“Forever young, I want to be forever young…” ~ Alphaville, 1984.
Although my grown-up friendships are profound and fulfilling, I sometimes long for the excitement and adventure of my teen years when everything I did with my friends took on a sense of thrilling urgency.
I miss both the innocence of adolescence and its experimental sort of naughtiness. Back then, I lived in a world that buzzed with anticipation. I survived middle school and emerged butterfly-like from puberty, and my burgeoning independence intoxicated me.
But you know what? Life is intoxicating now too. Everything is still fun.
There is absolutely no reason that we can’t bring a little bit of that teenaged excitement back into our lives once in a while no matter how old, fat and wrinkled we’ve become (or not). It simply takes a little imagination and some courage.
Forget the dry dinners out and stuffy cocktail parties of adulthood. Here’s how to have fun with your friends like you did when you were a teenager.
Spend a day at the mall.
Yes, you may do this already, but going to the mall as a grownup isn’t the same as it was when you were a kid. Back then we used to wander around the mall for entertainment, not to run errands. Leave your to-do list at home, bring your best friend and roam freely, arm in arm.
Try on fancy dresses for which you have no occasion. Get free makeovers at the MAC counter. Buy a new tube of Clinique’s Raspberry Glace. It was your first lipstick. They still make it and it still looks pretty. Share a soft pretzel and a cherry slushy and giggle at all the crazy, racy toys in Spencer’s. Bonus? You don’t have to find a payphone to call your mom to pick you up when you’re ready to come home.
Go to an amusement park, a fair or a boardwalk.
Ride the rides, win at skee ball, get an old time photo taken because you always wanted to do that and your parents would never let you. Go nuts on the Gravitron and then scream your way through the Haunted House before you conquer the bumper cars. Be as silly as you can. Walk an invisible dog or buy that turd bird you always wanted. Wait, why did you want that, anyway?
Have a sleepover.
Sleep in the same bed and stay up all night talking. Make popcorn and binge on a late night John Hughes marathon. Wonder if you’re more Amanda Jones or Watts. Swoon over Andrew McCarthy. Cry, laugh and tell secrets.
Scare the hell out of yourself.
Teenagers love a good scare. Since they don’t have real world fears yet—taxes, high deductibles, mortgages, threats of layoffs at the company and you know, actual scary stuff, they like spooky thrills to get their hearts racing. Share supernatural stories with your friends, go on a ghost tour, get lost in a corn maze together. Take a walk or a drive through a graveyard at night just like you did in high school. Even better if it’s foggy. Wear all black and sit amongst the gravestones and listen to Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. Then, go home and watch the movies that terrified you as a kid: Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, Prom Night.
Sneaking out as an adult doesn’t have the exact same sense of danger as it did when you were fifteen. You can’t get caught and get grounded now after all, but find a good friend and take a walk at night. Be careful, of course, and use the good sense you probably didn’t have when you were younger. For old time’s sake, find your way onto a golf course, run screaming from the security guards and get soaked by the sprinklers.
Put your hair in a side ponytail and slip on some pin-striped Jordache jeans and hit the roller rink for an afternoon or evening of retro fun. Eat crappy, roller rink pizza (oh the memories of that taste). Ask the DJ to play some 80s classics so you can shuffle to The Romantics, The Scorpions, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Billy Ocean and Yes. Couples skate to Phil Collins. Yeah, you know you still remember all the words to “Against All Odds.”
Get tickets to see your favorite band.
Wear cheesy tee shirts, sing every song at the top of your lungs and sneak your way up to the front row so you can make eyes at the lead singer. Scream and yell, whistle and dance your butt off. This is way more fun as an adult because you’ve outgrown your adolescent self-consciousness and you don’t have to worry about what the hot guy you like will think about you acting like a nutcase in public. You married him and he already knows you’re nuts.
Even better than that is now you have no curfew. You can stay out as late as you want and you don’t have to call your mom at 10 to check in. On the way home, be sure and stop at the greasiest 24-hour diner you can find for a late night grilled cheese, fries and milkshake. Don’t you dare even think about calories. You can go to hot yoga tomorrow and burn them all off and tonight is not the time to be worrying about your juice fast.
Cast a Spell
My friends and I totally, okay, desperately wanted to be witches when we were in high school. It’s a little embarrassing to admit now, but at one point we wanted to start our own coven. Mainly this was because we wanted to magically make the boys we liked fall madly in love with us. It was silly and it was fun and as adults, we could still use a little mysticism. Bring some mystery into adulthood. Believe in magic again. Cast a love spell or two. Be careful though. Remember what happened to those girls in The Craft.
Throw a bonfire party.
Good news. You don’t have to wait for someone’s parents to go out of town. Get the red Solo cups ready because it’s party time.
Back in high school, all sorts of legendary debauchery happened at bonfires. They were a really big deal and bonfires can still be fun. Use that fire pit you put in last summer, invite a bunch of friends over, put The Pixies on the boom box and let the fun begin. Start a game of truth or dare, have a Dead Milkmen sing along, roast some hot dogs and make s’mores. If you’re feeling really wild and you’re single, Spin the Bottle might be in order.
Make a photo album.
Not on Facebook or Instagram. I’m talking a real photo album, with actual prints that you have to get developed. Take a bunch of pictures with your best friends. If you’ve known each other since high school, maybe recreate some of your best memories all over again and document the hilarity. When you get the prints, arrange the pictures on the sticky pages and cover with the plastic film and give the albums as gifts.
Go thrift store shopping. Buy funky vintage outfits.
Remember back in high school when no one had any money and twenty dollars seemed like a fortune? Remember how many outfits you could get at the Goodwill for ten bucks? And cool stuff too! Nothing has changed. You can find a lot of surprising second hand treasures. Get together with your BFF or a group of girls, dig out your old Cure tee shirts and clunky Mary Janes and go pop some tags! Hit every used clothing store and yard sale in town and make a day of it. Then go out that night wearing your funky, (not-so) new outfits.
You always wanted to be cool and dress like Iona from Pretty in Pink when you grew up. Here’s your chance.
Go Swimming at Night. Naked.
No further explanation needed here. Skinny-dipping at night is the best. REM even wrote a song about it.
Hang Out at the Bookstore.
Some of my greatest hours as a teen were spent hanging out with my friends at the bookstore. We’d gather armfuls of books and find a quiet corner where we’d sit on the floor and flip through romance novels until we found dirty parts. We’d creep ourselves out in the occult section and fantasize about cool clothes with fashion mags like Sassy. We’d read funny books like The Joy of Sex, cookbooks, anything really and then we’d head over to the café for an iced hazelnut latte with extra whipped cream, feeling a little smug that we were grown up enough to drink coffee.
You know what else? It’s okay to read trashy books and Young Adult novels as a grownup too, so go ahead and get that V.C. Andrews series.
Make Mischief, Rebel a Little, Indulge, Experiment.
This is what made being a teenager so much fun. Our lives were thrilling because we had few responsibilities, we felt free (but not too free that it was scary) and we were brave enough to buck authority once in a while. We experimented with everything from our own identities, to what music we liked and how we dressed and it didn’t matter.
Trying new things was like our job in life, yet somehow, as we grow older and take on more adult roles like mom and dad and branch manager, we lose touch with our wilder, younger, braver selves. The good news is that we can always find a balance.
We can bring adventure back and as an adult it’s even better. No curfews, no worries about getting grounded and yay, no drinking age to worry about. Plus, everyone can drive now, so way easier. Have fun, but caution. You can now be charged as an adult, so no stealing your neighbors’ mailboxes, k?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Kamyar Adl/Flickr