Nobody thought their parents understood them growing up. I was sure mine didn't. I'm still pretty sure of it. I often wonder what my parents thought of me, now that I'm probably the age they were when I was a teenager.
In return for free food and a place to stay (and a rather large assortment of Star Wars paraphernalia), I would act like doing yardwork was the equivalent of getting shipped to the Gulag, and the stuff I thought was cool (rock and roll, monsters, videogames, skateboarding, dirty movies on cable) must have seemed ridiculous at best, and at worst, a path to a life of laziness and loserdom.*
On my side, my parent's square habits like waking up early and doing yardwork and their extreme thriftiness was just as alien to me. I mean, who would want to do that crap when HBO is showing Emannuelle at 3:30 in the morning?
Naturally, I am now obsessed with yardwork, cheaper than Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve and generally wake up around 7 in the morning.
Things got better once I was in community college and still living at home. I was making close to straight As (with the exception of my math classes, which I had to retake like 30 times), had steady employment, and was generally fairly responsible.
I was on the newspaper staff, which was a pretty sweet gig. There were about 8 of us, and our advisor would stop in maybe three times a semester. We would hang out for hours in the newspaper office, eating food from the cafeteria, listening to the Pixies and Descendents, and bonding the way you do over old-school wax and X-Acto layout.
A friend on the staff had a crush on me which I was oblivious to, as I had the social skills of a circus bear and was fairly ugly, so the thought of someone of the opposite sex actually liking liking me after the end of my lengthy high school romance seemed about as likely as my flapping my arms and flying to the moon.
At one point, the two of us were driving around Siesta Key after blowing off our night biology class, something we did fairly often. We parked and walked on the beach in the dark. The water was glowing yellow-green with phosphorescence. Every crashed wave would leave a glowing, otherworldly hue. Naturally, we had to get out in there.
I can't remember what time of year it was, I just remember we were freezing, making out while hundreds of thousands of glowing algae turned the ocean around us into our personal light show.
Well, with nature turning on the romance like that, we had to go back to her house. After messing around for a while, I figured I needed to get home, as it was approaching 4 in the morning. I didn't actually have a curfew at the time, but this would probably be pushing it, and I still had a 20 minute drive home.
My clothes were wet, so I borrowed a pink sweatshirt with a beaver on it and wrapped up in a towel. I figured everyone would be long asleep at home, so who cared what I looked like?
I turn the key in the door and see my dad sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by a pile of bills, probably trying to figure out how he was going to manage to pay for all the food I was consuming.
"Where the hell have you been? Do you know what time it is?
Dad was taking in my getup. No shoes, feet and legs still glowing green from the ocean, and a yellow towel topped off with a pink beaver sweatshirt.
"Just...just go to bed," he said, laughing.
Strangely enough, "To Everything, Turn Turn" by the Byrds came on. My voice got whinier and I said, "And at that moment, I realized my dad and I weren't that different after all."
And that was the best episode of The Wonder Years ever.
* Guess I showed them, huh?