When you're a thirteen-year-old girl, you don't want to star in a homespun,
family ritual. What you want at that age--what I wanted, at least--is
to be rendered invisible whenever the adults in your life converse anywhere
near the subject of your "burgeoning womanhood," or anyone's
burgeoning anything. When you're a thirteen-year-old girl, your Holy
Grail is coolness. You seek admiration by your peer group, and in my
case, an eighth grader named Robbie Mitchko. Also, you wouldn't mind
Let's get something straight: at thirteen, I was not cool. Indeed, the very
consumer spending that could sometimes substitute for coolness, tipping the
balance for the marginal among us, was boycotted in our house. I had no Oreos,
no Coca-Cola to serve after-school friends. I owned neither Barbie nor Ken.
Where other kids boasted board games like "Careers" and "Life," I
could only offer "Tuf" (think "Scrabble" with mathematical
equations). Not remotely cool. Not even on the outskirts.
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