Ah, puberty. The sight of hair sprouting in weird places, zits, blood gushing out of a previously dormant cavity, zits, awkward growth spurts, zits, boob weirdness, zits…yeah, nothing exactly glamorous. It’s a very graceless period of time that we all have to go through, for better or for worse, until we get out on the other side as sort-of-adults…who still get zits.
So maybe your pituitary gland has you feeling down–or like an ugly duckling, like my own puberty phase made me feel–but at least our puberty angst (and moments of hilarity) are mirrored in the pop culture we consume, especially TV. Let’s be real, body changing weirdness makes for good television, and while the more awkward the better, it’s nice when there’s a healthy chunk of realism to it as well. Check out these 12 realistic puberty moments from television that will make you feel a little less alone in this hormonal hell hole.
'Lizzie McGuire' - Bra-GateThe moment that defined a generation. I'm being 100 percent serious. Believe it or not, the first season of Lizzie McGuire was actually a little edgier than typical Disney fare; they regularly discussed things like boobs and bras, topics that reached their apex in an episode called "Between A Rock And A Bra Place." Basically, Lizzie and Miranda think it's time for them to buy bras, but they try to do it on the DL. Lizzie tries to lie to her mom about why they need to go to the mall, but when her mom realizes that something is fishy, Lizzie explodes: "I WANT A BRA. OKAY?" It was clarion call for everyone watching that they weren't alone in their awkward approach to breaching the bra barrier with a parent. Watch the full episode here; it still holds up and it's legit as heartwarming as an episode about mom and daughter bra shopping could possible be.
'iCarly' - Little Tittie CommitteeNickelodeon sometimes has moments of boldness that I can't help but admire, especially given how much it has been sanitized over the years. One such moment happened in an iCarly episode called "iSaw Him First" in which BFFs Carly and Sam are fighting over some dude. They start popping off at each other and Sam makes a shallow dig at Carly's "helping bra," which we can only assume is a push up bra. Carly looks down at her chest and says, "There's nothing wrong with a little help." I think that anyone who ever experienced what can be described as "A-cup angst"can relate to wanting a little bit of help in the chest department.
'My So Called Life' - MetamophosisThere's an amazing episode of My-So-Called Life called "The Zit." it's basically the puberty episode, in which Angela deals with an annoying zit and a list goes around school that nominates her ex-BFF as having the best boobs of all of the 10th graders. It's ultimately an episode about insecurities, wish fulfillment, and growing up, but in a mature way that doesn't feel like a corny Very Special Episode. You can check it out on Hulu here.
'Degrassi' - Show And Tell: Boner EditionMan, for some reason Degrassi always does the absolute most when it comes to just about anything, puberty included. There are so many moments to choose from, but I couldn't get through this post without including the episode, "Weird Science," in which Spinner kept getting boners out of nowhere. The most awful moment was when his boner was presented in front of the whole class. Honestly, what makes this moment even worse is that he tried to hide it, but his teacher accidentally, er, prompted this unwanted show and tell session. An important lesson was learned: Boners don't just happen when someone is turned on, they can happen anytime.
'Degrassi' - Surprise PeriodThis is a classic Degrassi moment that will live on in infamy...as one of the most embarrassing moments ever. In an episode fittingly called "Coming Of Age," Emma experiencing the worst nightmare of anyone who menstruates: getting a super obvious period leak. But what made this moment even more cringeworthy was that this was Emma's very first period ever, not to mention her first time wearing her brand new white skirt. Emma, girl, you're going to need a whole lot of bleach to get that stain out. We all learn the hard way, I guess.
'As Told By Ginger' - Frizzy LizziesAs Told By Ginger was always ahead of its time for a cartoon that dealt with the multifaceted world of middle school/high school hell: Popularity contests, crushes who don't know you exist, pretending to be mature when you really aren't. This includes making sure you're on the same page as everyone else when it comes to body hair, which is exactly what Ginger had to deal with in an episode called "Cry Wolf." Ginger had a dilemma: The popular girls knew about her hairy legs, but Ginger's mom didn't think she was old enough to shave. Well, what's a girl to do? Ginger ended up using an electric razor to at least take the hair off of her calf to get a reprieve from any more bullying. What I love about this episode is that it actually felt realistic. Yes, the ideal message would be to say, "screw the mean girls, I'm not going to cave in to the pressure." But the truth is, societal pressure can sometimes be a little harder to resist than we think, and sometimes we just want people to back off and we want to be able to have the freedom to do what we want with our bodies without mom getting in the way. Ginger's decision to go behind her mom's back and essentially give the finger to her bullies was definitely aspirational for anyone who had IRL mean girls to deal with...or folks who just weren't allowed to pick up a razor just yet.
'Braceface' - Period DramaIn the episode "The Worst First Date Ever," Sharon goes on a date with her crush, Alden, and in the middle of it all starts experiencing awful cramps. Alden is worried that her appendix burst, so he insists on getting her to the emergency room ASAP. Well, in reality, Sharon was just getting her period for the first time. AWKWARD. Sure, it wasn't super realistic for Sharon to accidentally throw her hospital grade pads all over the waiting room, but I did love the realism of the rest of the episode: Sharon got her period and she didn't really feel all that different. In a culture where a period is often exemplified as becoming a woman, this episode of Braceface really helped demystify a lot of assumptions about periods.
'Sister Sister' - Roger's Glo UpYo, the puberty glo up is real, and while it is usually reduced to girls growing boobs over the summer in popular culture, there aren't enough examples of dudes having a successful go at the whole puberty thing. That's why this moment from '90s classic Sister Sister is so hilarious. In the episode, "When a Man Loves Two Women," Tia and Tamera notice that Roger, the annoying dude who always wanted to date them, went from "as if" to "all that." I mean, he was "all that" in a way that could only make a '90s girl swoon, but still.
'My Mad Fat Diary' - Bloody HellThere's an episode of My Mad Fat Diary called "Ladies And Gentlemen" in which Rae's irregular AF period roars back to life in a big way. She calls it her mega period, and while there's a ton of comedy attached to it--including a vision of her doctor running away from a wave of her menstrual blood--there's a moment that should make any of us want to scream. Basically, she experiences a period leak, a boy who bullies the hell out of her for being overweight notices it. Fortunately, the second-hand embarrassment ends with her crush, Finn, sucker punching the hell out of said bully. I'm not a promoter of violence, but I honestly think that my vag quivered in joy from that scene. I mean, get you a man (or woman, whichever) who will fend off bullies who make fun of your period blood. That's our new requirement, dear readers.
'The Inbetweener' - Friends Don't Announce Friends' BonersThe Inbetweeners is a TV show that can double as a guide on how not to be a good friend. Case in point, this memorable scene in the episode "First Day" in which Simon is talking to his crush, Carly, and gets a boner. He manages to hide without tipping off his crush, but not his friends. Those friends, by the way, decide to tell the entire common room that Simon has a boner. In the end, everyone called Simon "Boner" for the rest of the day. Is it realistic for friends to out their friend like that? I don't know. But we all know of some dude in our grade who is known for some awkward boner scenario, right? Yikes. Choose your friends wisely, y'all.
'Brady Bunch' - Peter's Awkwardly Cracking VoiceOkay, here's a vintage example. So in the episode "Dough Re Mi," Peter--the middle son of the Brady clan--started experiencing some serious voice cracking. The timing was bad too because the family had a record a song soon! Yeah, okay, so the bit about a singing family isn't realistic whatsoever, but I kind of have to give this show props for low key having a puberty episode of a family show back in the early '70s. That just wasn't done back then. The only place dudes at that time were learning about puberty was in a classroom and via awkward, heavy handed educational videos. So to see someone on primetime television go through the same weirdness that they could have been at the time? Pretty cool...for The Brady Bunch that is.
'Boy Meets World' - The Werewolf StageGuys have a lot of things going for them in this patriarchal world of ours, but what they don't get much of are episodes of television dedicated to their own awkward puberty moments that actually have heart. That's why the episode of Boy Meets World called "Who's Afraid of Cory Wolf" was such a breath of fresh air. Basically, Cory notices that he's sprouting hair all over the place and is legit afraid that he's becoming a werewolf. Obviously, he doesn't, but it's nice to see guys having some serious reservations about puberty that go beyond ill timed boners.
What other moments should be on this list? Tell us in the comments!