Growing up, I had enough struggles to keep out of the way, to understand what was going on around me, and to navigate my own way through puberty in junior high and high school. As it was for everyone else, it wasn’t easy for me. I had no conversation with my parents about any of it because I did not feel comfortable talking with my parents or my father about anything. Understanding came later with my father and it is still difficult to have any conversation with my mother. Oddly, the one person I felt completely safe with, my grandmother, never brought up the subject and I never thought to ask.
I was different. I read a lot of books and my socialability developed late, so I was shy and appeared withdrawn and awkward. Where other boys were abusive and rude to teenage girls (which in retrospect is “normal” in this society of male conditioning), I made an effort to be kind, understanding, and as protective as I was able because that’s what I projected from childhood. I am still that was in many aspects. When boys stole purses to torment, I attempted to play along when they were playing catch and once I had the item, I returned it.
This did not endear me much to the teenage girls, oddly, because I remember being tormented by the 8th grade teenage girls on the bus (who wore far too much makeup and perfume to my liking at the time-more cultural conditioning and propaganda to fit in as feminine) through nickname calling that equated me to a homosexual teen because I didn’t act like every other teenage boy.
In elementary school, I was able to befriend many girls in my class and that just felt more normalizing to me given the strong female leadership in my family with my grandmother, but junior high and highschool was completely different, and for some reason the cultural normalizing that was happening with everyone else was not something I participated in as much as I wanted to fit in at the time. Though, for some reason, I was able to communicate with the popular students and everyone else in class as a human. Puberty and adolescence is not something I would wish to do over.
My education regarding my sexuality and others came with conversations and readings and experience after high school. And yet, I think this class has been more enlightening on so many levels including the discussion of puberty and adolescence that I would now wish that feminist psychology be taught in high school along with government and English. It certainly is needed as early as that.
The “feminization” of teenagehood in the the media is another matter entirely and one the disturbs and fascinates as it conditions, girls and young women to look, act, and feel a certain way, a “correct” way and it confuses at the same time that it unhealthily conditions those subjected to it. The same media conditioning happens with men and boys. All of it embedded in texts that are unconsciously and consciously used by the media that are fueled by the sexism embedded in the language.