Going to an all-girls school made me anything but enthusiastic about warm and fuzzy gatherings of females. There were a lot of “opportunities for sisterhood” that left me consistently uncomfortable and full of angst. For whatever reason, it made me really embarrassed to identify as a teenager and as a girl, both of which I happen to be. I never felt super teen-y, at least in my own mind. I think a big part of me is totally adolescent and will never grow up: my Hello Kitty collection, my love of pop music, the way I dress. Socially, though, I never felt entirely like the teen I am (at least for another month—panic attack). I just couldn’t relate to the “let’s have a slumber party and braid each other’s hair!” vibe that plagued my high school both in the classroom and in the cliques outside of it.

I guess it doesn’t feel genuine to me. Forced bonding? Want to dieeeeeee. I hated overnight CYO camp. We had yearly retreats in high school that were designed to make everyone communally spill their guts in a twisted, overly-emotional ritual of sentimentality concerning WOMANHOOD and COMMUNITY and JESUS. I am sorry, but again, I want to dieeeeee. That was my attitude, and so I did die a little bit every time I had to do something schmaltzy like retreats or camps or even, honestly, graduation. Where did this leave me for most of my life? It left me apathetic about being a girl, embarrassed about being a teenager, and fundamentally uncomfortable with myself, despite many of my very feminine and very adolescent interests. If this mushy version of community defined what it was like to have lots of teens or lots of girls in one place, I wasn’t buying it. I couldn’t think of anything less cool or sincere than forced, fake, female bonding. Mostly it’s the manufactured sentimentality that rubs me the wrong way. Don’t tell me what I’m supposed to love! I’ll hug you if I feel like it!

Last weekend, however, was different than all of the above. At the San Francisco Rookie meet-up, I was digging a whole new set of vibes. They pretty much eradicated any trace of cynicism in my JADED, JADED 19-year-old heart about gaggles of teen girls getting together and eating ice cream and hugging. OK, the way I phrased that is sending me back into my apathy zone again…but if you were there, or at any of the other meet-ups, I’m sure you can testify to how TRULY great the event was. Rookie in general has been a pretty affirming voice, even at the tail end of my adolescence, about how good it is to be young and to be a girl (or, even if you’re not, to be those things in your heart). (I’m barfing in my mouth as I’m typing this, who have I become?) Seeing the community manifest itself in Dolores Park, which is where I normally go to drink on weekends and pretend I’m cool, defied my negative connotations regarding large gatherings of women being awesome and in love with each other. It can be real, it can be cool, and I can get into it. Really into it. I was, like, really intensely into it.

I also want to mention that I finally had the chance to assault the Road Trip crew with hugs I’ve been saving for the past 10 months as I’ve gotten to know them in our Rookie Office in the Sky (the internet–they are not ghosts). I was pleasantly surprised by how weird they are. This website is made by total FREAKS. And I love them. My adolescence is on its deathbed, y’all, and I am glad that before I get to the crippling age of 20, I get to feel how awesome it all was, and is, and forever will be. Thanks for not sucking, everyone, I like you, and I hope to see you next week in L.A.! ♦