Sun chips, grooming and text messages

The energy in our household has changed. Our 14-year-old granddaughter, Sydney, and her friend Cara are visiting us. The TV is on more, and we're having pancakes for breakfast and pizza for dinner.

And that's not the only food issue. We keep running out of milk and sun chips. (Before this week I didn't even know sun chips existed). I baked five-dozen chocolate chip cookies a few days ago — there are five left. (And I'm thinking about making it four.)

Indulgent, but also observant, I've learned a lot in the past few days.

Let me see what resonates with you. Let's start with this. Adolescents tend to be very carefree. "Self-involved" is the term used in research, but I'm deciding not to go there. Personality theory also suggests teens are less "reflective" than older adults — although, you know, I'm not so sure.

Cara: When I walk by a house with an Obama sign in the yard, I want to go up and just hug the people inside.

Sydney: My parents used to like the other one I think; we're still deciding. I would never hug someone I didn't actually know.

Adolescent girls have incredible friendships, stated and demonstrated...

Cara: "I would do absolutely anything for Sydney."

Sydney: "And I would do absolutely anything for you, Cara."

Grooming is one example. They help each other. As illustration, "Does this make me look fat?" or "Do I look better in shorts or jeans?" They both end up looking lovely. But as natural as they appear when they leave the house, it can take nearly two hours for them to get ready. If it's likely teenage boys will be in the vicinity, substantially longer.

These are delightful girls — honor students with thoughtful parents and a history of being in Girl Scouts and church youth groups. I could write an entire column and say only good things about them. But I always feel a need to lay bare reality.

For example, consider communication. Adolescent girls talk on the phone a lot — well not "talk," necessarily. They "text" one another. You think you're having a conversation with one of them, but then you see a thumb moving — and it's beating out shortened words on a tiny phone nestled in their lap.

"How RU?"


Did you know teenagers sleep with their cell phones?

Sydney: "But I don't actually put it under my pillow anymore."

This I know for sure. Adolescent girls are real. I took them to a concert the second night they were here. As I gazed out at the assembling crowd, I commented, "I think I may be the oldest person here." In response, both girls took it upon themselves to consider the crowd carefully.

Finally Sydney said, "No you aren't, grandma," gesturing toward a very rotund, elderly-appearing, grey-bearded man near the front. They cast comparative glances from him to me and concurred he was "definitely" older than I was.

Noting my expression, Cara added. "Look at it this way; at least you're not bald."

Look at it this way. No, let's not. Let's just enjoy being real.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human services at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.

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