Every teen generation has their stupid pastime: eating Tide pods, choking themselves, snorting condoms. I bought dime bags in Harlem. Not on a regular basis but more than once.
I am a product of the 80’s – dated a guy into death metal and pretended to like it (I listened to the Freedom Rock tapes when he wasn’t around), wore red spandex at the roller rink and bought dime bags of dirt weed.
I’m also a product of suburban middle class New Jersey “culture” which instilled the value of being scared of anything other than suburban middle class culture. It was a duality of a protected life: my mom would spy through the crack under the bathroom door when I took my first bath by myself for fear I would crack my head open in the bathtub yet when I told her I was going to play outside somewhere in the neighborhood (cell phones not invented yet) she would tell me to just be home by dark – not before dark – by dark.
By the time I was 14, I was a wannabe burnout (stoner or slacker for those young enough to need a translation), although I was really a nerd who obeyed authority. But I had friends who were true burnouts before Judd Nelson made it look cool in the Breakfast Club. My childhood friend who was a female version of Napoleon Dynamite at 12 transformed into tough hottie by 15. I could still see the awkward little girl, but she wore a mask of confidence well.
At 15 she had a 19 year old boyfriend. Another anomaly of our sheltered life – parents that asked when buying pants in the store if they fit okay in the crotch (in front of other people – I wanted to die of embarrassment) but also let us date guys who could vote. He reminded me of John Bender minus the flaring nostrils. He was also minus a few teeth.
One night he picked us up in his 1977 Chevy Nova for an evening drive into Harlem. At first it was exciting, but when he parked outside a dive bar and told us not to get out of the car no matter what, the thrill subsided. I was an overachiever and scrunched my body into a ball on the floor in the backseat. My way cooler friend sat in the front seat laughing at me.
His ten minute drug deal felt like an eternity. He swaggered back to the car like a hunter providing for his family after a big kill. My heart rate resumed to a normal speed and as he started the engine, I promised myself this was the last time I’d participate in a reefer run in a sketchy part of town. I didn’t keep my promise.
I’m not sure if we smoked real weed or oregano (I think oregano would’ve gotten me higher), but we were definitely psychologically stoned. It wasn’t until college when I got high with a group of trust fund kids in my dorm that I regularly experienced marijuana with detectable levels of THC. I had graduated from an early 80’s (fake) burnout to a late 80’s (fake) member of the brat pack. I outgrew risking my life for pot – although I still think it’s safer than eating a Tide pod.