From the moment I heard Glen Campbell’s Gentle on my Mind play on Little Rock’s KAAY 1090 AM station in 1967, I was in love. Seriously in love. I was 14 at the time and knew I had seen my future, all wrapped up in the person of Glen Campbell.
I decorated all of my notebooks, my textbooks, and my clipboard with beautifully flowing script lettering: Mrs. Glen Campbell, Mrs. Debbie Campbell, Mrs. Debra Campbell, all written inside hearts.
I don’t remember, but very likely I went around singing: Glen and Debbie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
That memory makes me laugh. But I wasn’t laughing much in 1967. I was young, naïve, and eager to grow up and enter the adult world, though I had no clue how to go about it.
In fact, I didn’t have a clue about most things. Why was I still stick-thin and shapeless when my girlfriends had developed curves? Would I ever pass a driver’s test? What possessed me to sign up for geometry? Would my complexion ever clear up?
Though I was a mostly-A student, I felt ignorant. I suspected that everyone else knew things I didn’t know and they weren’t about to tell me. My clothes were wrong, my hair was wrong, and I didn’t know how to apply makeup. I was plagued with a constant fear that my period would sneak up on me and make its appearance on the back of my skirt.
Nobody understood me. I couldn’t blame them since I didn’t understand me either. Why did there have to be this middle part of life, this being no longer a child but not yet an adult?
My babyhood dream of growing into a beautiful princess dissolved the instant I looked into the mirror. No Prince Charming would claim this spotted-faced girl, even if the glass slipper fit perfectly.
Was I meant to be doing something specific, something significant that would launch me into the grown-up world? If so, I wished someone would tell me what it was.
I survived my adolescent years the same way most people do. I stumbled my way through and got to the other side by the skin of my teeth.
I look at young teens today and wonder if they feel as awkward and unprepared for adulthood as I was.
The kids I see appear comfortable in the skin they are wearing. They go so far as to take selfies in order to preserve memories, for crying out loud! They do not seem self-conscious or fearful of making fools of themselves. In fact, they seem to be enjoying life.
Did people think the same thing about me when I was a teen? Did they assume I was a happy-go-lucky, glad-to-be-me girl enjoying the last of her free-wheeling years before entering adulthood? If they did, they were sorely wrong.
Adolescence was a graceless, humiliating time of life that I thought would never end. It was characterized by embarrassment, uncertainty, and the constant fear of failure.
In fact, I might not have survived adolescence at all had I not held on to one sure and certain fact: I was going to marry Glen Campbell.