Brace Yourself: Interview with a Thirteen Year Old Girl

by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley

“Elvira: ‘You are really lucky not to have a mother . . . the questions she asks! Morning, noon, and night. Where are you going, and who have you met? And are they cousins of somebody else of the same name in Yorkshire? I mean, the futility of it all.’

Bridget: ‘I suppose they have nothing else to think about.'”—At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie © 1963

Thirteen-year-old Nichole Alexandra Lopez’s braces are pink. Far from shy, she laughs when boys get red, yet if she witnesses peers making fun of geeks, she says: “Omigod, don’t.” As we chat in a local bowling alley / arcade where she is babysitting little sister Jacque, the junior high student alternates between touching up her flawless face, flipping back her highlighted hair, and rolling her twin glims at any mention of the parental units’ rules and regulations. We are both wearing identical sterling silver hoop earrings. I ask to borrow her Clinique.

Nichole: Which one?
Several Clinique products appear from out of her black Volcom purse: pressed powder, lip gloss, make-up brush.

Nichole: I learned how to put on make-up from my cousin, Amanda. She’s sixteen.

WBTL: Where do you clothes shop?

Nichole: Abercrombie, Billabong, Forever 21.

WBTL: Or, as I like to call it—For Over 21.

“For Safety, Swim in Supervised Area.”
Nichole is wearing an Encinitas Junior Lifeguard tee that drops to her knees, flared size 0 jeans, and sneaks.

WBTL: Why is your shirt so long?

Nichole: My dad made me wear it.

WBTL: What about at school? Doesn’t everyone change clothes? I remember keeping an extra set in my locker.

Nichole laughs and pleads the fifth.

WBTL: Entertainment?

Nichole: Music, TV. Like, mostly MTV. America’s Funniest Home Videos. Fear Factor.

Jacque: Courage the Cowardly Dog.

Nichole: There you go. Cartoon Network.

WBTL: Music?

Nicole: Snoop Dog. Ludacris — “Stand-Up,” Lil Jon, & the East Side Boyz’ “Get Low” is my favorite song of all time. Right now 50 Cent is in my CD player. Ever heard of Chingy?

I laugh and plead lack of hip.

WBTL: You’ve always attended private schools. This year’s your first in a public. What’s it like?

Nichole: You learn more about the outside world, like . . . like fights and cussing out people. Not as much attention to academics. Sometimes I mess around with my friends and forget to do homework. More people to choose from. More talking about guys. Yeah, and people asking you to ditch school.

WBTL: To go where?

Nichole: Starbucks.

Nicole’s mother inserts an anecdote about her daughter:
“On Thursdays, Nicole’s school starts at 9:00 o’clock instead of its usual time of 8:00. I drop her off at a church where she is supposed to stay until 8:30 and then she is to walk directly over to school. One Thursday I was sick. I brought her to the church then went to Rite Aid for my prescription. Afterwards, I drove by the church and saw her running out the door with her girlfriends. Naturally, I decided to see where she was going. First, they went into donut shop. Then as they walked back, her friends took a turn towards Starbucks. Nicole hesitated for a moment, and then went on to school. The next Thursday I gave her extra money, and said ‘why don’t get a couple extra donuts today?’ She looked at me, shocked.”

Nichole, of course, is savvy enough to know answering certain questions will only lead to more questions — the bane of any teenager worth her mad text messaging skillz.

As we continue the interview, Nichole pretends to ignore the two sixteen-year-old boys watching her.

Nichole: That’s Kort and his friend. He walks here all the way from school. I don’t know why.

WBTL: Oh, I know why.

Nichole: Their numbers are really high up there.

WBTL: How many people go to your school?

Nichole: There are about 1500 in the 7th and 8th grades. At one point traffic came to a standstill in the halls. I know a lot of people. A group of us eat lunch in the amphitheater. One of my friends went up to this guy and said “Omigod, you like Nichole, right?” And he’s like, “Yeah, okay, now go away.”

WBTL: Have your heard about the movie Thirteen?

Nichole: I know about it. It makes you think about drugs and how you react to that. You think about friendship and how you have to stop that. I would tell . . . I would probably say no. I don’t need to show off or copy.

WBTL: Your parents are strict. Do you wish the situation were different?

Nichole: Yeah . . . like, I’d like to at least go out to the mall by myself—with my friends. [Sigh] Maybe when I’m sixteen.

WBTL: Jacque is seven. What advice will you give her when she’s thirteen?

Nichole: Don’t follow your friends.

WBTL: Do you think she will?

Nichole: Yeah. She’s already doing it.

Nichole and Jacque jump onto Dance Dance Revolution Extreme to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” executing the steps gracefully, and in sync.

Swimming Pool “I was thirteen the first time. I haven’t stopped since,” is the insouciant line mystery writer Charlotte Rampling’s publisher’s daughter drops in this sensual thriller. Wade in, this isn’t your mother’s Agatha Christie.
Thirteen Director/writer Catherine Hardwicke and her teen-aged co-writer Nicki Reed present a modern day Go Ask Alice with this high wire act between self-esteem and the ages of 11, 12, and 13.