She's sweet 16 and smart as a whip. Ouch.

SHE TURNED 16 the other day, and I can hardly spit out the words. Sixteen. As in 16 candles. As in sweet (and sour) 16. As in the .416 (or so) batting average she racked up for her school softball team. As in the 16 bucks I gave her for the movies. As in the 16 times I told her to clean her room, damn it. Or else.

"I will, Dad."


"I have to go to Olivia's first."

"Then you're going to clean your room."


"That wasn't a question."

"It wasn't?"


Oh, yeah, she's 16 all right. She's a "Zits" cartoon, a John Hughes movie. She wears humongous sunglasses that fit her like some sort of CHP visor. And strappy open-toed sandals made by an overpaid, oversexed Italian.

Sixteen years later, she's 16, and she eats and eats and eats and eats. She eats 16 times a day, if you're counting, which you're probably not. But if you are, she eats 16 times a day.

At breakfast, she eats eggs and granola and pancakes and crepes. That's four meals right there.

"Mom, is there more?" she asks.

For lunch, she eats a sandwich and yogurt and grapes and cookies. After school, she'll eat a little something, maybe a pizza or a triple-triple from the hamburger emporium down the block. It all goes off into the infinity that is a teenager's mouth, the ultimate black hole. Still, she's skinny as a $5 bill. She has the metabolism of a Ferrari.

"Hey Dad, wanna hear my Josh Groban impression?" she asks.


"You lift me up, so I can stand on mountains … " she quavers like Katharine Hepburn, then laughs. "You lift me up…."

She's 16 and hates Big Government and Big Oil but isn't sure who her senators are. She has strong opinions on the war in Afghanistan and hybrid cars. She's downloaded about 10,000 songs, three of which she really likes. She sneaks onto MySpace when I'm not looking. Her computer is her mirror.

She's 16, and I find her in the kitchen one night holding an ice cube against an ear lobe. I suspect some sort of ear piercing issue. Or maybe her brain is overheating.