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When I was younger, comfort looked a lot like solitude, and more acutely, avoidance. I’d burrow myself in the corner of the big blue chair in the living room and read chick lit for hours on end, the acoustic guitar of Ingrid Michaelson’s Pandora station insulating me from the words I didn’t want to hear: that my father was cheating again, my mom lacked the means to leave him, and that everything would be easier if I was just somehow a little bit less. If I couldn’t hear the conflict, it didn’t exist, and I could deal with it later or not at all, depending on if I wanted to finish my book.
Middle Child is loud.
March 11 washed over me like any other day. I did my silly little tasks: clock in at my internship and procrastinate any real writing, attend about four hours of Zoom meetings, go to the gym and cry about hating my body, and come home and cry about hating the things that comprise the pandemic–proofed version of my life. An endless stream of deadlines. Financial insecurity. Social isolation. The end of choice.
Growing up is a slow burn, even though we don’t always realize this in the moment. The trope stares us in the face so regularly we never think to interrogate it.
“We’re never done with killing time,” sings Lorde on “400 Lux,” a casually evocative pop ditty about a couple savoring a pretty silence. I’ve been replaying this lyric a lot in the first month of my 20th year, but definitely not as the song intended me to.
I hadn’t thought about Taylor Swift’s Fearless since the fall of my first year at Penn when I had a crush on a boy who shared the name—but not the spelling—of track four. I’d play it as I was doing my calculus homework in the Van Pelt reading room or as I was folding laundry in my shoebox dorm room. Then he didn’t reciprocate in the way I wanted, and I graduated onto the rest of the Swiftian canon where she sang about things far more relatable to my liminal college experience, like falling in love with new cities and eventually with someone who ends up becoming your best friend.
It is a Sunday night and my friend is begging for a 'conference.' This, I soon discovered, is code for boy talk. We sit, legs pulled up on rolling desk chairs, with a Costco–sized container of jelly beans between us. “When is it acceptable to say I love you?” she asks.
Buzzwords are sweet nothings.
Sometimes the internet feels so vast I’m afraid it could swallow me whole.
When I was younger, I read every issue of Seventeen magazine exactly three times: the first with my mom, where we’d flip through the fashion sections and dissect every shoe choice and pattern on the page. The second by myself, where I’d devour every word, storing knowledge of toxic shock syndrome and turns of phrase for times when they’d matter. The third was with my father, where we’d reenact the interviews. He’d always play the celebrity and I’d always be the journalist.
Yes, you might remember 34th Street as the DP’s cooler and sexier older sister. We like that title, but we’ve also grown up a bit since the last time you picked up a copy inside or outside of the DP, or snatched the latest issue from a staffer on Locust Walk.
Gabriela Vasci is 2020’s Marie Antoinette, an opulent car crash so tacky that you can’t help but watch. More recognizable as @gab_nyc—her TikTok username—Vasci is known on the platform as an innocuous vlogger or the girl who never takes the subway, depending on who you ask. She gained prominence at the beginning of the summer, amid coronavirus deaths and Black Lives Matter protests, her account a manifestation of the utopia that lies between Manhattan's 60th and 96th Streets.
Glee is a time capsule. After premiering over eleven years ago, Ryan Murphy’s break into the teen mainstream carries a bundle of throwbacks. Screencaps of the show reveal prehistoric iPhones, a hefty amount of skater skirts, and a deadpan style of humor that paved the way for shows like Riverdale. Set in a small–town Ohio high school, Glee follows a competitive show choir team of misfits to nationals and beyond, illuminating what it’s like to try to make it in the arts against stacked odds. Though its spontaneous musical numbers are what initially set it apart from the pack of teen dramedies popular in the early 2000s, Glee is better known for being socially progressive. By the time the show hit its hundredth episode in 2014, Vulture estimated it tackled over 294 unique societal issues. These include, but are not limited to, internalized homophobia, teen pregnancy, transgender acceptance, eating disorders, and the complexities of a sexual relationship with the mother who adopted the child you gave up for adoption.
Taylor Swift spent the first decade of her career building a brand of political apathy ensconced in a world of glittery guitars, red lipstick, and glamorously homey Fourth of July parties. She’s the kind of celebrity that stands in for an identity. I spent the middle six years of my life cataloging her every move on a Twitter account named after her cats, and I would introduce myself as a Swiftie first, Puerto Rican woman second, and eventually, a Democrat third.
When Elizabeth Agege (C’20) took the podium at her fifth–grade graduation, she told the room filled with pre–teens and their parents that she wanted to be a writer. Admittedly, it was a second–choice career, an ironic safety net. Now, it’s the first title she’ll hold upon commencement.
I’ll be the first to say it—masturbation scares me, or at least the thought of people knowing I masturbate does. This conflicts with other parts of my personality, like when I endorsed Hailee Steinfield’s “Love Myself” as the sexual liberation anthem of the decade during my sophomore year of high school. Don’t get me wrong, I think we are the keys to our own pleasure, but I like to experience mine vulnerable and in private.
This week, eat pancakes at midnight and try your hand at voguing.
It’s a rainy autumn Tuesday, and a large striped awning casts romantic shadows on a quiet block in Northern Liberties. A pair of circular tables sit out front, bookended by chairs with a classic polka–dot upholstery. A lone coffee mug sits atop one of them, no doubt a remnant of a lazy morning spent reading a newspaper or catching up on emails with a strong espresso. If it weren’t for a few distinctly Philadelphia clues, like row houses next to modernist apartment buildings and trash piling up on curbs, you’d think you were transported to a quiet side street in Paris or Beirut.
The venue was packed. A large dildo complete with sparkles and a masterful blue gradient floated through the middle of the crowd. Glitter adorned the cheeks of teen girls in those cool, camouflage pants and grown men in mesh t–shirts. Someone AirDropped photos of Paris Hilton in one of her iconic graphic tees. This could only be one place—a Charli XCX concert.
I pulled my sweater tight around my body, shaking from a breeze equal parts cold and invigorating. Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” blasted through the speakers as clusters of middle school boys laughed with measured amounts of glee, daring each other to walk through the hallowed halls of Philadelphia’s most famous prison without so much as a gasp.