I have some great news for you: it’s Friday night.
Or I guess you could be reading this on another night of the week, in which case, great news: Friday night is on the way.
If you’re from Texas (or a lot of other places, I suppose, but mostly Texas), you might still associate Friday night with the only sport God truly and oh-so-obviously blesses: football. I say that flippantly but lovingly because while high school football is blown alarmingly out of proportion in Texas, anyone who’s experienced it by being either on the field or in the stands knows that, yeah, it’s really freaking invigorating, life-affirming, and sexy as hell (the last bit being solely from the perspective of teen me). I’d almost do high school again just to better appreciate and indulge in high school football while the time was ripe.
Do you remember being in tenth grade? (Holy shit, I sure as hell hope everyone reading this is at least in eleventh grade. I’m not looking to teach anyone new dirty words here.)
Tenth grade is such a disaster. I spent quite a bit of energy in tenth grade trying to be religious. Man, I tried. Went to youth group (those songs lodge themselves in your brain forever), tried dating people from youth group (I was too mean for it to work, apparently), and I think I accidentally got saved at some point in all that.
Spoiler alert! Organized religion never took. Then I developed stress-induced acid reflux in eleventh grade and things haven’t really slowed down since then. But the point is that tenth grade is a pivotal spot in the metamorphosis of angst. Freshmen don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, as we so pleasantly say in Texas, and then you try to get your feet underneath you at the tender age of fifteen and sixteen and— OH MY GOD we let kids start operating motor vehicles at this age.
Sorry. Temporary freak out.
It’s literally impossible to create a believable fifteen-year-old character without writing a little angst and a lot of awkward make-out sessions. There’s just no getting around it. Being fifteen is not pretty, and I’m not even talking about the acne and apparent inability to wash in all necessary crevices. If you somehow managed to get through freshman year with any shred of innocence, you lose all that in tenth grade. The adult world starts to reveal its secrets, but you are still dumb as hell, neurologically speaking, and— I mean, really, why do we allow fifteen-year-olds behind the steering wheel of a truck?
My first week of teaching tenth-grade English, I had a group of three girls approach me and start asking me questions about sex and pregnancy. It was basically a series of “Can you get pregnant if…” questions, and I tried not to be horrified as some of them told me they’d—wait for it—never had sex ed outside of the this-is-what-a-period-is and this-is-what-a-boner-is videos and a few handouts. But all these girls were sexually active, and it was clear even then that I wouldn’t be the one to talk them out of it, no matter how many times I said, “But tenth-grade boys are scientifically proven to be the grossest.” So, not yet familiar with what level of talk about sex would get me fired, I opted to say, “Just assume you can always get pregnant without protection.” And a year later, one of them did. Wah-wah.
Yes, I just wah-wah-ed teen pregnancy. Not sure what else there is to do about it if we’re too squeamish to actually teach them how to prevent it (“But that’s the place of the parents, not the school!” cries those who doesn’t understand generational poverty and the cycle of teen pregnancy).
Anyway, this goes to say that tenth grade is like an estuary where the freshwater of childhood meets the saltwater of adulthood but doesn’t necessarily mix. So it seemed like a wonderful age to make Jessica McCloud when her half-brother insists she starts discovering her miracles. It’s just miracles. No big deal, right? Welcome to adulthood, Jessica! Hope you’ve stretched out your rotator cuffs because here’s the weight of the world! But we all know you don’t have to be God’s only child to feel that way when you’re fifteen going on sixteen.
Is Jessica’s life a little chaotic in The Beginning? Yeah. But that’s all childhood. And It Was Good is where reality starts to rear its ugly head, and you know what teens do best when shit starts to get real? Resist it. Ignore it. Rebel. Because life is setting down some new ground rules, and they’re not mega fun ones. I still resent life for it, to be honest.
I don’t want to give away too much, though. If you want to see how the tender age of fifteen treats Jessica McCloud, it’s all there in And It Was Good.
Click here to buy And It Was Good on Amazon.
What was tenth grade like for you? Did you get to enjoy the glow of the Friday night lights? Let’s reminisce together in the comments!