The Puberty Detective

I was a tomboy growing up, as shown below by the ludicrous black high top sneakers that I’m sporting with those thoroughly 80s aquamarine-colored highwater trousers.  Those aren’t jeans, kids.  Those are straight-up trousers. And you can’t even blame this sartorial choice on the family, as you can see my sister Bonnie is pictured on the left in clothing that is not from the Pouting Dude section at Zayre.

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What’s the saying?  Little girls are made of sugar and spice and black high tops and trousers?  As you probably already know, I eventually grew out of it and became a bona fide painted-up hussy.  A real trollop.  A genuine slut-puppy supreme with tramp fries.

But enough about what I have in common with your MOM.  Ohhhhhhhh!!

Seriously, though, even today my “conservative” office pants are so tight that my dry cleaner returns them to me pre-tipped with dollar bills already sticking out of the waistband.

That being said, in the years between the tomboy and slut-puppy phases, the most disgusting thing happened to me.  The worst, most horrifying thing that had ever happened to anyone.  The most god awful, hideous, terrifying event:

Puberty.

I shuddered just thinking about it.

As a tomboy, the entire process of puberty felt like a personal affront to me.  I tried my best to escape it, but there it was, inescapable and right there in the mirror.  My widening hips no longer fit into my skate shorts, and my skin was as greasy as Danny Zuko’s hair.  I sometimes cried for no reason because I felt “emotional”, whatever the hell that meant.  It was no longer socially acceptable to spend all my time raising tadpoles in the old baby pool in the backyard.  Climbing trees became greatly frowned-upon.  Legs would have to be shaved.  Lips glossed, hair tossed.  Still waiting for the boobs to really come in, though.

Oh god.  I was turning into a teenage girl.  No, no, no, no, no.  What could be worse?  What could be worse than that?!

I’ll tell you exactly what was worse.  The Puberty Detective a/k/a My Grandmother.

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Let me start off by saying the disclosure that you always have to make when you start a story like this:  I love my grandmother.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the disclosures, I can tell you about the nightmare hellscape this woman attempted to inflict upon me between the ages of 10 and 16; the tenacious, torturous pit of Hades that became my existence every time I visited her.

Did she beat me?  No.  Did she withhold dessert when everyone else got some?  Never!  She did something way, way more heinous.

She had questions.  Oh god, the questions.  Not just any questions, either.

Puberty questions.

I had been given a heads-up on this by my older sisters, who’d told me that when they were my age, our grandmother would routinely bust out with gems like, “So have you gotten your period yet?” or “Are you wearing a bra yet?”

I was already in a constant state of panic due to my ever-increasing hormones and related identity crisis, and the mere thought that another human being might ask me these kinds of questions made me want to unzip my skin and run out of the room a skeleton.

I couldn’t very well pack up and leave the country, so I did the only thing I could do.  I formed a plan to thwart the Puberty Detective’s investigation at every turn.

The plan was that I would work diligently and tirelessly to avoid ever being along in a room with my grandmother until the coast was clear.  I figured the coast would be clear around age 16, when it would have been silly to ask those kinds of questions, so I had six years to play “Keep Away” with her.  I could do that.  Hell, I’d been hiding the fact that I actually liked boys from everyone for years already, despite the fact that I was one of the founding members of The Against Boys Club (ABC, y’all) in elementary school.

Laugh if you will, but after enduring years of physical torment and harassment from the boys in our neighborhood, The Against Boys Club successfully planned and executed a bus stop takeover one morning where we totally beat all the boys’ asses.  Don’t let anyone tell you that organized crime doesn’t pay.  Those little 9-year old bastards never even saw it coming.

Now that’s a brag – and I’m braggin’ it.

So for those six years between the ages of 10 and 16 years old, any time I found myself alone with my grandmother, I would find a reason to have to run out of the room.  We’d all be sitting on the patio and I’d see that the other people were getting up from their chairs to walk back into the house and I would go on red alert:  You better find a reason to leave this room and find it NOW.  Then I would say I had to go to the bathroom or something, and flee the room.

Sometimes I would misjudge the timing and The Puberty Detective would actually start to ask one of the dreaded questions, “So, Maggie, have you gotten your…” and I would jump up and disappear like Houdini before she could even get the word “period” out.  One time, I actually did the classic “What?  What?  Did I just hear someone call my name in the other room?” before sprinting out of the room.

I look back on all of this now and wish we had been able to be closer, and that we hadn’t lost all those years to me running out of the room, but I was so freaked out by this Puberty Detective business, she became my number one persona non grata.  The same woman who quietly sang hymns while she vacuumed, who wore one of those flowery bathing caps in the community pool at her 55-plus community, became the person I feared most in the world.

She wasn’t menacing, she was just curious.  Her inquiring mind just wanted to know, but I mean, come on.  Puberty is bad enough without having to field questions from reporters.

Besides, had anyone known what they were in for, they would have never wanted to see THIS come to fruition.

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Ain’t No Rest for The Petty

I always get a laugh when someone I know says something like, “Come on, Maggie.  You’re not petty like that.” Or, “I know you.  You’re above that.”

I have to pause from those conversations and take a moment to look in the mirror to make sure that I’m actually wearing my own face that day, and not one of those Ronald Reagan rubber masks from Point Break that I like to wear on Thursdays, because I assume a case of mistaken identity must be involved here.

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There’s no way to prove that’s not me on the right.

If you claim to know me but would state that I am above any level of pettiness or immaturity, then we need to get together more often, because you obviously know jack squat about me.

Also, I’m very busy with social anxiety and I don’t have time to get together with you.

Here’s the facts, folks.  I am probably the most petty and immature person you have ever encountered.  I am not being self-deprecating here.  I saw the “Nanette” special on Netflix.  Don’t tell me to not be so hard on myself.  I should be at least five thousand times harder on myself.

I can assure you that I am not above nearly any level of pettiness.  If anything, I would be willing to go much, much, much lower if the situation were to warrant it.  So low that sometimes I almost want the situation to warrant it so I can once again feel the thrill of vengeful house-egging and the pounding of my heart as I run away, villain-laughing, exclaiming, “That’s the last time you’ll question MY pet rat-naming skills, ho-bag!” into the damp Florida night.

“Chad” is a perfectly good name for a pet rat and I still stand by that to this day.  Take a second and think about every Chad you’ve ever met.  See?  It makes sense.

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You know one or more of these rats is a frat bro turned investment banker.

Pettiness and immaturity are two of those things that when you’re younger you think are just a consequence of youth and inexperience, and that you’ll eventually grow out of them.  That being said, if you’re still petty and immature when you round the big 4-0, that deal is pretty much sealed.  You’re officially, permanently, petty and immature.  You should probably try out for a show on Bravo.  Let’s all get together and petty it up sometime.

Also, I’m very busy with social anxiety and I don’t have time to get together with you.

Like so many things in life, I turn to the film “Moonstruck” to work through this behavior, so anytime someone accuses me of being petty, I just yell, “In time you’ll drop dead and I’ll come to your funeral in a red dress!”

Pretty sure I have to get that Moonstruck quote tattooed somewhere, but that would break my longstanding tradition of having tattoos that don’t mean anything.  It’s too bad, because I reach for that quote often, mostly when I am making an obscene Sicilian gesture at someone who has already left the room.

I am not Sicilian, by the way, as evidenced by my lack of ability to make delicious Sunday gravy, and my complete failure at being able to talk with my hands without looking like Zack Morris trying to talk his way out of detention with Mr. Belding.

I am so Northwestern European that in a recent WASP contest, I came in first place in not knowing what the big deal is about that Despacito song.  I saw Andrew McCarthy on television one time, fanned myself with a slice of Oscar Mayer bologna, and exclaimed, “Well, my my my!  Who is this Grecian gigolo?!”

Get this (and this shit is crazy).  Just last month I sent in a passport application and it got kicked back to me because they claimed they were unable to discern my facial features against the solid white background in the passport photo.  In order to remedy this, I had to go run around a building to put some color in my cheeks and put on some bronzer to re-take the photo because apparently I’m so freaking pale I DON’T SHOW UP ON FILM.

Any Sicilian gestures that I know I just learned by osmosis from having my face pressed against the television while watching re-runs of The Golden Girls for the past 30 years or so.  Television is educational, and I won’t put up with you disparaging it.

And perhaps you would not be receiving this obscene Sicilian gesture to begin with had you NOT looked at my new shoes and instead of complimenting them said, “Wow.  What size shoe do you wear?” implying that my feet are huge.  Also, my feet are actually huge.  You think I don’t know that?

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I refuse to field any questions as to my wardrobe in this photo from 1992, but good lord, look at the size of those feet.  You could power a tugboat with those flippers.

Guess what you’ve done now, Puf’nStuf?  Now you’ve gone and made yourself an enemy.  You couldn’t just compliment the shoes, even if you didn’t mean it?  I compliment people on their shoes all the time and I don’t mean it.  It’s called “being a contributing member of society”.  It’s called being a “team player”, you Juicy Fruit jackwagon.

You thought you could throw your little passive-aggressive stuff at me and I would just lie down with my giant feet in the air and take it, but now I will do everything in my power to make sure you are on the receiving end of my pettiness and immaturity FOREVER.  And, no, I will never forgive you.  Ever!  The die has been cast!  The only difference between you being all frozen in a block of my loathing and Han Solo being all frozen in that giant bar of chocolate is that Han Solo is eventually getting out of his predicament.

Oops!  That was a spoiler.

You have now been cordially drafted into the ranks of several dozens of individuals I have encountered in my life who fall squarely into the “Nemesis” category.  As such, you will now live in the long shadow of my wrath and I will make it my life’s work to end you.

“End you”, by the way, means I will mock your mannerisms behind your back as you walk away, and mentally put snotty air-quotes around your name anytime I think about you, and maybe tell people behind your back that I think your baby looks like Wilford Brimley and that nobody is fooled by that pink satin headband.  I will elaborate by telling them that unless that pink satin headband covers your baby’s entire face, your baby will still look like Wilford Brimley, and that you should invest in a headsuit rather than just a headband.

Quietly.  From a hundred feet away.

It is important to note that I am now at an age where my wrath is exceeded only by my complete and total fear of confrontation.