Lipgloss and Lylas: Thoughts on Fifteen

I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton today. I’m not sure why this book took so long to reach the top of my towering tower of TBR. And before it’s asked, I haven’t seen this movie either. I’m not sure I want to – the book was so visual that I don’t know if I want my mental-movie changed by actors. And Tom Cruise… eh.

As I was paging the “Bonus Materials” in the back of my copy, I was shocked to read in the author’s interview that she was 15 (15!) when she started this book.

At fifteen I was writing love poems to the boy who sat across from me in chem. And notes I folded into intricate triangles and passed to friends while the teacher pretended not to notice – these were also mostly about the boy who sat across from me in chem, or whatever my mother had done to annoy me that morning. I wrote some papers too; most memorably a re-write of the ending of Chopin’s The Awakening. (In which Edna dies during a trans-Atlantic crossing while having Robert’s baby – I think I have a copy somewhere, perhaps someday I’ll offer it up as a giggle-instigator).

At 15 I was not writing well-crafted literature that tackled important social issues. Thirteen years later, I still haven’t yet reached a point where I can read my diaries from those years without flinching. I just wanted to know if we were going to the North Shore or Rockingham mall on Friday, what the newest flavor of Lip Smackers tasted like, if Bailey was going to hurry up and dump Sarah on Party of Five, and when the cutie in chem was going to look my way.
I’m 28 now, able to drive myself to the mall on whim (though it’s no longer that appealing), able to purchase (and constantly lose) all the lipgloss I want. I recently found Party of Five in the OnDemand menu and couldn’t suffer through a whole episode. The chem class cutie? I haven’t talked to him since before my wedding five years back.

I’ll never be a teen success like S.E. Hinton – I can’t go back and change the silly girl I was or the superficial drivel I wrote, and I don’t know that I’d want to. I couldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t been her. My life hasn’t been all sugar-sweet, neither now nor back then. But despite that, I’ve clung to optimism with stubborn tenacity.

Is my writing still sometime only puddle-deep and topical? Sure. Sometimes. But don’t let that fool you – there’s a lot going on underneath the shiny reflective surface.


  • Sadly, my writing is still puddle deep. Or maybe not so sad. I think there is a place in life for entertainment that takes me out of the depths of the human condition for a few hours. I can wallow in them the other twenty some hours a day.

    April 3, 2009
  • Kari, having read your blog (and everyone should!) I know this isn’t true. Your post about your grandmother was so poignant and made me nostalgic for my own Grandma.

    That being said – there’s absolutely a place for entertainment writing, and I’m happy we can fill it!

    April 3, 2009
  • Wow, I thought I was the only person who would admit to (religiously) watching Party of Five! *wince* I wanted to BE Neve Campbell. Anyway don’t worry, I haven’t read The Outsiders, but I kind of doubt whatever Hinton started writing at 15 much resembles the final copy…or at least, that’s what we’ll tell ourselves. 😉

    April 3, 2009

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