I was really honored to be a part of this anthology, which included touching essays, funny essays, outrageous essays, and just plain wanna-make-you-cry essays by some wonderful writers: Anna Quinlan, Barbara Kingsolver, Dave Barry, Louise Erdrich, and W. Bruce Cameron, among others.
EXCERPT from W. Bruce Cameron’s essay, “Teenager Owner’s Manual”
“Congratulations! You are now the proud new owner of a teenage daughter. Please read this manual carefully, as it describes the maintenance of your new daughter and answers important questions about your warranty (which does NOT include the right to return the product to the factory for a full refund).
IF YOU FEEL YOUR HAVE RECEIVED YOUR TEENAGER IN ERROR: To determine whether you were supposed to receive a teenage girl, please examine your new daughter carefully. Does she (a) look very similar to your original daughter, only with more makeup and less clother? (b) refuse to acknowledge your existence on the planet Earth (except when requesting money? (c) sleep in a burrow of dirty laundry? If any of these are true, you have received the correct item. Nice try, though.
BREAK-IN PERIOD: When you first receive your teenage daughter, you will experience a high level of discomfort. Gradually, this discomfort will subside and you will merely feel traumataized. This is the “Break-In Period,” during which you will become accustomed to certain behaviors that will cause you concern, anxiety, and stress. Once you have adapted to these behaviors, your teenager will start acting even worse.
ACTIVATION: To activate your teenage daughter, simple place her in the vicinity of a telephone. Nor further programming is required.
SHUTDOWN: Several hours after activation, you may desire to shut down your teenage daughter. There is no way to do this.
EXCERPT from “I Definitely Inhaled,” by Daniel Glick
That summer between seventh and eighth grades, I took [my son] Kolya on a backpacking trip with my twenty-year-old nephew and an old friend of mine. Evidently, as we scrambled over gratnite passes in Yosemite, my newphew had told Kolya that a lot of people, including grownups that Kolya knew, still smoked pot. Probably even Uncle Danny.
Thank you, nephew.
A few weeks after the backpacking trip, I was tucking Kolya in when he posed a new and inevitable question: “Do you still smoke pot?”
This one was tougher to answer. I had read about kids who were told by school officials to turn in their parents for drug use, and although I didn’t think Kolya would do that, I wondered what he would do with the information.
I swallowed, opted for the truth again. “Sometimes.”
I also sensed that Kolya had gone a lot further in the six months since our last conversation, and it turned out that he had. He said he still hadn’t tried smoking anything, and I believed him. But more of this friends had tried marijuana, and he was getting really interested. He was barely thirteen. I really didn’t want him starting now.
We talked more about drugs. I told him that I suspected that he was going to be under a lot of pressure, or at least he’d soon have the opportunity, to try it himself. I also told him that I thought he was much too young and that it was a bad idea. I knew that the “Just Say No” message would seem particularly hollow now that he knew about my early experiences, combined with what I knew about his temperament.
So I tried a different tack: “Just Say Not Yet.”