As I approach mid-life and my own son gets closer to his high school years, I often find myself thinking back and recalling some of the feelings I had during my teen years. I wonder how I will pass along advice, wisdom and guidance when he needs these things. In an effort to bridge the age gap, I recently rewatched a few of the movies I grew up with in the 1980’s and realized, minus the cell phones and social media, little has changed in the teenage realm.
I remembered quoting the really great lines from these iconic movies of my youth in the hallways between classes, or while I talked with friends over cold, barely-edible cafeteria pizza. These quotes so perfectly reflected the angst, the yearning and the general confusion we all felt during a time when we didn’t know where we fit, who we were or who we wanted to become. Here are just a few of our favorites:
“Nerds, jocks. My side, your side. It’s all bullshit. It’s hard enough just trying to be yourself.”—Ronald Miller, Can’t Buy Me Love
When lovable, misguided nerd, Ronald Miller, uttered this line after going from “geek” status to “king” status to no status in record time, we jumped out of our seats and applauded. We all wanted to fit, to be a part of something, a group where we could just be who we were. Our looks, which were often unsightly due to raging hormones; our abilities, which dictated our extracurricular activities; and our chosen circles of friends all helped determine our place in the social hierarchy of high school.
“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”— Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything
“Carpe diem. Seize the day.”— John Keating, Dead Poets Society
As long as our days seemed, while we counted down the minutes during study halls and math classes, and as immortal as we believed ourselves to be, one day everything would come to an end. We didn’t think of it often, but when some unfortunate event on the evening news or in our own town reminded us, we were scared. Each day mattered, each day was a new opportunity to live our lives, to seize the day. We vowed to do this during our teen years and beyond.
“Well, it’s just like they’re people I work with and our job is being popular…”—Veronica Sawyer, Heathers
While the nerds and misfits had a hard time, so too did those who fit in. The popular kids were great at showing everyone what they wanted them to see, but it was work. They, while genetically gifted, had drawn from the same deck we all had; they’d simply been dealt a better hand. We knew it and they knew it. What the less-than-popular kids didn’t know was that it wasn’t always sunshine and roses on the cool kid side of the cafeteria.
“When you grow up, your heart dies.”—Allison, The Breakfast Club
As hard as growing up was, and as much as we truly believed we wanted to be adults, we were terrified. We watched our parents pay bills and work jobs, doing their best to raise kids and keep everything together. We often wondered if they’d ever been young at all. In fact, they were some of the uncoolest people ever, and it was impossible to believe they had once been just like us. None of us actually wanted to grow up, because growing up meant leaving our lives as kids behind. To me this is one of the saddest moments in any teen movie…EVER! Watching it as an adult is even harder than it was as a kid.
“That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call ’em something else.”—Samantha’s dad, Sixteen Candles
When the dad from Sixteen Candles gave his daughter this bit of advice, we knew it was true. Feelings for the opposite sex were not always reciprocated, which made crushes sometimes intolerable. But we knew what to do. We had become experts at proper breakup protocol—watch movies, pig out and move on, eventually. High school love was the butterfly in stomach, head in a fog sort, and we often remember it fondly, though we’d never want to go through it again. Young love hurt far too much.
“You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain……and an athlete……and a basket case……a princess……and a criminal.”—Brian, The Breakfast Club
In the future, these are the quotes I will share will my own kids as they stumble through their teen years. I hope these words will offer them the same comfort and inspiration that they once offered me. Because as different as their teen years may be from my own, there are some feelings, some experiences that never change regardless of the generation.
This post was originally published on Suburban Shit Show: Tales from the Tree-Lined Trenches