Ahh… Middle school. Just the thought conjures up smells and images that you probably wish you had kept tamped down. What better way to revisit the blunder years than with the help of two 30 plus-year-old women?
Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle’s show “Pen15” created mass waves in the TV world for its frank, hilarious portrayals of those awkward tween years through the lens of two young girls, Maya Ishii-Peters (Erskine) and Anna Kone (Konkle) living in the 2000s. The show is based loosely on their own lives (Erskine’s real father is a jazz drummer, not a drummer in a Steely Dan cover band) and covers everything from periods to first crushes to female masturbation. The fact that the actresses are adults allows them to explore topics that would be off-limits to their young co-stars, lest the crew incur a plethora of criminal charges.
The show allows viewers to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, with all the grossness and insecurities of middle school intact. Here are our favorite Maya moments from ‘Pen15’:
1. Ojichan Is Watching You
Okay, you knew we had to do it to you, but there’s no way we could start this list off without talking about the infamous masturbation episode. It’s this awful, yet disturbingly perfect combination of filial piety and pure primal impulse that sums up what it’s like to discover the wonders of the body as a young, Asian American girl.
2. Let’s Play Sylvania
We won’t admit that we played with dolls in our tweens, but… do you wanna come over and play Sylvania after work?
Don’t even try to tell us that you didn’t have at least one questionable online crush at some point in your early internet career.
4. The Thong
Figuring out how to be a woman is hard work. It’s even harder when you’re trying to be an attractive woman, and you’re really just a girl in middle school. But it’s a little bit easier with the help of an ultra sexy thong that you stole from a classmate (and can’t seem to give back). It’s just so… pink!
5. The Drum Solo
Any Asian kid worth their rice has probably participated in band or orchestra—if they weren’t a part of the robotics team. Or maybe you did both. But, the reason for our overachieving? For our parents, of course! When Maya turns a brief drum part in an orchestral arrangement into a minutes-long affair complete with an unforgettable finish, it’s hard to not feel the pangs of dying to impress.
6. The Bowl Cut
If there was a way that a haircut could be preserved in a museum, we’d want to see this bowlcut there. Almost as unforgettable as the show, this gnarly ‘do is impossible to miss.
7. Best Friends 4 Ever
The best part of ‘Pen15?’ That indescribable bond that girls develop as friends. Where would Maya be without Anna, or vice versa? It’s a topic that the show delves into a number of times as hormones, the possibility of popularity and boys threaten to tear the pair apart, but really, there’s nothing that can break the love between two girlfriends.