Basically all I do is watch stuff. This has been a daily tradition of mine since I was a mere fetus. I also have Youngest Child Syndrome, meaning teenagers have always seemed like THE COOLEST PEOPLE EVER to me, whether it was my sisters or camp counselors or babysitters. I didn’t realize until I started writing this that I am now the same age—in some cases even older—than many of the characters I’ve forever aspired to be like. This list has no thesis, I am simply marveling at this phenomenon. I could be a fully grown grownup with many children and orphanages and Nobel Prizes and You Are An Adult Prizes and still feel like I can only hope to one day be as mature and accomplished as Lizzie McGuire. Sigh.

1. Lizzie McGuire

Drowning in pillows as a metaphor for the perils of preteen life.

Lizzie always seemed grown up because of all her problems. Problems like her first bra, her crush on Ethan, her desire for a pair of expensive designer jeans, or the dilemma I’m sure all adults must face at one point or another of trying to outdo their middle school nemesis in a Christmas-float competition so they can sing “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” with Steven Tyler. Her problems were so huge that she couldn’t adequately express them through one body: she had to have a little animated version of herself that popped up every few seconds to offer a sassy remark. Unless you have one of those, I don’t wanna hear about your “chronic illness” or “actual poverty” or whatever it is you’re whining about.

2. Kim MacAfee

How I would like to hug and comfort and slap some sense into the younger version of myself, who expected herself to look like this by the age of 16. Ann-Margret was 23 years old when she played Kim in Bye Bye Birdie, so it’s like, of course you can talk about how lovely it is to be a woman, cause you ARE ONE, you Elvis-dater, you. I am technically in the same grade as Kim now, and I feel strongly that I could beat up her boyfriend, Hugo Peabody, any time, but still I can see myself wistfully watching the “How Lovely to Be A Woman” number when I’m 90, sitting up a bit in my bedazzled wheelchair (thanks in advance, Petra!), eagerly awaiting the day I, too, will eventually become a woman.

3. Arthur (not a teenager, AND YET!)


Arthur had glasses! He and his friends went to the Sugar Bowl without a chaperone! They had tons of homework! This meant they were super old.

4. The Tough Customers


But who would be more adult than the people Arthur and his friends feared? Arthur & co. were third-graders, but the Tough Customers were fourth-graders. Arthur may have worn glasses, but the Tough Customers wore cutoff denim vests. Arthur & co. may have gone to the Sugar Bowl alone, but the Tough Customers never showed up in public, because they were mysterious. Arthur may have had tons of homework, but the Tough Customers didn’t do homework. They also growled when they took bites out of their cafeteria food, and called people names like gleeper. When I see fourth-graders in real life I’m shocked they’re able to walk and talk (youngest child, remember? I have no sense of what behavior is normal for anyone under the age of 10), but I would hide from a Tough Customer any day.

5. D.J. Tanner

It takes a real mature gal to pull off that kind of hat.

D.J. is just such a mom that I can’t imagine I’ll ever be as responsible as her. She’s like a longer-haired, female version of Bob Saget.

6. Cher Horowitz

LIFE, amirite?

Cher is a Beverly Hills hyper-exaggerated parody of a teenage girl, but since I was too young to get the satire when the TV show was on and when I first saw the movie, I really thought every one of her qualities was incredibly desirable. And because Cher says things like “’Tis a far better thing doing stuff for other people,” I thought she was really mature and worldly wise. I am now old enough to be her peer, and yet her knowledge on how to get boys to like you and how to manipulate teachers still feels like something I will never be able to grasp. But most of all, it is her 1995 virtual-paper-doll-closet synchronized computer program that plagues me, and continues to symbolize some unattainable kind of adult sense of organization and womanly savvy.

7. Audrey Horne

I mean.

I just can’t imagine that I would ever be able to do her sultry dance without ruining it by like, snarting. ♦