Joetopia

On the highway of teenagerdom, landmarks keep whizzing by

Joe Tarica.
Joe Tarica. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The older these kids get, the faster the milestones seem to come.

So it was last week that Little Miss 11th-Grader celebrated her 16th year of life and all that comes with it: the start of her junior year in high school, the prospect of her driver’s test looming just down the road and her long-awaited foray into the teen dating scene.

On her birthday card, I asked her how she got so big so fast.

It wasn’t so long ago that she was skinning her knees sliding down a trail in sandals and pigtails. Or sitting in a softball dugout between innings, playing in the dirt with her best friend. Or falling asleep sucking her thumb on one side of my lap while her newborn brother snoozed on the other.

He’s taller than she is now, but she can still take him in a wrestling match.

She’s got a busy year ahead of her, taking on a class schedule loaded with core subjects. The girl made a point of noting that she has 10 textbooks, including four for U.S. history alone. I did not ask whether that included Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal.”

On the driving front, she is growing ever more comfortable behind the wheel while exhibiting all of the requisite teenage caution.

I wonder how long it takes for them to learn about California stops, because I’ve had just about enough of getting thrown forward toward the windshield while Little Miss comes to a complete halt at empty intersections.

The other day, we let her drive Highway 41 to the coast for the first time, and she spent most of the trip looking nervously in her rearview mirror at the conga line of cars behind her.

Finally, not even a half-mile from Morro Bay, she decided she’d had enough and pulled off onto the dirt shoulder to let them pass.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “Highway 1 is right up there!”

Then, at the beach, she forgot to lock the car door, and Mom went on and on about how I should have made sure the vehicle was secure. Is it not the responsibility of the one who has the key to lock the doors?

Which brings us to dating, and the kid with the sandy-colored hair she’s been bringing around for the past few months.

He plays drums in the school marching band, and even though he looks like he’d be comfortable on a surfboard, he’s not at all. That’s two check boxes of approval in my book because drummers are cool and I hate surfing.

We’ve been calling him the Boy/Friend, and she’s been looking forward to this moment in August when she could formally do away with the slash. This way, it could be official, and maybe all those other girls who’ve been sniffing around will finally get the hint and buzz off.

Or, more likely, they won’t, and we’ll get to hear more stories of theatrical teen romance in the age of texting and Snapchat.

So-and-so can’t be in the picture from some outing because another so-and-so who wasn’t present will notice and get mad.

Makes you long for the days when you had to shoot a full 24-roll of Kodachrome, take it to the drug store and wait three days to get it developed before you had evidence of who was at what event.

Sharing a photo meant carrying it around with you everywhere and shoving it in the face of anyone you met. It was more like antisocial media.

And that was if you were even lucky enough to own a camera.

Actually, I don’t miss those days.

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