Can you imagine anything worse? The personality of a teenager, but with a body approaching forty. I suspect that half of the reason why we tolerate teenage histrionics, their casual cruelty and general ineptness is because teenagers are so damned beautiful. It’s so much less tolerable when accompanied by stretch marks, scars and cellulite.
(God, I wish I’d known that I was beautiful at the time.)
But this is what some sober writing is telling me that I am. A teenager. The idea being that one doesn’t ever learn grown up emotional techniques if one is reliant on alcohol – because rather than dealing with trauma and challenge with authenticity, one reaches for the bottle – and therefore one is emotionally ‘frozen’ at the age at which you started drinking.
I…am unconvinced, frankly. Lovely Husband is lovely, and quite a patient chap, but I am relatively convinced that if I were acting anything like my fifteen year old self, I’d be in divorce court by now. I don’t believe that there could be so many brilliant writers and artists who are also alcoholics if this was true, because all expressive art is about empathy on some level. I know counsellors and psychiatrists who are alcoholics; presumably they are more able than your average teenager to connect to the pain between the lines of other people’s stories and help them work through it.
Perhaps this is one of those posts I will look back on when I reach long term sobriety (that’s a ‘when’, folks, not an ‘if’. Arrogance is working well for me, these days) and laugh. But at the moment, I don’t think so. Perhaps this is because I read like other people eat, and about a million studies back up the finding that, as this article says:
Finding someone who reads is like dating a thousand souls. It’s gaining the experience they’ve gained from everything they’ve ever read and the wisdom that comes with those experiences. It’s like dating a professor, a romantic and an explorer.
That might be over-egging the pudding somewhat. Dating me was a lot like dating an overly-verbose party girl who was known for gesticulating so wildly that people would move all glasses out of her reach within the first hour at a bar. I don’t know what dating me would involve now, since it’s been sixteen years since anyone had the pleasure, but I’m guessing early nights and comfortable pyjamas would feature heavily. Either way, I’m not sure that ‘romantic professor’ quite fills the bill. Nonetheless, either the addiction experts are wrong, or I am fooling myself.
There are, though, things about sobriety that feel exactly like being a teenager again.
I’ve forgotten how to eat properly. Or I never knew. I’ve posted about this before; I know how to cook like a grown up, but not really how to eat. I don’t know how hungry is normal. I know how to be hungry, hungry is easy. I know how to binge. I know all the theory about clean eating and pleasure receptors and metabolic rates, but I don’t know how it feels to be someone who eats intuitively. I was like this as a teenager; I would go all day without eating, start snacking on the way home from school and then skip dinner. This is something that’s going to take me a while t learn. I’m reminding myself that even if I screw it up, the worst that’s going to happen is that I don’t fit into my skinny jeans for a while.
Rather more embarrassingly – I’m getting inappropriate crushes. Not on actual real people that I really know. On ideas of people. Some things have improved since I was a real teenager; I’m not about to listen to the lyrics of Open Your Heart by Madonna for three hours, and then spend another hour telling my best friend that oh my GOD it’s like the lyrics were just written FOR ME because doesn’t she see, it like completely expresses what I want to say to Blonde Patrick. And I’m unlikely to take up smoking on the basis that my crush object does, and it’ll give me an excuse to hang out with him before school.
(Although I am getting weird urges to smoke again, which is completely crazy. I haven’t smoked for 7 years, and I smoked less than a cigarette a day for the 10 years immediately prior to that.)
And my emotions see-saw wildly: I am furious, I am delighted. I started crying in traffic the other day, thinking about a traumatic thing that happened in my Big Girl’s infancy and which I assumed I’d processed years ago. I walk around with a stupid grin on my face more often than I like to admit. I’m just about managing to stop short of screaming I hate you and I didn’t ask to be born to my startled husband, but some mornings it’s a near thing.
But you know what? It’s fun. Like a teenager, I feel alive and invincible and present in the world in a way that adults are not. Teenagers are the centre of their own lives, in a way that adults are not. They are brave, and fearless, and ambitious, in a way that adults are not.
I promise not to become obsessed with the latest boy band, or go outside wearing nothing but three inches of stretchy lycra (I really, really promise not to do that), and if all my friends jump off a bridge I will carefully consider the pros and cons of the situation before following suit. But otherwise, I’m quite happy re-living my teenage self, thank you. It was fun the first time, it’s fun this time around as well.
And this time, I’ll try and remember that I’ll look back in twenty years and realise that I was beautiful.