Diary of a teenage girl

SN&R hears firsthand from local girls about family, high-school cliques, boys and sex

Photos By David Jayne

Teenage girls.

If one went by media and pop-culture depictions alone, you’d think every teenage girl in America was obsessed with Justin Bieber, texting and boys.

The reality, however, is much more complex.

When we solicited submissions for this “Diary of a teenage girl” project, we truthfully had no idea what to expect. What we received not only surprised us, it restored our faith that today’s girls are thoughtful and smart, caring and creative, sensitive and complex, and—sometimes—very, very funny.

The following submissions, edited only for length and clarity, are from Sacramento-area girls ages 12 to 19, and cover topics including, but not limited to, love, friendships and high-school cliques, family and religion, academics, career ambitions, and, of course, love, boys and sex.

Girls can be awesome

Girls, a word, if you please:

I’m a girl—and a proud one at that, but we—not me specifically, but women as a group —have been doing something so vicious, so cruel, so mind-bendingly annoying, that it makes Justin Bieber’s voice actually sound like music by comparison.

Girls are prissy little creatures.

You give fake phone numbers, you make hushed little comments into each other’s ears as the freaks pass us in the hallways (or the preps, or the normal kids, or whomever you personally hate) and you spread rumors faster than the SARS virus in an airplane cabin full of sniffling children.

You gossip day in and day out, online, anonymously and without even a half-second of thought about the innocent, socially unhip life you’re destroying.

And, as both the recipient of a bad rap and a young woman, I am sick of it.

Why? Why do you insist on texting your friends that Julie’s shirt is hideous today, or why do you scrawl all over your BFF’s Facebook wall about it instead of just being rude and saying it to her face?

I’m not saying you should be cruel—but if you are, at least have the decency to own up to it.

Like all bad things, I guess the snideness of my generation can be traced back to the Internet.

You can buy a pair of totally cute shoes online from Abercrombie, send a photo of your kitten to 2,000 of your friends and single-handedly (and namelessly) destroy a person’s self-esteem and sanity in the space of 10 minutes.

But that’s just half of it. When you do decide to deface someone in the real world, you don’t do it when they’re around.

Oh no. You wait until they’re out of earshot to burst into giggles at that ridiculous haircut, or how she’s such a poser. Then you go up to that very same person and ask how her summer went.

No other animal fights the way two teenage girls fight.

You feel the need to drag the simplest little skirmish into a monthlong ordeal—assuming it ever gets resolved.

I envy how men fight. I truly do.

When one guy pisses another guy off, they yell at one another, occasionally throw a punch or two, and then it’s over. No secretly sneering at one another for six months, no rumors, no “drama.” That’s a much better system, don’t you think?

We females are less direct than a Sarah Palin speech, and there’s no good reason for it. I can’t tell if you’re lazy or just that mean, but my life, and the lives of every freak, geek, nerd, psychopath-in-the-making, faggot and loser would be much better off if you’d kindly grow some hypothetical man parts and tell us what you think—when you think it—to our face.

Girls are awesome. You are. There is absolutely no reason we should treat each other—or anyone—as horribly, as snobbishly and as viciously as we do.

Haley Massara, 16
Granite Bay

Photo By David Jayne

Sacrifices and hope

My mom was 24 when she had me, and I was her first child. She was excited and happy to become a mother. Then she found out that I was going to be born with a birth defect called spina bifida. That very day, the doctors delivered me. She didn’t even have a chance to catch her breath. She never got the chance to decide if she even really wanted to have me, a disabled child. Especially since what she had heard from doctors, I would live an awful life. By the time the defect was detected, I was already two weeks over her original due date. So an abortion was clearly not an option. Yet when a doctor told my mom that she didn’t even have to take me home, that they have special homes for children like me, she told the doctor absolutely not. For that alone, I love my mother very much.

My mom has made several sacrifices for me. Even keeping me, I see as a sacrifice.

After I was born, my mom stayed home with me for the first three years of my life. She put her career and her life on hold for me. She read everything she possibly could that was about spina bifida. She wanted to be able to make educated decisions for my well-being instead of just depending on the doctor. And let me tell you, she is sometimes more educated and knowledgeable than some doctors I’ve seen.

My mother has always been my advocate. Whether it was telling a doctor he was wrong—that his idea wasn’t what was best for me—or yelling at the transit people at Disneyland because they’re allowing women to put strollers in a place specifically designated for wheelchair users, she has never failed to stand up for me.

I want to graduate high school in the top 10 percent of my class. I want to cram in as many advanced-placement classes as I possibly can. My goal is to have a competitive college application. My dream school has been UC Berkeley for as long as I can remember—it is academically one of the top schools in the country, and because they try to be as disability-friendly as possible.

For the past couple of years, I have dreamed of going to law school and becoming a criminal-law attorney and work for the city as a prosecutor or become a disability-rights attorney. I have a particularly soft spot for the juvenile court and working to reform kids that have had an offense or two and are on their way to a life of crime if they aren’t set straight.

I would [also] like to get married and have children. I want quite a few kids, a nice big family. But, to be honest, I have no hope for that dream being realized. Marriage and kids are not my reality. You don’t see many disabled people that are married and have a big brood. At least, I don’t see it often. If I do not get married and have my own kids, I would like to participate in foster care. I feel like I have something special to offer.

Katie Laackmann, 16
West Sacramento

Photo By David Jayne

Casual sex?

I appreciate people who wait to have sex after marriage, but I understand the temptations for others not to wait. Sex is a moment with someone special and someone who should be cared about deeply.

What most teenagers don’t realize today is that sex has a lot of responsibilities that come with it. A girl I know in Chico got pregnant and had a baby in high school. She is now going to have to care for this human being for the next 18 years. And she is starting off alone, without a husband to help her, and she’s still a teenager herself. I know that if I were her, I wouldn’t be handling the situation too well; I’m having enough trouble taking care of myself.

My cousin, who just started his second week in college, told me about how his roommate’s friend (who is a girl) asked my cousin up front if he wanted to have sex. She was dead serious. My cousin said no, but to me, the thought of casual sex—well, sex—should be more protected.

I may just be old-fashioned, but I don’t think teenagers take the role of being sexually active very seriously.

Amy McAleer, 17

On popularity

Some things people think about teenagers is that we all gossip and just care about boys and all that. You don’t have to be nerdy or cool—everyone’s different. I go to a very small school and I’m friends with almost everyone, but that doesn’t automatically make me “popular.”

Milan Williams, 12

Mean girls

It can be hard to tell who your true friends are—especially in your teenage years when there’s drama.

How do you tell if your friends are fakes? Sometimes it’s easy. You can tell by how they’re acting around you or with other people, what they say [and] if they pressure you. If your friend acts strange around you, for example, or doesn’t seem interested in your personal life or interests, it tells you that maybe they just want you [to show they’re] popular and to have a bigger group of people for more attention.

My friend went through the exact same thing; at first, she was the one who everyone thought was weird, [because] she liked all sorts of things. But over the months, people began to hang around her, and soon enough, she became popular. Little did she know her so-called “friends” were just using her for popularity. They would pretend to like the things she did and tried to act cool around her.

It was hard to watch her go through this, thinking she had friends she could trust, while they were laughing behind her back. One day her best friend started a horrible rumor about her that wasn’t true and spread it all over school. It was very personal and serious.

Just two days after it was spread, she had nearly no friends and was the laughing stock of the whole school. She couldn’t trust anyone. But in a way, it was probably the best thing for her she really got to know her true friends—the one who stuck by her side 24-seven.

Alyssa Bertuccelli, 14

Photos By David Jayne

Hit or quit it

Growing up in a Catholic household, just the thought alone of sex before marriage was completely prohibited. Of course, every teenager has their first real crush in high school, and we develop those intimate thoughts about “doing it” with that special person. It is hard for a teenage girl to practice abstinence during their high-school years, because everyone is doing it, so if you don’t do it, then you might as well just fit in with the “losers.” I’m pretty sure every teenage girl wishes they would be popular and loved by everyone at school.

In reality, is it really worth it to lose your virginity? I believe that sex is just a trend at every high school, and teenage boys usually expect to “hit it and quit it” at one point, because girls just give it away like if it was candy.

Being raised in a religious home makes me believe that having sex before marriage is a sin. I practice abstinence because I respect my body, who I am and what I believe in. Also in high school, kids [have] unprotected sex, and I don’t know what kind of sexually transmitted diseases [their partner] has.

There are consequences to sex, and I’m not ready to face them just yet. Sure, I do have my secret crushes and those sexual, intimate thoughts about the guys. I am still a teenage girl and do think about having sex, because I would want to experience what everyone keeps talking about at school. When I hear all these stories and juicy details, I do get impatient, [but] I still [stand by] my decision on abstaining from having sex, because I don’t want to lose it to just any guy.

In high school, relationships all are just about raging hormones, temptations and drama. When I do decide to have sex, I don’t want to regret losing my virginity to that person, because that’s just not the way I imagine it.

Graciela Franco, 16

Keziah, whose role model is Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of <i>Eat, Pray, Love</i>, took this photo to incorporate her hope to someday &#8220;capture the world in my words, camera, art and music.&#8221;

Photo By Keziah Mills

Capture, travel, love

When I grow up, I want to capture the world in my words, camera, art and music. I want to preserve something of myself for generations to come. I want to travel the world and eventually settle down by the ocean with a family of my own.

My role model is [Eat, Pray, Love author] Elizabeth Gilbert. She traveled. She found a balance between earthly pleasures and spiritual transcendence. She loved.

Keziah Mills, 13

Generation gap, bridged

My grandma and grandpa have both taught me a lot throughout my life.

My grandma taught me how to appreciate art. She used to patiently teach me arts and crafts. She would never raise her voice at me, no matter how bad I messed up. She never called [my] artwork ugly or crappy—ever. My grandma said there is beauty in every art piece. There is no right or wrong art. She said art is just an expression of who we are. She would teach me the beauty in art. Art was instilled into my life, still to this day. I learned to appreciate art because of her. I find peacefulness in my life when I am doing art.

My grandfather is a softhearted guy with a big stomach. He is such a jolly guy. He is always so happy and calm. He never raised his voice, always keeping a calm demeanor. He is a great listener, too. That is also something that I’ve learned from him. My grandpa always listens to what I have to say. It doesn’t matter what it is. He never interrupts me. He just gives me his undivided attention. It really [makes] my day, because when I was little, adults liked to ignore me when I talked. I am a storyteller. I loved making up stories with my wild imagination. My grandpa sits there and takes his time to listen when I tell a story about flying motorcycles or Barbies coming to life. He listens to me like I was the most important person in the world.

My grandparents are role models because they have so much faith in me.

Lili Zhang, 19
Elk Grove

All in the family

I live with a foster family and have a social worker. I’m in foster care because my mother [overdosed] on drugs, and then one night my step dad decided to freak out, and then a friend of mine overdosed at my house and we had to call the police. A week later, the social worker who came into our house said, “We heard that this happened at your house, and we need to take you out of this home—it’s not safe.”

Foster care is OK—my situation, it’s not exactly a walk in a field of daisies, but my foster mother gives me a house to live and the comfort of a home.

I’m not too stressed about my future. I’m trying to figure out my fallback plan. I have a list of plans for after high school. If the first one doesn’t work out, I’ll just keep going down the list.

Right now I’m a senior in high school; I want to go to college and live in the dorms. Foster care will help pay for my first two years of college. I want to go to Sierra College and eventually UC Davis. I’d like to study psychology—having therapy in foster care has really helped me with what I’m going through—or maybe some kind of science.

I don’t have a lot of family. I have my grandparents, who I visit about once a month, and my sister. She’s 20.

To me, the word family means people that you are just super comfortable with, people you can relax with and love and feel loved by them. Family really isn’t your parents if they treat you bad—how can you have a family with people who don’t care?

The most important person in my life would have to be my boyfriend. When you’re with someone all the time, you get a strong connection. We’ve been together for a year and four months. He is just nice to be around, he makes me happy, he knows me very well and we can just be ourselves around each other. We met through friends and got together because we share a common interest in longboarding.

My boyfriend and I are sexually active … [but] I am safe about it; I’m not trying to have a kid. I use birth control and a condom. No baby for me.

I don’t want to have a child until I’m physically and financially and mentally ready. My parents weren’t ready—when you get out of high school, you should have a life and not have kids unless you’re really, really ready. My parents were 19 when they had my sister, and then I came two years later.

I can see that I’m too overwhelmed with my life to have a kid right now.

Amber Layng, 17
Orangevale (as told to SN&R)

Photos By David Jayne

Teenage kicks

Sex. It’s a three-letter word with an infinite amount of repercussions. Why, then, do teenagers today participate in something that has the ability to change their lives unimaginably? Do kids realize that pregnancy is an outcome, no matter if you use a condom or are on the pill?

Teenage pregnancy isn’t exactly the most favorable of life choices, so, ultimately, I have to wonder: Who would do something so impulsive that could postpone dreams that could change your world?

A year or two ago, I asked a close friend if she thought sex was a big idea (she and her boyfriend had sex multiple times), and she said no. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was right. I thought it was just like anything else that couples do, just with a more physical encounter.

A lot of teens today [seem to] think this, too, based on how many are no longer virgins. I’m not saying kids are entirely ignorant to have sex without considering the possibility of pregnancy, STDs or anything along those lines, but considering the amount of awareness that kids have [about sex]—it’s bordering on ridiculous.

For example, in my health class, we had guest speakers from Planned Parenthood … telling us how important safe sex is, and so many people were just rolling their eyes, with that “I know, I know” look on their faces.

But truthfully? I don’t think they do know. Kids think that sex isn’t that big of a deal, because they’re just gonna be with the same person forever.

Yeah, definitely not.

There is no such thing as forever, especially when you’re 14 years old.

Natalia Navarro, 16

Photo By David Jayne

In sickness and in health

When my mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer, they didn’t tell [me and my younger brother] right away. My dad wanted her to tell us, but she didn’t want us to know before she had surgery for it, but he talked her into telling us.

We went out for errands and ice cream, and then she told us. I really wanted to cry, but I just kind of held it in—I kept looking at my brother and down at my feet. I felt like I couldn’t even look at my mom; whenever I looked at her, I wanted to burst out crying.

Her illness made us all closer; I felt like I had to be strong for them. I was glad I had my brother—someone to go through it with.

I did let my friends know, but I didn’t like talking about it because it put me in a down place, and I didn’t want to put them in a down place, too. I was able to talk to my cousin about it—she was understanding and would call and text me.

Now I want to be a pediatrician when I grow up. I think it’d be awesome to make that child feel better at the end of the day. My mom and dad have always encouraged me to do whatever I want. My mom works in a law firm, and my dad drives a cement truck. They both went to junior college. They’re both stressing the importance of college to me—they’ve always said it doesn’t matter what I do with my life as long as I’m happy. They’d love for me to do something great with my life—like being a doctor or a police officer.

Kaitlyn Powers, 14
Natomas (as told to SN&R)

God, sex and purity rings

Yes, I admit it. I am a 15-year-old girl and I have never had sex—or have even kissed a guy, for that matter.

Why haven’t I had sex yet?

I’ve never had the opportunity to have sex—no guy has asked me—but even if one did, I would reply with a flat-out no.

I am saving my virginity until my wedding night. I know this sounds weird, and some people might label me as a “religious freak,” but I can live with that.

I am choosing not to have sex until I get married because I am a Christian and God commands it, and honestly, I think that is right.

I [also] think waiting isn’t bad, because there’s no worry of STDs or AIDS (protection doesn’t always work). Also [by waiting], I can’t get pregnant. These are some bonuses to my choice on waiting until marriage to have sex—and I have a purity ring on my left ring finger to show it.

Ana Garcia, 15

Stand alone, stand happy

There are many misconceptions about being a teenage girl. One is that we all need to have a boyfriend, which is so untrue. Not every girl needs a boyfriend. Most of us are perfectly happy standing up for [ourselves], and the girls out there who do “need” boyfriends only want one for the attention. I am single and perfectly happy just hanging out with my loving, caring friends.

Elizabeth Kroll, 14
West Sacramento

Photos By David Jayne

Let it be

My role model has been Paul McCartney since I was 10. He is so amazing—he plays the piano very well, and I love trying to play his songs, like “Let It Be.” He is also an amazing singer. Unfortunately, I’m not quite the singer, so I can’t pull it off, but he inspires me anyways. My whole family was very annoyed when I was constantly singing his songs in the shower for months. The songs are so clever and deep that it was hard for me to not sing them.

Jane Nathan, 12