“One way to tell if you’re really comfortable with a person is if you can be quiet together sometimes and not feel awkward. If you don’t feel obligated to say something brilliant or funny or surprising or cool. You can just be together. You can just be.”
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Alice on Her Way
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is eighty-six today. I feel like many people could write intense, emotional blog posts about Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. She wrote one of the most heart-warming dog stories known to man. Her Alice series was one of the few coming-of-age series for girls in the 80s and 90s that touched on important topics, ranging from middle school awkwardness to abortion, parent abandonment, and eating disorders.
When I originally thought about this post, I thought I was going to ignore all that and talk about my favorite PRN series: Boys vs Girls. And seriously, I would love to talk about that. Maybe I’ll give that series its own post.
But I kind of accidentally looked up some Alice quotes and suddenly went down a rabbit hole of nostalgia. Remember when one of Alice’s friends (Elizabeth, probably) starts her period when they’re at the pool, and Alice and another friend rush to cover her with a towel and get her to a bathroom before anyone notices? (There’s an 85% chance I’m not remembering any of this correctly)
Alice taught me a lot of things. Growing up, you’re given a lot of guidance. Don’t have unprotected sex (or, don’t have sex ever!). Don’t drink and drive. Don’t let your friends drink and drive. If your friends are in trouble, help them. But the thing is, most authority figures aren’t great at the practical application portion of giving guidance.
I knew that if I was ever in a situation where I felt like a boy was pushing me too far, that I should stop him. But no real-life person ever told me what exactly to say, or what to expect. Alice did. Through Alice’s eyes, I learned about dating, about intervening when friends need help, about supporting people.
And at 17, when I realized my friend was about to get behind the wheel of his car after drinking several beers, it was Alice who gave me the words (and the courage) to tell him not to.
So thank you, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, for being there for a generation of kids who needed you, and who will never forget what you taught us.
And happy birthday.