Middle school is a weird, awkward time in our lives. Man, puberty was such a strange trip. Your body is changing, and everything is so confusing. It feels like no one listens to you or understands what you’re going through. Rarely do TV or movies accurately showcase how middle and high school really is. Nothing I’ve ever seen felt relatable until I watched Pen15. Pen15 is a Hulu original series depicting the lives of two 13-year-old girls and the growing pains of puberty in a comedic light. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle star as themselves at age 13 (surprisingly convincing most of the with the makeup and braces). The series is based off their actual 13-year-old selves, taking us back to the year 2000.
Watching Pen15 brought me back to those awkward days of braces, pimples, and masturbation. The show constantly switches between hilarious and hitting just a little too close to home. You will be reminded of how stupid you used to be at that age. The things that felt like life or death at the time turned out to be so silly. Things like worrying about sitting with the “popular” kids and many imagined situations that will never come to pass. Hearing the slang used will be cringeworthy, mostly because we all probably spoke like that at one point. There will be times when watching Pen15 gets painful. I had to pause occasionally due to secondhand embarrassment. Once again because it reminded me of my own teen years.
The series doesn’t dance around some of the more unpleasant aspects of life for teenage girls. Yes, there is an episode about menstruation. It is showed as uncomfortable and embarrassing for the character. The body changing is often confusing, as many adults don’t want to have the “talk,” leaving many teens unsure of what’s happening to them. Masturbation is also covered in an episode. Discovering masturbation is a strange, strange thing. Its pretty damn perplexing when you’re just grinding against the bed and suddenly goo is shooting out of your dick. You feel like you did something wrong, even though you keep on doing it. It feels so wrong, yet so good. Everyone else is definitely jacking and jilling off, using whatever household items they can find.
Maya and Anna have a few fights, as most teens do. 13 is a weird age where you’re stuck between being a child and adult. The hormones make us angry for no apparent reason, you just are. Our two main girls learn lessons and ultimately realize friendship is more important.
As someone who grew up in the late 90s/early 2000s, Pen15 was quite the nostalgia trip. There will be many “oh, I remember that” moments. Remember AIM? Back when the internet was an unexplored frontier. The idea you could talk to someone without calling them was mind blowing. I do not miss dial-up. School supplies, music references, and fashion all bring me back to that weird time in my life. A small tear streamed down my face as I’m writing. I miss those days and also never want to go back to them. Pen15 is a show you should check out if want a funny, awkward series exploring the trials of puberty. Laugh and cringe as you watch the daily struggles of Maya and Anna.