Nothing like getting inside information. And that is just what I did to produce UIO’s fifth podcast in this second series, which will be released next week. On Being A Teen Girl Now features 16-year-old Leah from Hertfordshire and 15-year-old Divaina from Kent.
Not only do we have a timely conversation about their greatest challenges and opportunities, it got me thinking about my teen years a bit more specifically. But before reminiscing, I can’t say enough about the potential of both Divaina and Leah, not only in the space they are each in but also looking to the future.
What I remember most about our interview together is their individual and collective fresh approach to life, their willingness to speak out, to correct something if it was wrong, such as the pronunciation of their names. Yep, I got both names wrong. Not to mention their consideration, concern and respect for each other and their peers, and the awareness and interest they both showed in the world around them.
Gosh, I thought, as my mind travelled back into time, was I that tuned in? What was happening in the world when I was a teenager? Have teen girls always faced as many pressures and have they always been expected, willing and able to express their trials and tribulations as I asked both girls to do. Could I have articulated my concerns so eloquently at such a young age?
While no clear-cut answers spring to mind on any of the questions, I have a good memory of the American Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. I was the ripe old age of fourteen. Two hundred years ago today was a theme that still lives in my head. Beyond that and who was President, I had to take a quick refresher to see what was happening on the world stage.
Closer to home, however, I do recall who my closest friends were, the importance I placed on friendships, as if the air I breathed depending on them, as well as the need to be perfect. Of course, the times are different and social media, for example, turns the heat right up on the importance of self-image, being a success and so on, but the concept of being on trend, being popular, and being smart seeped into my teenage brain all the same.
Also, there was the pink elephant in the room—racism. Though there was a collegial relationship between the races, we were certainly not a close-knit group or a group with desires to diversify. The first three years of our school life had been spent in desegregation, so here we were as teenagers, trying to make sense of the world together but on different sides of the aisle. One example of this is the fact that we had separate proms.
It was with this weight that I journeyed through my teen years, often times reasoning that the teen years didn’t matter, that they were more or less a dress rehearsal for the rest of life. Over my should now, I see how wrong I was. Hence my desire to support teen girls right where they are. Life is now. And the good news about today’s teen girls is their willingness to start where they are tackling issues like sexualisation, sexism, colourism and so on. And though it is a heavy load, it’s lightened in the power of togetherness.
Onwards and upwards for both our guests and all teen girls. Get the inside scoop on UIO: On Being A Teen Girl Now, out Wednesday, November 7th. Listen on iTunes, Soundcloud, TuneIn, Stitcher or subscribe to our RSS feed to have the podcast delivered to your device.