Jamie Keiles: Teen Writing About Teens
I already wrote about The Seventeen Magazine Project over on my blog, from the rib?, but I wanted to write about Jamie Keiles, the girl who ran the project, here, because I personally find her to be incredibly inspirational (and, although she does not mention it often or prominently, she also happens to be a Jewess.) She started the Seventeen Magazine Project in May, in which she promised to use the magazine’s beauty, diet, exercise, and activity tips for an entire month. And use them she did—she chronicled her adventures in her blog, complete with pictures of herself and data analysis of various aspects of the magazine.
Her month ended (and she graduated high school) and she has now started a new blog called Teenagerie, in which she writes about teenagers, from the media’s portrayal of them (us, really, for me) to trends about things as everyday as deodorant. The blog is new, with its first entry on July 3rd, but she seems to keep consistently pumping out entries—something that anyone who writes for a blog knows is difficult to do. Her posts range from speculative to well-researched, but I’m consistently impressed by the way that she uses phrases like “I’m not sure” and “I think,” phrases that people often neglect to use, to show that she recognizes that she’s still figuring things out and that there can be opinions besides her own; she frequently asks for suggestions from readers, and even had no qualms admitting that she doesn’t “know enough about asexuality to write about the topic.” Even when I disagree with what she says, I love the fact that she is careful to be respectful.
One of the things that impresses me most about Jamie is that she keeps coming up with new projects and new ideas, and has attracted a large enough audience that it is clear that she is not just writing for her own benefit. Either she’s really lucky, or she’s an independent feminist dynamo who knows how to get people’s attention: she was interviewed on NPR, written about in the Ms. Magazine blog, and one of her charts was even featured in The Huffington Post. That’s pretty big for an eighteen year old who just graduated high school.
I think that maybe a lot of this attention comes from the fact that Jamie writes in a way that makes you just want to be her best friend. In one of her two posts about prom, she wrote:
“We were required to spend the first hour of prom eating. The menu included a salad, which I didn't touch, sourdough bread, and stuffed shells or lemon chicken. Nobody seemed excited to eat this food. Instead, there was a lot of polite, adult socializing, which was maybe the strangest part of the whole night. After, we were all let into the ballroom and we danced. The DJ wasn't very good, and played mostly oldies. Nothing made me feel closer to my peers than grinding to ABC by the Jackson 5. My date, who doesn't usually dance, danced with me the entire time, and even liked it. The room was a sauna of adolescent awkwardness, and we were very sweaty by the end of the evening. My hair eventually retreated to its natural fur-like texture and triangular shape. I didn't really care though, because I was having a great time.
Afterward, we headed to a party at Dominique's boyfriend's house, where we swam, talked, and stayed up until 5 am. In the morning, we had pancakes. As far as I know, most other social groups did similar things. I am not aware of anyone who died or got arrested. Maybe someone got pregnant, but we won't know for a few weeks. I'll let you know!”
It’s gems like that— funny, somewhat awkwardly self-aware, but also genuine and not egotistical—that made me keep reading throughout her entire project, and that make me excited for her new one. Maybe it’s just because I’m a teenager myself and can relate to her on that level, but I also think that older readers can (and do) read her writing and feel reassured that there are intelligent, insightful teenagers out there today, who maybe even remind them of themselves when they were younger.