You see, nobody tells you that. Because every teenager knows that at some point, their once encouraged and tolerated behaviors somehow turned into shameful and moronic offenses without notice. It usually happens when you go through the mutation phase—when you get zits and pubes, when you sweat excessively and you start to smell, when you develop breasts, skin oiliness, voice fluctuations, vaginal discharge, ass hair, menstruation, large teeth, disproportionate nose, and hanging testicles. In short it all happens when you cease being cute.
So what’s there to protect again? Because the truth is the only ones that really get hurt are the naive ones, the “favorite ones,” when they find out that Santa Claus is not real and they say “Fuck God! Fuck Obama! And fuck my life!” That’s one of the few good things school does for you—it gives you a reality bath, a bullshit enema, for all those years you were made to believe that you are a glittering snowflake.
Bullshit! You are nothing but unorganized grab-asstic pieces of amphibian shit!
Being third-world born and spending my early years in Manila, I never had any illusions about childhood and this wonderful thing that innocence is supposed to be. In fact, being in and around extreme poverty, I thought being innocent was not only careless but also dangerous. It’s like a gazelle telling her slimy, newborn calf, “Don’t worry, baby, no one’s gonna come rip you apart and drag you up a tree if you don’t manage to stand and run within five minutes.”
But maybe that’s because I was born jaded. When you google children on the internet, you see bright angelic faces smiling at you; when I was growing up, the children I saw were hungry and vicious with a halo of flies. The faces of grief that you see on ads are usually reserved for foreigners and adults.
But maybe because I am also a mutt. Being a mixed breed, I never quite identified with race or nationality. I remember in grade school, me and my buddy was at this candy store and the shop owner asked me if I was mixed, a “mistizo.” When the man found out that I was part Japanese, a “Japon,” he said that my grandma must have been one of those comfort women during the war. At the time, I didn’t even know what that meant. The other people in the shop snickered and so did I, thinking it was a joke. But it wasn’t until years later that I got the joke. And from time to time I would imagine going back to that place and strapping the man’s testicles to a car battery while eating his candies in front of him.
But anyway, as a boy I couldn’t wait to grow up. And it wasn’t that I had a bad childhood. On the contrary, I had a blast. My father was an engineer and was always away on contracts abroad, and so my mother spoiled me. I had no one telling me what to do and I was free to do whatever I want, playing in the rain and looking over the edge of the world. I was also a straight-A student, but that was only because I hated school so much that when I found out I could skip a grade by having good grades, I went for it. As such I was always in the honor’s group, but I never got along with the smart kids. For some reason, I always felt comfortable hanging out with the degenrates. You see, I hit my growth spurt early so I was pretty tall for my age. And the way it went in my school was: the first two rows was where all the good children sat; the middle rows were the average, invisible fillers; and the back rows were the N.F.Es. (the No Future Entities). Being tall and shaped like a butterball, I sat in the second to the last row where all the kids with porn, knives, and cigarettes sat. Behind us was the drooling abyss.
Being free of innocence, I was able to live two lives. In front of my teachers and my parents, I was meek, obedient and educated just like Walter White: in front of my friends, who always gave me the finger every time the teacher asked me to lead the class rosary, I was Heisenberg. I didn’t know it then, but looking back it was very clear why I chose to live in such duplicity. Being compliant made me manageable in the eyes of the adults. It made them think that they were going to “make something out of me,” like some “productive member of society.” Little did they know that I had other plans—plans for myself, plans that didn’t include any validation other than mine’s. I knew early on that I wasn’t going to stay. I knew I wasn’t going to be what they wanted me to be. But I was too small then to declare my own sovereignty, too innocent-looking and weak to rebel. It wasn’t until grandma stopped giving me money during Christmas that I knew it was time. My cuteness card has expired.
The concept of innocence worked for me, but the idea of being innocent never did and I am glad I got rid of it as soon as I could. And despite this less-than-ideal upbringing, I never “lost” my childhood. I didn’t have traumatic events in my life that would propel me to go Michael Jackson in the present. Simply, I had to defer my childhood because I have deferred dreams. And you know what? When I do get it, it will be glorious and awesome because it will be the way I want it to be, on my terms, and of my doing. Life would not have happened to me because I made it happen.
In the end it’s just like what Tupac once asked his listeners to consider, “How do you want it?” Because at the prime of your life, the reality is you’re childhood is really just getting started.
How will you spend it?