My 14th year was by far my most formative. That year I discovered my favourite author, my beauty icon, my favourite musical genre, and Twin Peaks.
I also began to keep a diary that year, and have done so ever since. I rarely read back through them. It is much like Laura’s. It is therapy, it is somewhere to keep secrets, it is someone to talk to. It is the best writing I ever do, honest and raw, and the only writing that no-one will ever see.
I remember every moment of being a teenager. I grew up in a town very much like Twin Peaks, but the small-town English version. It was an industrial town with very little else going on. There was a population of about 50,000, one high school, one police station, a multitude of pubs and churches. So many pubs and churches. I always said that in that town, you were born, you either find drink or religion, and then you die. There was simply nothing else to do.
It was pretty, with lots of history and old buildings, and surrounded by farms. The town is named for the surrounding fields, with golden flowers stretching for miles onto the horizon.
I related to the teenagers in Twin Peaks greatly. There were several big families in town, everyone knew each other, everyone knew your parents and who you were friends with. Whatever I did would be reported back to my family by some busy-body or other. I had to be good and work hard all day, but once night fell and school was far away, I felt like a different girl completely. Without the shackles of school uniform, with dresses and lipstick and cigarettes, I felt like the girl I would someday be.
By the time Twin Peaks was on TV, I was already sneaking alcohol from my friends parents. We would go out to the woods or by the brook and lie in the grass and dream. By the time I was 15, I was drinking every weekend and hanging out with older boys with cars. Girls hated me, but boys told me I was beautiful for the first time in my life. How lovely that was! Boys with cars meant freedom, meant escape, meant a wider world out there. Just driving, with music blaring and the windows down, and the darkness blowing through your hair while alcohol buzzed through your veins. That was living.
Older men were flattering and interesting. I looked much older than I was. Getting a married man to show interest was a prize. It meant we weren’t children any more. We were grown, and alluring. We were old enough to know what we wanted, but far too young to understand the motivations of others. We all got into things that were far beyond us, and things that affected us for many years, and to be honest, probably still do.
By 16, I had moved onto drugs, I had run away to the city, and things had escalated greatly. But I still remember that two years of living in my own version of Twin Peaks.
Anything that was a distraction from real life was welcomed. I wanted to write and act and sing, but there were no opportunities for girls like me, so I drank and screamed and collected dead flowers in graveyards. I created my own characters and played them out. I was quiet and strange and reclusive during the day, but I reinvented myself at night and hunted out excitement and danger and the thrill of really living.
Small towns can be stifling, dull and judgmental. You watch your parents live their whole lives on the same street, never wanting more. I lived a huge part of my life in that town, but I always felt like a visitor, just waiting to leave. It was never home. I expect this is why teenage girls often make decisions that appear reckless and irresponsible. It is a constant search for a way out, whether physical or mental or emotional. Some find escapism through TV or books. Some find it through substance abuse and darkness and danger.
Every time Laura or Donna or Audrey or Maddy or Shelley are on the screen, a flood of feelings come over me. I see their mistakes, I see their innocence and their vulnerability, I feel their hopes and their dreams. I want them to get the happy endings they deserve. It is separate from the woman I am now, the knowledge I have of their fates, and my own. I still hope for them all.
Twin Peaks is irrevocably tied up in my teenage years. My own memories and the events in the show are jumbled into one. It made me the adult I am today, but that small-town girl is still inside me.
That desire for excitement never goes away, that thrill of night falling never changes. Somewhere out in the darkness, that girl is still there, chasing through the night, with storms in her hair, and dreaming of whole new lives and worlds ahead.
It’s a timeless story, one that has happened a million times before and will continue to happen. I think that is why I continue to go back to the original show, to the beauty and the innocence. It represents youth and possibility. Those girls are all of us, and a little piece of us is right there with them, frozen in time, and filled with hope for brighter days.