Because I live in New England, the kids I interviewed for this, our last What Kids Say About column, are all New Englanders. I was shocked by their lack of wanderlust. I ricocheted between my divorced parents, both of whom were gadabout grifters, so I grew up all over this country and others. It made for a lot of social anxiety in a child, and inconsistent soul coalescing. On the positive side, I understood that different people do things differently, and it's all legitimate. I'm not dismissive. When I had my kids, I wanted them to have the confidence I never had, and roots, something I did not understand. Now that I've interviewed these never-lived-anywhere-elsers, I'm thinking "roots" might be rotten. It makes you think everything Other is douchey or deprived or on crack.
For the five months I've been doing this column, I have greatly enjoyed peeking into still-forming minds. My interview subjects are more honest and bold than any adult I know. Their language is so much more vibrant and staccato and with so much less to prove than ours is, as ours has become. I am in awe, have laughed, and have been a little frightened. But it's time for their secret hearts to close the door once again to us, and return to secrecy. What happens after dark in the parking lot should stay in the dark in the parking lot, not spread out over computers all over the world with ossified adults peering in on it with our night vision goggles. That's the greatest joy of youth, as I remember it: that (as Michael Jackson sang) they don't know about us.
Here's our last dance:
VICE: How would you describe your town?
Neighbor Girl (8): Really fun. Not anymore. But when Sadie used to live next door, it was. I live next to Ellie still, but that gets old. She never knocks on my door; I have to knock on hers. And I ask her, "Why do we always have to play in your yard?"
Sadie (10): I want to live in Exeter [, New Hampshire]. It has the state champions of every sport, and there's a pool inside the high school, and weightlifting, and it has a huge football field. Dover's just not as good at sports as Exeter, and it only cares about math. My teacher last year didn't care about our recess or our snack time. She was always carrying the math lessons on to like two and a half hours instead of two hours and only leaving us 15 minutes for lunch, and we'd go out late for recess.
Neighbor Girl: Same thing with me. If we're too loud, the principal or the teacher will make us put our heads down on our desks. They're being obnoxious.
Sadie: Dover cares about kids' brains instead of their bodies.
Eden (14): I live in Waterborough, Maine. It has trees.
What are the jobs there?
Eden: Lumberjacks. I want to work at McDonald's. My sister worked there. She gets all the free chocolate milk she wants.
What do kids do for fun?
Eden: There's woods to play in. Yup. That's about it. Tag. Tag trees, because there's nothing else to tag. Mostly stay inside and play video games.
I was in northern Maine recently and it looked like so nothing, I got this fantasy that there must be these organized fights inside the forests, sort of for recreation. Is that true?
Eden: I stay away from those kids. I'm not one of those kids who hang out in the parking lot after dark.
Are there so few parking lots in Waterborough that you can call one “the” parking lot?
Will (14): I come from Farmington [, New Hampshire], but now I live in Portsmouth [, New Hampshire]. Farmington recently had a rabies outbreak. Even the main street is a back road. In Portsmouth there are actual things to do. Sketchy places to hang out. Like the skate park, playgrounds, train tracks.
Dora (12): Portsmouth also has yuppies. Like that girl! Carrying a yoga mat. It has the sketchy, it has the yuppie, it has the ocean… it has it all.
Where do you want to live when you move out on your own?
Eden, Dora, Will: Portsmouth.
You want to stay around here all your life? You don't want to try out California or Europe or Chicago?
Dora: Chicago's gross. California's douchey. Europe—all of Europe—is douchey. New England is kind of douchey, but in a way that I like. There's farming mixed with city. I like that.
Will: Or I could move to Portland, Maine. Portland is hectic.
Dora: Portland has so many crazy homeless people. This girl was holding her scooter above her head, shaking it and yelling something, running down the road.
A scooter over her head?! Was she very strong?
Dora: No. She had very strong drugs.
Sadie: I want to live in a retirement home in Exeter. The one that I went to to visit my great-grandma, it was awesome. They actually had a working stove, and they didn't have mush. They had like muffins, real food. And you have your own refrigerator, so if you don't want any of their food, you can go buy your own, like grapes, and keep it in your refrigerator. Also, they do Bridge every Tuesday.
Neighbor Girl: I would like to go on an airplane and travel to California and live on the side of the beach when the sun sets.
Would you be a surfer?
Neighbor Girl: I would be the girl who sells coconut milk.
In your mind, what are people like who come from Kansas?
Dora: People I don't like. It seems like they would suck because they didn't grow up close to the ocean.
What does not being near the ocean do to a forming personality?
Dora: Makes them gross.
Sadie: Probably wild. Because they live out where there's no electronics and they hardly see anybody because all the houses are far away. So when they come to a place like Dover, they are probably very excited and run around and stampede around. And they'd probably try to install like a barn in our front yard.
I did have a girl come stay with me once from Kansas, and she pretty much acted like you just described. What are people like who come from Hollywood, in your mind?
Neighbor Girl: Not much of a singer. Stupid. And… obnoxious.
Sadie: They would probably be freaking out if they went to Kansas, yelling, “Where's the plastic surgeon?!”
Eden: Sparkly. Sparklier.
People from Manhattan?
Dora: Some of them are just… dudes who live in apartments.
Eden: What's Manhattan?
New York City.
Eden: Oh. Mmmm… top hats and canes.
Sadie: Businessy. When I went, they were either in business suits or all in black, and the expression on their faces was a dead look.
Will: Ghetto people. Scary neighborhoods to drive through and get out of.
But what do you think it would be like to grow up in one of those neighborhoods that you, Will from Farmington, can't wait to drive through and get out of. Because there home is just as normal and just as everything to them as yours is to you.
Will: I don't know. I'd be a lot different. I wouldn't be me, if I grew up there, and I don't know how I'd be.
Neighbor Girl: Fancy.
Sadie: And romancey.
Eden: They eat frogs and snails. And they eat fish eggs.
You don't eat any of those things?
Eden: No! Gross!
Your diet is sadly lacking protein, then.
Eden: I don't eat vegetables, either.
Sadie: I only know the really back old days. Golden?
Dora: Sexy. I recently found out that there are a lot of cities in Egypt, which I didn't know before.
What do you think people from Egypt think about Americans, or anyone who's never been here probably thinks?
Will: Fat, American flag cap, gun in one hand, beer in the other. Or a burger.
Do you know Americans like that? Is that a pretty accurate image?
Will: I know more people like that than not.
Eden: That we eat grease-fried grease.
Dora: That we're boring. Fat. Trashy. Ignorant. Eating, yeah, eating grease-fried grease.