The lovely Liv Purvis invited me to a special screening of The Diary of a Teenage Girl earlier this week and, despite my teenage years being a LONG time ago now (like, twenty fucking years ago; how did that even happen?), I was keen to see the film as it’s one of the most hotly anticipated of the year, following its Sundance debut.
Based on the acclaimed graphic novel (as in, it has illustrations, but it’s also pretty sexually graphic, too) by Phoebe Gloeckner, The Diary of a Teenage Girl tells the coming-of-age tales of Minnie Goetze, a teenager growing up in the counterculture haze of 1970s San Francisco.
The film gets stuck in straight away with 15-year-old Minnie (played by rising UK star Bel Powley, with an INCREDS American accent btw), opening the film by proudly declaring: “I had sex today. Holy shit.” She goes on to have a lot more sex, in fact. Only trouble is, most of it’s with her mother’s 35-year-old boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård).
I won’t ruin the rest of the storyline for y’all because, basically, you should go and see it. This is from a gal, who NEVER goes to the cinema. Like seriously; I think the last film I saw was SATC 2 and that was enough to put me off for life (sorry Carrie, but it’s true).
It’s been a while since I’ve watched something that’s stayed in my head for days afterwards, to digest what I’ve witnessed, ruminating on what’s unfolded before my eyes. And this film did just that. Not only because there’s HELLA lot of sex scenes, but because it REALLY stirred a sense of nostalgia for my ‘youth’ within me – some of it good; some not so much.
On the scale of one to awkward as a teenager, I was OFF THE CHART towards the latter, and I experienced it all – from being mercilessly teased about my appearance as a ‘tween’ to suddenly growing into my body and becoming a bit of “a piece” (to quote a line from Kirsten Wiig in the film).
The Diary of a Teenage Girl really stirred some of those left-behind, ‘parked’ feelings within me and, despite the relative controversy the film has created with regards to the sexually promiscuous heroine, made me realise there were many parallels between my teenage years and Minnie’s…
1. Drawing and doodling on everything. I was so freakin’ creative as a teenager. I could make art out of anything without procrastinating for 1,000 years first (like now). My creativity flowed freely and I sometimes wish I could get that back. I look at some of my more psychedelic creations from when I was 16 and think ‘where the fuck did that even come from?’ It was nothing to do with my point on experimentation below btw. Honest *shuffles nervously*
2. Keeping a diary. There was one little diary in particular that I actually got free with Sugar magazine (remember that?). I was 14 and going through (what I thought was) the worst year of my life. I was ugly, I had braces; I fancied boys, they hated me; I was being bullied; I had no boobs (or period). Some of the diary entries are GEMS but I also feel quite sorry for teenage me.
3. Writing dramatic poetry and quotes to unleash all those pent-up emotions. It was all super dramatic and intense. Here’s a classic one-liner from my archives: “If I died tomorrow, would you even notice that I’m gone?” Oh, and a long form one: “She was my friend, she used to be. But now she’s turned into my enemy. We used to talk, for hours we sat; but lately she don’t wanna chat.” Fucking HELL!
4. I dated older boys (men). When I was 14, I was seeing an 18-year-old. I know, I know. He was at college and everything. I *probably* told him I was older. OK, I *definitely* did. I LITERALLY GAVE ZERO SHITS! Related: Me and my friends used to go clubbing under-age and have a racous night out – and then I’d get picked up by my dad, LOL. Woman-child much?
5. Losing my virginity (hi mum!) without telling the guy. Thanks to years of intense ballet lessons (I’ll let you use your imagination here), he was none the wiser and that was just the way I wanted it at the time. Now it makes me a bit sad tbh. Oh and note: This is unrelated to the previous point (AKA, I wasn’t underage, before anyone calls the cops).
6. Getting INTENSE crushes on boys. Well, men, actually (as you’ve probably gathered). Particularly friends of my older brothers. I seemed to think I had a chance with them, aged 15, and would daydream endlessly about them, and older male celebrities (especially the fugly ones in boy bands). Riiiiight.
7. Being bullied by boys. Still can’t work out if it was flirting (ever the eternal optimist, me)or if they really were that repulsed by me. I got locked in a cupboard by some mean boys at the youth club disco once. Still haunts me to this day, but at least it meant I didn’t have to feel all awkward as everyone coupled off during the slowies.
8. Being super sexually confident. As in, ridiculously uninhibited at times. I don’t know if it was an act (fuelled by booze), or thanks to all those issues of More! magazine, but put it this way; there’s a scene in the film (I won’t tell you which one) that gave me a crazy sudden flash-back, thinking oh em gee! I did that! I’d forgotten I did that! WTF?! *insert scream face emoji* I wasn’t quite as raucous as our Minnie, but I wasn’t far off. I’m not sure I’d have that care-free confidence now, as I’m much more self-aware.
9. Music meaning everything. I was in a band (wasn’t everyone?). But music was SO important to me back then. I thought every Nirvana lyric had been written with me in mind, and cried for weeks when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. I’d scrawl mystical Kula Shaker lyrics all over my exercise books, and me and my BFF used to use fake ID to get us into grown-up gigs in London.
10. Experimenting with with ease. Let’s just say things progressed from sharing a bottle of Hooch with my pals in the park pretty quickly. I never gave into peer pressure as such, but I was really open to experimentation. Christ knows what mess I’d be in if I was around in the 60s. My life, in comparison, seems so tame now. Now I think I’m rock ‘n’ roll for trying a new herbal tea flavour ffs.
11. L-o-n-g phone calls with my BFF. Which might not seem like a big deal, but this was in a world before mobile phones and text messages; where I had to dial her house number (that I’d memorised off by heart) and drag the home phone all the way up to the top of the stairs so I could discuss top secret matters like which boys we fancied and who’d snogged who at the disco.
12. Frustration with my body. Desperately wanting boobs. And better skin. And a different face. Standing naked in front of a full length mirror and examining myself from every angle in disgust. Now I’m pretty haps and SO grateful for my body and the skin I’m in. So that’s nice.
13. Constantly swinging between being super sassy and self-assured, to 100% HATING MY LIFE. Sometimes, when I think I’m bit of a fruit-loop now, I recall my teenage years, where I’d be feeling a different emotion every second; it was exhausting. I seem seriously sassy now in contrast, like I’ve really got my shit together. Why was everything so dramatic then? Like your world was about to end?
14. I desperately wanted to fall in love. And wanted to be loved. I dreamed about having a long term boyfriend, at a time when long-term for me was more than a week. My sense of self-worth was governed by what other people thought back then, as opposed to concentrating on loving myself first. Christ, that went a bit deep, soz.
15.Thinking 35 was MEGA over-the-hill-old. And that I’d probs be married with kids and a blue-rinse by that age, if I even made it to then… Which is funny, as I’m going to be 35 in October, and still think I’m pretty young. Oh LIFE!