My Dear Teen Me Essay
An essay I wrote for the project "Dear Teen Me"
You want to fit in. But you don’t. You’re too skinny. You’re too smart. Too quiet. Your voice is too deep, so when there’s chanting at a pep rally, your chant is lower than everyone else’s. Even the boys’.
You’re quiet. You read. All the time. In middle school, you get stuck with these glasses after you realize other people recognize their friends in the gym and you don’t. For some reason, the optometrist talks you into bifocals. Bifocals! Like you’re a little old lady at 14! But you keep stepping on them and breaking them because you take them off all the time. Even if you can’t see.
Even if the sky loses all its stars and the people around you no longer have features.
You want to be popular, but you’re not quite sure how it happens. Just that it hasn’t happened to you. You do see it happen to a friend of yours, Sheila, but lightning doesn’t strike twice.
When a girl named Aileen moves in across the street, she’s like nobody you ever met before. She wears men’s shrink-to-fit Levis, men’s work boots, an old cashmere pullover of her dad’s, and a funky necklace made from her 10-years-younger sister’s wooden blocks strung on a shoelace.
You want to be as different, as amazing, as her. So you buy shrink-to-fit Levis (size 26X36 because your body is built like a toothpick’s) and men’s work boots. Eventually, you snag a man’s cashmere sweater that got left at the pizza parlor where you work. But somehow, you’re never as cool as Aileen.
For one thing, she’s got these big breasts, and you’ve barely got a B-cup.
And pretty soon she has a boyfriend and you don’t.
You do have a crush on the boy who lives up the street. Since Aileen’s little sister can be taught to repeat a phrase like a 4-year-old human version of a parrot, you have her go up to him and say, not, “Billy is a dirty old man,” but “Billy is a lascivious old man.”
The humor in this is lost on everyone else because you’re the only one who knows the world lascivious.
Eventually, you’re going to get a boyfriend, Chuck, and while he’s going to be perfectly nice, you’re going to have zero in common. You do get some things right. Like going to Planned Parenthood before you ever have sex with him. But sex will turn out be a kind of glue that holds you together even though you’re far from soul mates.
Here are some things I wish I could tell you:
1. Be comfortable with you you are. Who you are is great! Once you stop worrying about what other people think, you’ll figure out that a lot of people like you. And that it’s okay if not everyone does.
2. It’s fine to be skinny. But the habits you’re starting now, like, say, having a chocolate milkshake and a bag of barbecue chips for lunch at school every day, are going to be hard to break once you stop being so skinny. So eat some fruit. Maybe even some vegetables.
3. You’re not as awkward as you think you are. Whenever you try some new physical activity there’s going to be a little voice saying you look stupid, that you’re going to fail or fall, that everyone’s judging you.
Ignore that little voice and go for it! When you’re older, you’ll be taking kung fu classes five or six days a week, plus running and lifting weights. Do Older Me a favor and start kung fu now. If you do, Older Me might have a black belt instead of purple.
4. Keep reading! All writers start out as readers.
Think about what kind of books you might want to write. Start by trying to figure out what makes a bad book suck. Are the characters unrealistic, is the dialog wooden, is there too much description and not enough action?
Next—and this is a lot harder—start figuring out what makes a great book so great.
5. And stop plucking your eyebrows into scary narrow lines. Stop curling your hair with hot rollers and curling irons and embrace the curls you naturally get if you don’t brush your hair with anything but your fingers. Be who you are!