. I might not have as many friends as most, but those I do have are pretty great – this particular friend perhaps being a favourite (don’t tell her – she’ll tease me unbearably). I told my small circle of friends how much I valued them late in the evening of a party last year, and got laughed at for being sentimental and drunk. I had to agree, but I meant it.
A little later in the evening Miss 17 went out to a house party, along with a friend she has had since secondary school. After spending several hours doing each other’s makeup, they set off, and I started to worry – in the way parents do when their children head out into the world.
Four hours later there was a knock at the door. The friend started apoligising immediately. Miss 17 was in the play-park across from our house, and wouldn’t come home. I pulled on a coat and shoes, and wandered off into the night to find her – spotting a familiar silhouette curled up in a ball at the top of the climbing frame.
Guess who – after talking her down, and holding her hand all the way home – spent another night alongside his 17 year old daughter again. I’m not going to get into the drama that had unfolded, because most of it is her story – but there is something I want to say that’s directly related to the tearful story I heard.
I think it’s terrifically unfair that teenage girls have to deal with the unchecked behavior of teenage boys – and that teenage boys, despite having the message about consent drummed into them from a young age, still think it’s fine to corner, and pressure girls. Why do girls have to learn to deal with so many assholes? Why is it seen as normal – as a right of passage – as part of growing up ?
I’m just thankful that Miss 17’s first instinct was to bail on the party – to come home – and that her friend had the sense to do the same.
After helping remove her makeup (spectacularly badly), we curled up in bed and watched “The Good Place” on Amazon. Within a few minutes she was fast asleep. After watching a few episodes, and half watching her sleep, I quietly turned everything off, and fell asleep alongside her. She woke several times during the night, waking me in return. I asked at one point if she still wanted me to stay – hoping to sneak back off to my own bed. She reached across and held onto me.