Tag Archives: Marie Howe

The Edge of Seventeen

I once read an astrological profile for my sign Gemini, that said Gemini’s eternal age is between 14-21.  Having other friends who are Geminis I can say this is for the most part true. I think sometimes it expresses itself in different ways.  For example an ex-roommate of mine is trapped emotionally and behaviorally (and I’m sure one could argue physically) in the mind/body of a 14-year-old girl.  That tender age where girls still think the world revolves around them and have a difficult time handling experiences that suggest otherwise. It’s a time when the movie “Mean Girls” is more of a documentary than a comedy.

But it can also be a sort of magical time, where anything seems possible. Maybe that cute boy will ask you out in front the whole cafeteria, maybe you will score the winning goal for your team, and you just might pass that calculus test with a cram session and a bit of luck. I think there are some great writers who can really capture that time in our lives where we seemed on the edge of something great.

They’re able to make us sigh with longing for an easier time (or what seems like a simpler time when our days are full of bills, appointments, job hunting). Even now I revisit the pages of Francesca Lia Block novel or a Judy Blume book.

I suppose the reason I’m drawn to the coming of age story  is because everything seems so raw. Even calculated experiences turn out otherwise, things are left hidden; everyone is waiting to unfold and show the world who they could be. I like it because it’s so different from the 20’s and 30’s syndrome where everyone thinks they know who they are, and they’re just waiting for everyone to bow down and say they’re “fucking amazing!”

Sometimes I think we should celebrate the people we used to be, before we got caught up in being a grown up.  Maybe we should take a page from Marie Howe’s book and examine those turning point experiences.

Practicing

I want to write a love poem for the girls I kissed in seventh grade,
a song for what we did on the floor in the basement

of somebody’s parents’ house, a hymn for what we didn’t say but thought:
That feels good or I like that, when we learned how to open each others’ mouths

how to move our tongues to make somebody moan. We called it  practicing, and
one was the boy, and we paired off — maybe six or eight girls – and turned out

the lights and kissed and kissed until we were stoned on kisses, and lifted our
nightgowns or let the straps drop, and, Now you be the boy:

concrete floor, sleeping bag or couch, playroom, game room, train room, laundry.
Linda’s basement was like a boat with booths and portholes

instead of windows. Gloria’s father had a bar downstairs with stools that spun,
plush carpeting. We kissed each others’ throats.

We sucked each others’ breasts, and we left marks, and never spoke of it upstairs
outdoors, in daylight, not once. We did it, and it was

practicing, and slept, sprawled so our legs still locked or crossed a hand still lost
in someone’s hair … and we grew up and hardly mentioned who

the first kiss really was — a girl like us, still sticky with the moisturizer we’d
shared in the bathroom. I want to write a song

for that thick silence in the dark, and the first pure thrill of unreluctant desire
just before we made ourselves stop.

-Marie Howe, 1997