04
Nov

I’m not old.

Granted, I don’t understand the Justin Bieber phenomenon, and this whole Demi Lovato rehab thing is way over my head – who is she again? – but I still think of myself as young and hip. And despite the snide comments you may be making at this very moment, me needing to state such a disclaimer does not at all negate the fact that I’m still cool.

Anyway.

This past Saturday I agreed to be part of a mentoring event for an organization called Step Up Women’s Network. You meet at a local college, get wired on free coffee and then spend a half-day with a teen that has set her sights on college. She asks you about your collegiate experiences; you ask her about her goals and dreams. It’s a big lovefest.

I arrived super stoked to meet my girl. Let the bonding experience commence! And I became even more jazzed when I saw the other mentors. All lovely women, to be sure, but I was confident that most of them were older than me. I was totally going to be the cool mentor that day. I heard my name called and walked over to the girl who had raised her hand in conjunction with mine… Wow. Brittany* looked really, really young. I scanned the crowd of girls. They all looked really, really young. I guess I hadn’t been around teenagers in a while. Brittany said she was fourteen, but this girl looked like she still needed someone to hold her hand while crossing the street. I tried to be chill and complimented her on her hoodie. I pointed out that I too was wearing a hoodie. Isn’t that cool? We’re both wearing hoodies! She didn’t seem impressed.

We then were herded into a lecture hall and given an hour-long tutorial on all things college. What’s the difference between a college and university? Between a public and private institution? How many UCs and Cal States are there? I was hoping this Q&A would go on forever; I was completely enthralled by this information. Also, it was giving me tons of material to bounce off my mentoree. I began to calm down. After the session was over, we walked outside.

So what did you think of that lecture? “It was good.”

Did it all make sense to you? “Yeah.”

Do you have any questions? “No.”

Okay, I was panicking again. What was going on here? Either this girl had no interest in college, or she had no interest in me. My bet was on the latter. Why didn’t she want to talk to me? I had been looking forward to this day for weeks. I loved college and desperately wanted to share my enthusiasm with someone who had yet to experience this world. So I did. Her lack of excitement wasn’t going to stop me. I proceeded to pour out my advice on anything and everything I could think of: campus life, roommates, cafeteria food, class selection, financial aid. Poor girl. I could actually see a wave of relief wash over her face when they announced lunch.

As we approached the eating area, Brittany finally spoke. I had absentmindedly asked if she was a vegetarian – another one word answer: “no” – but much to my surprise, she then launched into a story about her mother’s cooking. Apparently it’s not that good. Regardless, she eats her mom’s food without saying anything because she doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but not her brother. Brittany’s twelve-year-old brother is a real brat and will refuse to eat something if he doesn’t like it. She then concluded that her brother was more of a girl than she was.

This girl had just said more in the last five minutes than in the previous two hours. Could it be that she simply wasn’t a morning person? I then found out that besides English, Brittany could also speak Cambodian, Mandarin and French, and that she was taking both Kung Fu and piano lessons. I asked which of her classes she liked the most. Her answer? “None.” She then revealed that school bored her. Aha! It was all beginning to make sense at last.

This chick was all right. In fact, she was more than all right – she was a bona fide smarty pants. And the more I got her to open up, the more I realized that this girl totally had her act together. She went on to tell me that she would be studying medicine in college and commuting from home. Why commute? “Because I don’t want to be away from my family.” Hmm… I told her she’d feel differently about that come senior year.

After lunch, we headed off for a tour of a real college dorm. Brittany was obviously bored, but nonetheless listened to the RAs go on and on about what to do if you lose your swipe card and how to maximize room space. But what if you don’t get along with your roommate? Or you need to walk across campus late at night? These were questions to which the other mentorees wanted answers, but not my girl. I then tried a last-ditch effort to get her into the school spirit by pointing out the common room. Look! You can hang out here anytime you want! Just talking and eating and creating beautiful memories with all your new friends! She nodded politely. Okay, fine. I give up. We headed back to the main hall for a final wrap up and farewell.

The staff had organized a raffle of collegiate gear as parting gifts for the mentorees. As numbers were called out and girls skipped up the aisle to collect their T-shirts and mugs, I was becoming more and more agitated. I wanted Brittany to win. Maybe it would finally spark some excitement in her. That’s when she leaned over and whispered, “You’re not really happy the other girls are winning, are you?” I looked at her in shock, and for the first time that day, her face lit up with genuine happiness. She had read me like a book. I couldn’t help but laugh and nodded my head. “I knew it.” She leaned back into her seat and quietly waited for the rest of the numbers to be called. Yes, this girl was going to be just fine.

* Name has been changed to protect the young, innocent and much smarter than me.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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4 Responses to “Just One Of The Girls”

Fantastic story! Did you learn something about being cool from Brittany? Hogwash, be you–the fun, funny, excitable, smart, caring and kind and beautiful person you are.

Anonymous
November 4th, 2010

Wow! Thank you for the kind words, Anonymous! But ’tis true, Brittany really did school me on being cool. She’s light-years ahead of where I was at that age!

Me
November 4th, 2010

HAHA! I had a similar situation recently with an 11 year old. I was excited to make friends, but that’s not what she had in mind. She would have liked me a lot more if I were a bigger fan of reality TV. But I’m glad Brittany* has her act together! Someday, she too will be a mentor, pining for the affection off her little mentee.
BTW, hoodies = sweet fur shur 😉

Bethany
November 4th, 2010

It was a hard life lesson I learned that day… I’m really not young and hip anymore. But it’s still not gonna stop me from shopping at Forever 21! 😉

Me
November 4th, 2010