I stumbled across this article in the Daily Mail this morning, and it equal parts saddened and enraged me.
15 is an awful age for girls, isn't it? I think it has always been this way. I remember being 15 and it was awful. It wasn't awful because I was bullied, or had no friends, or because my family was poor. On paper, life was pretty great. I have always had friends, I was never picked on, and my parents weren't rich but I had what I needed. BUT STILL. 15 was not fun.
15 is when all the awful hormones kick in. The ones that make you moody and bitchy for no good reason. 15 is also usually the year your entire body starts to betray you, between periods, pimples, weight gain, weight loss, boobs. You may have been dealing with these things for a few years now, but for some reason, 15 seems to be the age you become hyper aware of all of it. It didn't all happen at once, but it sure feels that way.
15 was the year people pointed out the size of my boobs for the first time. I never had a training bra, I was cursed with a B-cup in the fifth grade and never looked back. At 15 I was forcing my boobs into a C cup bra because fuck admitting how big they were. Both girls AND boys felt the need to point them out to me, like I wasn't the one carrying them around all fucking day.
Despite the fact the world seems dreadful and determined to break you, 15 is also the time when you develop your most idealistic views. I was totally going to end sexism and war. That was to be my legacy, you know? It seemed like the time that you knew all the ways to make the world a better place, if only they'd put you in charge.
I personally don't really remember being pressured when I was 15. I didn't feel pressured to have sex with anyone, I did that because I wanted to. I didn't feel pressured to be thin, but I sure knew I was fat then (I was!). I didn't feel pressure to be popular, I had friends. I never ever felt pressured to drink (I did if I wanted to) or do drugs (I didn't do them and that was fine). If anything made 15 easier, it was just knowing what I felt was right and sticking to that. I was born confident and I'm so. fucking. lucky. for that. But again, 15 is THAT TIME where we aren't entirely confident but we're trying, right?
Looking back on it, I was lucky to be 15 in the 90s. It was a time when women looked like humans. Female musicians in the 90s had a huge influence on my growing up. I'm thankful I grew up in the era of Shirley Manson and Gwen Stefani, grunge goddess and quirky fashion icon. We also had Mariah Carey, who was beautiful and could SING. Like really sing. There was no blatant misleading auto tune then, and we hadn't quite hit the terrible era of the 90's where Britney Spears showed up and ruined everything.
Oddly, the 90s was also the decade of the supermodel. Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Christy Turlington. These women were everywhere. We didn't have the internet yet, but we had Seventeen and YM to give us glimpses into the world of female beauty. It seemed so much more real back then. If you wanted big, gorgeous lips in the 90's, you found the darkest lipstick and and even darker lip liner and you drew those fuckers on. We hadn't yet come to the era where we had to think about buying our lips.
2013 now... everything is so different! Hello Facebook. Now, the popular girls can talk about you behind your back, to your face AND online. You can't escape that at 3:30 anymore when the bell goes and you head home. Of course, you COULD just not have Facebook, but that's an argument for another day.
In 2013, natural beauty seems abhorrent. Why work with what you have when you can buy it? Instead of women aspiring to be Barbie like, they've just become Barbie. Fake is the new real. The best example of this is Kim Kardashian. Once an actually natural beauty (if you've seen old pictures), now she's miles of collagen, botox, spanx and hair extensions.
Everything seems fake now. Look at Ke$ha. Not a word that thing sings isn't auto tuned to smithereens.
Girls have always had trouble at the age of 15, but how tough is it to be so young when nothing around you is real? What's it like knowing you may not be beautiful now, but one day you could just buy it? You have a choice of working to pay for school or working to buy a set of tits? I can't even...
The other thing we didn't have in the 90's? Doctor Culture. We hadn't become swamped by "experts" yet. We didn't have Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz in the spotlight. There wasn't an endless barrage of psychiatrists and psychologists waiting in the wings to tell us everything that was wrong with us. But now, according to the article I just read, 27% of teen girls have a "full on mental illness".
Part of me wonders if girls are really so susceptible to mental illness, depression, eating disorders etc, or if we just have more experts ready to tell us we're sick and to dispense medicine rather than advice. So NOW, on top of feeling shitty, having no idea where you stand in the world, no confidence and seemingly no hope, now there's something wrong with you... which you can interpret as either "See, it's not your fault!" or "Now there's something wrong with you. WRONG WITH YOU."
Mental illness, depression... these are very real problems. They aren't just something we should be throwing on the shoulders of teenage girls on top of everything else. I'm a little more inclined to believe that life is really shitty at certain points in your life, and 15 is one of those times. Granted, that doesn't mean we should be telling everyone to just suck it up and deal with it, but why should we be so quick to try and diagnose something that just happens to people?
I remember being so down when I was 15 and thinking I was never going to feel happy or normal again. I don't remember when I snapped out of it, I just know that it happened without the need for pills, doctors and expert opinion. I think it's just a natural phase.
I don't have the answer to the dilemma of the 15 year old girl. If I could, I would just wave a magic wand and make all young girls strong, happy and confident. I'd do it for teen boys too, in a heartbeat. I remember enough to know that happy, confident kids make happy, confident adults. All I know for sure is that it does get better, and that you have to let YOU define you. Don't let your friends, hobbies, or anyone else define you or tell you what you should be.
Of course if you're 15 and reading this, I am pretty sure you are rolling your eyes at me. Believe me, my inner 15 year old is too.