Years ago my parents bought a new house and moved out of the home where I spent my teenage years. Before they could finish the move, I had to go through my old bedroom and clear out everything I wanted to keep as mementos of my teenhood. And, that, my friends, is when I discovered I was a teenage asshole. I was in my late thirties at the time, and I had blissfully lived all those years thinking I was cool and suave and charming in high school. To my utter horror and shame, the things I found in my room proved otherwise.
First, I had a picture of Madonna on my wall, the “Like a Virgin” Madonna. She’s dressed in black with dozens of bracelets and a bow in her hair. Madonna! I was a young man of the redneck persuasion. What was I doing with a picture of Madonna on my wall? Clearly, I was leading a double life. I listened to 38 Special and Van Halen in public, but in private I was pining over a lowly pop star.
Second, I found a mix tape that sent chills down my spine when I listened to it. It contained songs by Flock of Seagulls, Human League, Soft Cell, Men at Work, Thompson Twins… do I really need to continue with this humiliating list? It is a veritable who’s who of schlocky 80’s crap masters. How could I put together such a nauseating collection of music?
Thirdly, there were those letters from my girlfriend at the time. Man, I have never seen the words “how could you” written so many times with such nice penmanship. Apparently, I was a bit oafish and self-centered with an embarrassingly robust jealous streak. Strangely enough, I even found letters I had written to her, which means she returned them to me, and thank God she did. Whoa! Talk about your dark narcissistic tendencies. They’d cut off your hands in some countries for writing what I wrote.
There were other things, cologne I had no business wearing, various earring studs from a couple of ear piercings that went horribly wrong, several pairs of parachute pants, a boom box, etc. None of it was reassuring. I truly was a teenage asshole.
If you’re a teenager reading this, chances are you’ve had to Google a bunch of stuff here just to get a reference to what it is I’m talking about, but you’re also probably thinking that this will never happen to you. I hate to be the one who tells you this, but finding out you were an asshole at one point in your life is unavoidable unless you were raised in a Buddhist commune. We all do things we look back on with revulsion, especially when we were teenagers. Look upon my youth as a cautionary tale. Whenever you’re about to do something really stupid, stop and think about it very carefully. The adult you will conjure up the memory and cringe and wince and probably seek the help of a professional therapist just to deal with how incredibly stupid you were. If you can live with that, go ahead and be stupid. Yes, it is true what they say, the past does not equal the future. Just because that’s who you were doesn’t mean that’s who you are or you’re going to be. Look at me, I don’t have a single picture of Madonnna hanging on the walls in my house. Just don’t use that as an excuse to totally make an idiot out of yourself.