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Talking Back MAG
Oprah taught me valuable lessons – from where our crap actually goes, to what to do when my car’s brakes suddenly freeze. Ellen DeGeneres introduced me to eye-catching dance moves that are ahead of my time, filled with high kicks and contagious laughter. The women on “The View” led me to wait at all times for an argument to erupt in their roundtable. I am a sucker for a good estrogen-filled drama where I mentally imagine a large scoreboard during the verbal catfight. And you can’t forget good ol’ Jerry. Jerry Springer taught me one important lesson: there are other people living much more uneasy lives, to say the least.
See, television has taught me a lot. Whoever said it is bad for you is insane. Daytime programs influenced my knowledge of everyday life as the ticking clock of my life goes by, second by second.
I never really experienced anything in real life that taught me valuable lessons, never learned from my mistakes or took the plunge into something risky. Never have I had an adrenaline rush or been so filled with excitement that I nearly wet my pants. Never.
You could say I was brought up to be the poster child for any parent in North America. As an only child, I was taken care of profoundly by my old-fashioned mother and father, having a curfew that cut into my weekly intake of medical dramas as well as late-night R-rated movies. At school, I was known as a goody two-shoes who did everything the teacher expected, having my homework complete and cross-referenced, handing in projects a week ahead of time, and volunteering to whack the blackboard erasers.
The only friends I had were the chess team and some of the math geniuses who seemed more interested in solving equations from past Pascal contests than having a decent conversation. I was a social outcast who was the butt of some crude jokes and a punching bag for the muscular guys who could kiss their biceps and crush Coke cans with their pectorals.
That was who I was a month ago, as I paid my dues in high school. In my opinion, high school didn’t do anything for me except reinforce my goal of getting through the name-calling from students and God-long lectures from teachers.
I just wanted to get out. Out of the building where I felt imprisoned. Out of my parents’ house where the Internet was controlled – making Facebook’s homepage a large caution sign gawking at me. I wanted to get out and become somebody who wasn’t known as Michael and Katherine’s perfect son. And that is what I did a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m taking a year off.”
There, I had said it full of confidence, staring straight into my father’s eyes. I swear I might have even puffed my chest for effect, controlling my fear of one of his long, loud lectures. Even his scary hand gestures could make my weak heart stop.
My father, Michael Adams, was a doctor, a gynecologist, to be exact. He spent his days between his patients’ legs talking about their “problems.” Dealing with that six days a week, with free time tight on his schedule, I knew he liked to come home and have a meal on the table. Later he would smoke a cigar, telling himself that they were totally different from cigarettes. For a doctor, he really was in denial about the medical facts.
I always thought he looked like one of the Sopranos, mustache identical to his raven hair, sitting in his black leather seat. For the last 18 years of my pathetic life, I have observed his rear work an indent into the poor dead cow.
That was the only reply, mixed with an exhale of smoke. I wanted to yell at him, tell him that he was committing slow suicide (my guidance counselor’s exact words about smoking) with his “healthy” intake of nicotine. But that was off topic. He had obviously made it clear how he felt with the two-letter word that I had grown accustomed to.
“I have already thought this through and my decision is made. I am taking a year off before college, whether you like it or not.” Damn, I had finally composed a sentence that did not fit the mold of the obedient child. I had used words often referred to as “talking back.”
My father was as surprised as I was, sitting up in his seat. My mother gasped behind me, having finished the dishes.
“Beau, you do not talk to your father like that,” her soft voice scolded. Her one-inch heels clicked as she approached. She was a petite woman in her mid-forties just like dear old Dad. She had the look of a schoolteacher: her dark hair in a bob and pearls always around her neck. Right now, she was acting like a teacher, telling me what was right and what was wrong. I knew she had this right to some extent, seeing as she carried me for nine months and was tortured during 23 hours of labor before I was willing to enter the world. I knew that, but I was on a roll. Step one to my plan: getting the hell out of the house still intact.
“I am an adult, and I want to be treated like one,” I explained. Talking this out would be good. Compromise would be even better, if my parents would go for it. “I want to take a year off as I said and–”
“And what? Become a stone head who impregnates a girl and becomes a father who could have been a doctor but decided to be nothing but an ‘adult’?” Why did he feel the need to do those air quotes? His voice held enough mockery as it was. “Is that it, Beau?” He really did have a way with words, and a temper. A long vein popped out of his neck as if it were ready to burst from all the hot air in his head.
“Michael,” my mom said, trying to calm him down before he erupted. He was like a dormant volcano, sleeping for years until something or someone triggered the lava deep inside.
“Don’t you hear him, Kat? We raise him the right way and now he’s gone all stupid.”
Maybe my expectations were stupid. There was no way my wildly angry father and schoolteacher mom would actually listen to a word I said and go for it.
“Have you been taking drugs? Drinking? Because this is not you. This is not my son talking,” he huffed, inhaling on his cigar like mad.
“I’ve been taking nothing. And I have not gone stupid. I need to do this before I become some lonely man with a bunch of cats who sews his name in his boxers.”
“But I thought you liked that, dear,” my mom sighed.
“It is thoughtful, Mom, really, but I am too old for that. I am too old to be your little boy you can manipulate as if I were a toy. I barely get out of the house. I don’t even know our neighbors, and we have been living on this street for 18 years. I barely know me,” I sighed, letting everything out.
My father’s eyes softened just the tiniest bit while he played with the end of his lit roll of death and my mother fingered the tiny pearls that added perfection to her life. There was really nothing left to say as I turned on my heel, the faded rubber soles of my shoes leaving a mark on the hardwood floor. Before continuing up the stairs, I turned. “And I’m moving out,” I added before running up the steps, nearly tripping. The moment of silence was definitely over.
Yup, that was me three weeks ago, standing my ground.
I am Beau Adams, 18 years old and proud to have noticed that faint hairs are growing on my face. I have never had a kiss that actually counted. I have never smoked, never. I have been tempted seeing my father’s cigars lying in the den, calling out to me. But I resisted. I also have never drunk alcohol in my life. I know many people my age who have mastered the technique of getting wasted. I am well aware of the horrible outcomes, like drunk driving and becoming a total pig at inappropriate times. Maybe I am just stupid like my father has said numerous times since our last talk, but I want to experience everything – all the good and the bad.
I want to meet new people who don’t know about my past or the names I was dubbed since the age of 14. I want to do so many things that I am excited for the year to come, even if I will be cut off from my bank account, which my parents have been putting money into since I was just a tiny little toy to them. As for my college fund, I can’t even go there. My only source of money is the birthday and Christmas checks from aunts and uncles who pinched my cheeks until they were red or left their crusty lipstick on the side of my face.
Although I don’t have much cash, I have come into this with a purpose. Leaving home, not going to school, is probably the best thing I can do. Saying it right now it may not sound very smart, but in the long run things will work out for the best.
Or at least I hope so.