Bittersweet 16

I planned my Sweet 16 for MONTHS! I was so excited to turn 16, and I wanted to make it a production. I hassled my mom for hours, telling my mother my vision about my Sweet 16. I wanted it to be a fairytale. And it was. My mom worked so hard to make it memorable, and I had such a good time. However, I never knew that my special day would cause such a scandal afterward. 


The day of my birthday party was busy. I had a lot of running around to do. I had to complete my chocolate mold party favors, get my hair done, do my makeup, anddddd help set up. Not to mention my mom and her friends were cooking all day. 

Cutting my Cake at my Sweet 16

When I got to my party, I felt so relieved and excited. I couldn’t wait to party with my friends! As the party started, I celebrated with all my friends. It was full of life PINK & SILVER princess-themed Sweet 16 (very original Rachel). My halter top Jessica McClintock dress fit me perfectly!

As the music started to play, we sang along to the tune and did the typical Crack Soulja Boy type line dances. As each it’s going down, one-two-step, reverse-reverse, dwindled down, the lights turn low. If you are from NY or are Caribbean, you know when the lights turned low in the Early 00s that means reggae/ dancehall would play soon. So you know what time it is: Teenage Hormones Activated. 

As soon as the reggae started to play, people started to grind and slow whine. But I notice it wasn’t all my friends. It was just a few. Many of my friends were shocked by the dances that some of the moves  (mainly because my parents were there).

I had mixed some of my friends from school and some of my friends from church. Ouuuuu, what a mistake. Some of my church friends had strict parents, so this type of dancing wouldn’t work for them. 

Although I didn’t like the change of musical genres, I still danced along. I love dancing, so I moved to the music, hamming it up for my friends. Of course, I was hamming it up, (Your girl loves to dance!)

I jumped and waved my arms to the beat. I suddenly saw two parents’ shadow figures in the corner of the room. They weren’t my parents or the friends they invited as the lights started to clear. I realized that it was a parent from the church who was looking at the teens in disapproval. They were shaking their heads and whispering. Though it was dark, I felt their judgment. I began to get nervous. 

As they scooped up their daughters. I knew that this was not going to be the end of this. That I was in for a lot of issues later down the line.

The party went on, and people continued their whining, grinding, and pop lock and dropping. The next song that played was one of the newer reggae songs. So, of course, people were trying to get their grind on and try to “break” the guy they were dancing on. 

As people started to dance and grind, the party suddenly comes to a screeching halt.  Another mother came in and snatched her out of the arms of the guy she was dancing on. The mom yelled and scolded her. This was another church friend. She was so embarassed, and I felt so bad for her. I also realized that this would cause more problems.


I enjoyed my party though there was drama, it was still a magical night. Little did I know the drama was far from over. 


It was almost a week since my birthday party. Friday evenings, we went to church to open Sabbath and have choir rehearsal. When I got to church, I went to the bathroom to do my hair. And an older woman at church stopped and looked me up and down in the bathroom. What did she want from me?

She turned and looked at me up and down and asked, “Are you, Rachel?”

I look at her, shocked because she did not know my name, but we’ve been in the same church for over ten years. I knew hers, so it made me very confused she did not know who I am. This made me feel small and invisible in my own church. But, I remained cheerful so she would not see me sweat. 

“Yes,” I say in a happy voice swallowing my feelings and trying to be polite. 

“You are a bad influence!” she exclaimed.  

I was stunned. She started to scold me about my party how I should have never played the type of music that played. She even went as far as saying I am not representing the church, and I shouldn’t lead the good kids to a dark path. 

I was devastated; I felt like I was cut off from the church that I was dirty, no longer worthy of God or his love. 

My friends then said they couldn’t be as cool with me anymore because I was “a bad influence,” my reputation changed from something I did not do. And even if I did dance like that, this is not how an adult should speak to a 16-year-old child. 

For a while, I felt isolated from my church. I felt as if people turned their nose up at me and who I was. It did not make it better that my parents were in different churches and I went to church with my grandparents. They thought I was a little heathen. I felt as if I had a scarlet letter on my chest. 

Months went by, and I wanted to go to church less and less. There was no place for me there anymore. I felt such shame, and I felt so unwelcomed

One day my cousin asked me why I was so sad lately. I started to tell her about the whole Sweet 16 fiasco. I do not know what she did, but a lot of things changed. 

Parents raised an eye at me, but they were more accepting. But there was still something missing. I was still so ashamed of the response from the members of the church. I was never able to feel genuinely safe at church after that.. I was seen as Public Enemy #1 to some people in my church. 

But I had the understanding that it was not my fault and I was worthy of God’s love. I had not understood the church did not validate my relationship with God I do. I learned never to let someone minimize who you are. Stand tall and command space in the room. 

The ones who will make me feel isolated did not break me. I know who I was, and I was not going to let them call me names, especially the did not know me! 

The song that got me through this time was Mariah Carey’s Theme, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”. 

They can say anything they want to say

Try to bring me down

But I will not allow anyone to succeed

Hanging clouds over me

And they can try hard to make me feel

That I don’t matter at all

But I refuse to falter doing what I believe

Or lose faith in my dreams

‘Cause there’s, there’s a light in me

That shines brightly

They can try

But they can’t take that away from me

Whenever you feel like people are trying to bring you down, remember the light that makes you unique. People talk and let them talk. As long as you know who you are and your pure intentions, they cant take that away from you.

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