Auntie SparkNotes: Everyone Treats Me Like a Little Kid
I'm almost 15 and a freshmen in high school, and all my friends are freshmen as well. I enjoy playing Pokemon and Animal Crossing, watching cartoons, collecting (and sometimes playing with) dolls, and I only go to the movies when it's for a Disney movie. I accept I'll probably never grow up in those aspects, but otherwise I'm quite serious and mature for my age. Yet lately with my friends I feel like I'm ten years younger.
My friends were and still sort of are fun and spontaneous, which I can be when it comes to things such as cartoons, but it's not quite the same. I'll admit I can have a dirty mind at times, but I never expose that and come off as extremely innocent. My name, Mary, has been used to make jokes relating to how apparently I'm a virgin with almost everything. If I say something dirty to prove that I know things, but I choose not to date or anything beyond that because I want to avoid drama, no one takes me seriously. I can't even swear without some of them snickering or getting a "whoa there," when a lot of them swear every other sentence sometimes.
Now what makes things feel more awkward for me is that people are starting to drink and have sex. I'm not into slut shaming, but I just feel like they're trying to grow up too fast, and if anything people should still be at the first kiss stage. I just feel like everyone is doing all these things that I certainly don't think 14 year-olds should be doing. Maybe it'd be different if we were all 16, but no, we just started high school and my friends are already drinking. Even my closest friend who less than a year ago said she wouldn't drink or have sex until marriage has done both.
I just feel like the way I did when I was very young and I'd be brought along to parties with my parents. All of their friends had kids my older brother's age, and I felt so out of place because I was so young compared to them.
I don't even like the rest of the people in my school because most of them are bigots obsessed with their hunting and guns, while I'm just that seemingly innocent person with a love for childish things. I'm only really close with one friend, and she's kind of been drifting away from me ever since she got her new girlfriend who is alright but can be a bit annoying. I honestly have no idea what to do, and I fear this is going my make my anxiety skyrocket past the boundaries my meds can cover. It's impossible to sit alone to think in the cafeteria, and I don't know if I even want to be with my friends anymore after these last few weeks of being shamed for my virginity and just being outright thought of as a little kid.
Hmm. But... are your friends shaming you, really? Or are they just teasing you, like friends sometimes do, about something they don't necessarily realize you're super-insecure about?
Because of course, that's not necessarily fun, either. You would have every right to be unhappy over getting repeatedly ribbed right in your soft spots—and you're welcome to say as much and ask your friends to please knock it off the next time they do it. But let's just take a moment to recognize that acknowledging something about your personality with a bunch of silly "Virgin Mary" jokes is hardly the same thing as shaming you for it, okay? In fact, I'm not convinced that your friends are really your problem at all. Because when I look at your letter, it seems like the person who's really making a big deal about your "childishness" is...well, you.
Which I say not to make you feel bad, but to open your eyes to where the anxiety you feel is really coming from. It's not that your friends are growing up too fast; it's that they've grown up faster than you. You haven't changed at all, and yet you're suddenly different from everyone else.
That's what's freaking you out, darling—and of course it is, because it's scary and weird and upsetting to feel like you're being left behind. But the solution isn't to become so defensive of your juvenility that you let it alienate you from everyone else, or to assume that your friends are contemptuous of you just because you're not in quite the same place anymore. Think of how hurt and angry you feel at being defined by your "innocent" nature; do you think your friends might feel just as hurt, and just as angry, at the way you're defining them by their not-so-innocent decisions? And what if, instead of doing that, you accepted that people grow up at different rates, in different ways, and that your only job is to become the person you're going to be at a pace that's right for you?
I think you should give it a try, Sparkler, if only to see how different you feel when you're not so fixated on how different you are—and how differently people treat you when you aren't trying to prove something to them. If you're happiest surrounded by dolls and Disney movies, then you can just enjoy them—but maybe you don't need to cling to them like they're the most important part of your identity. And if your friends want to get into the most banal sort of teenage trouble, you don't have to think that's awesome—but maybe you don't have to make a face like you're sucking a lemon every time someone brings up dating or drinking. Just be who you are, confidently, every day, and let other people do the same. Be prepared, too, for your values, your interests, and your sense of self to change in ways you don't expect as you get more comfortable with growing up.
And don't be surprised if, once you start doing that, people don't treat you like such a little kid anymore—because being okay with yourself, more than any other rite of high school passage, is the true hallmark of maturity.
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