I spent years waiting for you. Even as my daughter suckled at my breast, or slipped her warm little hand in mine as we crossed the street, I knew she was under your curse. I'd heard you mutter it when she was born. I knew that even if I dedicated my entire life to burning every single spinning wheel in every single galaxy, you, Adolescence, would still find her and claim her. And not on her sixteenth birthday, either. I would be lucky to get twelve, thirteen years before you snatched her from me.
At first, it was easy to ignore you, what with diapers and spit-up and all. And then daycare and grade school and bag lunches and dance lessons and softball and sore throats. But I never forgot about you. How could I? My own adolescence rang in my head. "Your life is over," I spat at my thirty-five year old mom when she wouldn't buy me clothes at thirteen. "You're a disgrace to the family," she accused me a few years later when I gave up fashion for flower-child attire.
My daughter sensed you were coming too, way before you started to change her body. Sitting at the kitchen table one day, a beautiful ten year old girl, she looked over at me and said, "Ma, I wish things would never change." I squeezed her hand and said through my tears "So do I, sweetie. So do I." Did she see you like I did, smirking in the corner? Hear your haughty laughter?
And now you're here, and she's in your clutches. You've convinced her that she knows everything and that I know nothing. Because of you, she cringes when I touch her, unceasingly criticizes me, and has forgotten the creative, independent little girl she used to be. You've taught her to put on makeup, to listen to her iTunes nonstop, and to IM her friends constantly. And, to my absolute horror, you've turned her into a superficial, materialistic, brand-seeking, Abercrombie-and-Fitch-and-Hollister wearing conformist. (I have to admire your dead-on aim, Adolescence. You knew that this would be the arrow to my old-hippie heart.)
I am in exile, waiting, hoping for my daughter's safe return. Getting weepy at the sight of six-year-old girls in pigtails, giggling with their moms. I want to run after them and warn them, "Wait! Just wait!"
I am at your mercy, Adolescence. I know you will not release her until her transformation is complete. Until you have watered down my mother-power, and weaned her from my sloppy, milky love. But are you willing to negotiate some terms of captivity? Maybe allow me a visit now and then?
I realize I will have to stay behind the glass, that she will barely be able to hear my words. But please, may I occasionally glimpse her eyes unshielded by defiance or contempt? And, I beseech you, Adolescence, to do your job swiftly, but do your job well. When my daughter finally comes blinking out of your confinement, let her bear no scars she can't handle. Let her be content with who she is. And maybe, just maybe, let her be content with who I am, too.
Begging you for mercy,
Jeanne Holtzman is an aging hippie, writer and women's health care practitioner, not necessarily in that order. Born in the Bronx, she prolonged her adolescence as long as possible in Vermont, and currently lives with her husband and daughter in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in such publications as The Providence Journal, Writer's Digest, The First Line, Twilight Times, Flashquake, Salome, Hobart online and The Iconoclast. You may reach Jeanne at J dot holtzman at comcast dot net.
An Open Letter to my Daughter's Adolescence by Jeanne Holtzman