On Monday I was told I would have to junior volunteers help me on my afternoon shift at the animal rescue. The girls were around fifteen, giggly but personable, awkward in the way most typical fifteen year-olds are. Because I do not consider myself particularly good at managing people (I care too much if people like me as apposed to not knowing exactly what needs to be done and keeping a mental tab of what that is and silently resenting those with me who do not read my mind and know about it and the specific order in which it is composed), but being in a hurry, I attempted to overcome my phobia of direction and bite the bullet.
Water dishes needed to be checked and refilled, food dishes filled, removed and cleaned. Likewise, observation forms needed to be filled out, and four of the grumpier cats (specifically named) should NOT be let out. I anticipated some need for checking work and redirection, and I even allotted time for the girls to mindlessly play with the kittens in the back rather than help me work.
Call me silly, but I was shocked to not even be granted a blank stare. Instead the girls did exactly what they pleased (put the kittens into a four foot rabbit run made of steal wire and laugh like mules when the kittens did exactly what kittens do: run about and lose traction on a slick floor). The dishes were soaked and poorly cleaned—soap clung to the seams; and when I tried to change learning styles, as my mother would suggest, and SHOW the girls the soap and TELL them why the soap would harm the digestive systems of the very kittens they loved SO much—they stared at each other with open mouths and then went back to their kittens.
Moving into a type-A hyperdrive, I finished alone, letting the girls keep vigil on the kitten ring while I cleaned dirty litter boxes wondering how I’d become so old I no longer could identify even in the slightest way, to a fifteen year-old girl. After all, I was one, and a pretty horrible one at that.
And so as I cleaned I listened to their conversations, those two gawfawing girls, with their too tight pants and bad eyeliner, the converse I still wear and the two inches of overly feminine underpants sticking out of the back of their jeans—Victoria’s Secret clearance, sorted by sizes and colors—and waited for some shred of relate-ability, some point in the conversation in which to jump in, so I could offer proof I was not out of reach, but fun and hip, despite the directions I was barking out like a warden, falling on deaf ears.
In the end I gave up, realizing it was a relief to be twenty-eight, and shuddering a little, to realize that at fifteen, my diatribes on John Lennon and fear of Sunday School were probably just as uncouth and hee-haw sounding as their discussions on Justin Beeber and The Jonas Brothers, their mouth breathing and excessive sniffling.
It is not so bad, despite financial concerns and work schedules, to be a little more diverse and to go where you want to go and see what you want to see, rather than waiting for your parents to take you there, or not knowing about it at all. And now, when a group of us nearly thirty-somethings does something silly, at least we paid for it ourselves, and our parents will never know they should be disappointed.