A teenage girl is a work in progress

Today I finished watching Netflix’s revival of Gilmore Girls. It’s been a long time coming; most of my friends remember the original series from their pre-teen-hood, whereas I started it for the first time this summer. And today, I watched the end credits appear on my laptop screen for the last time, seven seasons and a reboot later. Today is also the day before my 20th birthday, my last day of being a teenager, and these two things aligning feels right.

I may not have grown up with Gilmore Girls, but something about the show – of the original seasons, at any rate – feels inherently Teenage Girl. It’s the same feeling I associate with Buffy The Vampire Slayer, with Lorde’s Pure Heroine, with Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson. The artefacts of my teenage girlhood that I feel certain I could not have consumed in the same way at any other point in my life.

I am listening to Ribs in my last few minutes of being 19. There is something about teenage girlhood that feels like it should be clung onto.

It is an identity that I have learnt to take pride in, to guard with a fierce defensiveness. Teenage girls are derided and belittled. We are not taken seriously. Boys will be boys but we have to be women, “young ladies”, infantilised but denied our youth. So much and yet so little is expected of us.

The worst times of my life have happened while I have been a teenage girl. You couldn’t get me to be 15 again if you paid me. But I will miss it. I will miss being a teenage girl, something that has been part of my identity for so long, the only part of my identity that I have any real memories of. Of course I remember childhood and pre-teen-hood, but the memories do not feel like tangible objects that I carry with me. They do not make me want to wince or cry or scream or laugh out loud. Teenage memories have nails that dig into flesh and scratch down blackboards and cling onto memory.

I feel protective of my teenage girl self. As a teenage girl I have watched myself lose all my confidence and then build it back up again, slowly but surely. A teenage girl is a work in progress, a process that will not stop at midnight today. As a teenage girl I have laid the groundwork for everything that is to come.

As a teenage girl I have survived high school. I have taken exams and got drunk for the first time and fainted after getting my ears pierced and experienced grief for the first time. I have lost friends I didn’t want to lose and lost friends I did want to lose and I have made friends that I never, ever want to lose. I have seen different cities and different countries and moved 200 miles away from home.

But still, 20 feels like a big deal. It feels more like adulthood than 18 ever did and I’m sure more than 21 will, this time next year. 20 is an end and a beginning after years of a middle, of continuing, of work in progress.

Ultimately, Lorde says all of this much more succinctly: “It feels so scary, getting old.”

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