Dear Teen Me,
Thank you for taking time off from pacing in your room while listening to music. I promise not to take up too much of your time.
I know, I know, you’re anxious to go back upstairs…
First of all, I’m really glad that you never cut yourself when you were thirteen. I remember that urge that was almost a voice, telling you to find a knife and slice your wrists. You ignored that urge even when it got insistent, and I’m proud of you for that.
Now that you are older those urges have gone away, so you think it’s not important anymore. However, maybe it would be a good idea to tell your parents about it. I know, I know, you think that you were self-dramatizing. You think that because you wanted to cut yourself but didn’t want to die, that means you wanted to do it because you wanted attention and that means that you are a very, very bad person. Have you not noticed how incredibly hard on yourself you are? Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Laura Nowlin (THIS SONG IS [NOT] FOR YOU, IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME)
Doing the show choir thing fifteen years before GLEE made it cool. Booyah.
Dear Teen Tegan,
Ugh. I don’t know how to tell you this. Timing is everything, and this is going to kill you. So, right now, your life revolves around slathering on stage make-up, sliding into dance tights that are as clingy as compression socks, and wearing a red sequin dress so you can dance and sing on stage with other members of your competitive show choir. And you want so much for your membership in this group to confer some coolness on you. It does… but only a little. However, in fifteen years, a hilarious and wonderful television show is going to burst onto the scene and make show choir über cool. It will be so amazeballs (unfortunately, now a synonym for cool) that people will download show choir versions of popular songs sung by the show’s cast. (Yes, I said download. Trust me. It’s now a thing.) Look at it this way: your coolness is just way ahead of the curve. Like a decade and a half ahead.
I’ve got some other challenging news for you. The guy you’ve crushed on for years is gay. You’re going to get super weepy about his inability to say it’s a date when you guys go out to eat and spend hours talking about musicals and old movies. But here’s the awesome news: you will still love him dearly as a friend. And that sounds lame to you right now—just friends—but you’ll discover that true and lasting friendship is very difficult to find. It’s so rare you’ll always treasure his friendship and those wonderful evenings you spent together eating the sinful chocolate desserts you both adore. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Tegan Wren (INCONCEIVABLE!)
Emily at 17!
Hey you, sullen sad sweet self,
I wish I could take you by the shoulders and shake you, and say pay attention, value yourself, use your intelligence, don’t get lost in those emotional whirlpools that drag you down, but you won’t listen. You never do—at least you haven’t yet—but I will still say these things because I am the sort of person (and this means you will become this sort of person) who never gives up on anyone. I can hear your loud sigh, but I don’t care. Bear with me.
You have the good fortune, or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, to be 17 in 1969. It’s the year of Woodstock, and the year a man will walk on the moon. You won’t pay much attention to either of these events, but lots of things will happen this year that you’ll always remember and some things you’ll wish you could forget.
You have the most awesome clothes. You will remember all of them—those Capezio tee-straps made of shiny caramel-colored leather, the soft white boots kids teased you about until they were a trend, the dark-blue flowered dress with bell sleeves that you sewed yourself. Your favorite magenta Marimekko dress is as short as a dress can be and still be a dress, and it gives you joy, not because of the label or because a friend has one just like it (though maybe there is a little of that) but because beautiful things lift your spirits. They always will. That thing that Keats said— Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Emily Ross (HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH)
Myfanwy, age 13, and her mother, Marilyn.
Dear Teen Me,
You are known almost exclusively by your loathed childhood nickname: Mony. It’s a name your sisters gave you because they couldn’t pronounce your real name. You feel nameless. Faceless. Blank.
You are a fucking mess.
Your hair did not ever feather the way you wanted it to. Judging from the shirt you have on, you’re probably wearing your light blue Levi cords. You’re on a diet. From this point on, you are almost always on a diet. Now, it’s The Scarsdale Diet. Grapefruit. Dry toast. Hard-boiled eggs.
Your mother fully supports your dieting even though you’re not overweight. When you’re nineteen and living with your first serious boyfriend, she will encourage you to comb your hair and fix your face before he gets home from work. You will laugh about this with him.
Your mother is six inches shorter than you, even though she looks taller in this picture. Already, you’re the tallest person in your family but your mother always wears heels. Her feet hurt without heels on. Her toes are squished together as though they have been bound. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Myfanwy Collins (THE BOOK OF LANEY)
You can see Charles was a child of the 90s.
Hey 13-year-old Charles,
Yeah, it’s me. I mean, it’s you. From about 20 years into the future. You always loved the idea of Charles From the Future coming back like The Terminator to tell you what your life is like in the 21st century. I’ll sum it up for you (imagine I’m saying this in Ahnold’s accent): At 33 years old, Charles in 2015 is having a blast. He’s married to an awesome wife, has a funny, smart one-year-old son, works as a sportswriter and had a middle grade novel published with a second on the way.
But I know there will be a few times in your early teens when you could have used some encouragement or some advice from someone who knows you like I do. I know you love lists and listicles (you’d better, because they’ll be a big part of your career in journalism down the road) like Entertainment Weekly’s Must List, so I decided to write the Five Pieces of Advice You’ll Need to Get Through Your Teens. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Charles Curtis (STRANGE COUNTRY DAY)
Dear Teen Me,
B.K. and Dennis, the summer after they met.
I want to talk to you about a promise you made to yourself this summer. You know the one I mean—the one about working harder at meeting new people. I want you to realize how important it is for you to keep that promise.
Oh, I know you’ve managed pretty well so far. You’re not shy, not exactly. All through high school, you’ve had a close circle of wonderful friends. You love spending time with them and don’t have any problems opening up to them. But venturing beyond that safe little circle—you’re not so good at that, are you? When you go to parties, you stick to hanging out with people you already know. Have you ever once taken the initiative to introduce yourself to someone new? I don’t think so. You’ve wanted to, many times, but you’ve never found the courage. You know that’s held you back. You know it’s made some people think you’re stuck up, and you hate that. But so far, you’ve never done anything about it.
Now, you’ll have to. When you went to Kenyon College for a campus visit, you fell in love with it and decided it was the perfect place for you. The problem is, you won’t know a single person there. It’s in another state, hours from home, and all your friends are headed in different directions. If you don’t push yourself to meet new people, the next four years will be lonely and miserable.
You’ll do all right during freshman orientation. Your roommate will be lively and outgoing, there’ll be plenty of organized activities that just about force you to meet people, and all the dorm meetings will give you chances to start forming new friendships without making much of an effort. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author B.K. Stevens (FIGHTING CHANCE, INTERPRETATION OF MURDER)
Dear Teen Me:
Senior Year picture. The hair. In a couple of years she will learn to just wash it and let it dry curly.
You are sixteen, in the front seat of a big white Lincoln Town Car, being driven home by a large man in a cream-colored suit. He smells of bad, stale, men’s cologne. For the last eight hours (6pm till 2am) you have endured the worst babysitting job of your long babysitting career. The two kids were monstrous. The house was a mess. The husband and wife spoke harshly to each other before they left to attend some big event in New York City. New to this region, town, school, climate, this accent and this fast-talking crowd of kids who call each other “douche bag” (a term you only know as a strange item hanging in the shower in your parents’ bathroom), you have no friends yet, nothing better to do on a weekend night than babysit for $1/hour, which, though double what they were paying you in New Orleans, is nowhere near enough.
The man driving you—the father of the horrible kids who would do not one single thing the mother had suggested you make them do—turns on the radio. He asks you what your favorite station is and you shrug. You say you are new here. In you he smells something timid and tender, like veal, something he could conquer, sink teeth into.
You don’t tell the man how difficult his son and daughter were, or how you normally will do the few dishes at a house where you’re babysitting, once the kids are in bed, but at this house, you would not have known where to begin. You stare out the windshield at the fall night—really cold now that it’s 2am; you wish you had heeded your mother’s suggestion to bring a jacket. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Melanie Bishop (MY SO-CALLED RUINED LIFE)
Dear Teen Me,
Melissa with one of her very bad perms.
Greetings from your future self! I thought I’d share a few things you really should know.
Stop perming your hair one year, then having it straightened the next year, then perming it again. You’re really damaging it. Seriously.
1. Don’t worry so much about what other people think about you. Something that took me years to accept is that other people’s opinions don’t matter. Everybody has them. Some may like the things you do, some may not. Learn to stay away from people who put you down. They’re toxic and don’t deserve to be a part of your life.
2. Don’t be afraid to let your nerdy side shine. You’ve loved most anything sci-fi or fantasy related since you were little. Remember how you begged to go to the theater to see Return of the Jedi when you were in first grade? Remember the HUGE crush you had on Wil Wheaton when he was in Star Trek: TNG? Your friends don’t know that. You’re too afraid they will pick on you. Don’t worry about that. When you let people know about things you like, you actually have the chance to make friends with people who have things in common with you, and that is like finding gold. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Melissa E. Hurst (THE EDGE OF FOREVER)
Dear Teen Me,
Michelle Brafman’s senior portrait.
The good news is that you’re not as dumb as you think. The bad news is that you’re not as smart as you think. Let’s start with the dumb.
If something bores you, you ignore it. Therefore, you bomb standardized tests and stink at algebra. Who gives a hoot that rate multiplied by time equals distance? The word problems grab your attention, though. Why are Jane and John going to the skating rink together anyway? Are they a thing? And for God’s sake, why is Sally leaving twenty minutes later? You care about their back stories and craft scenes about their showdown in the skating lodge, which smells like fire and feet, resulting in Sally hurling a cup of piping hot cocoa at John just barely missing the distinctive facial feature he shares with a boy who teased you at a skating rink only a few years back. You will let go of many bad feelings through your writing, but stop spacing out in algebra, will ya?
You ace Hebrew with Mrs. Eisenberg. She is funny and passionate about language, and you “snap to” in her class because she expects the best from you, and you will give it to her, to the subject matter, and to yourself. She’s so good that she could have made you love algebra, but in studying Hebrew with her, you are learning how to both learn and teach. Impossible to believe, but one day you will become a graduate school professor. You will steal Mrs. Eisenberg’s best tricks, namely believing in your students’ potential (and using lots of odd props). But back in high school, she is teaching you the grammar you are not learning in your English class, and not because you don’t have a perfectly good English teacher. You do. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Michelle Brafman (WASHING THE DEAD)
Dear Teen Me,
Teen Kristi demonstrating The curse of growing up in the 70s with non-Farrah-Fawcett-compliant-hair.
First, let’s talk about that one girl.
The one who, at the time, you swore had ruined your life.
Let’s talk about that really pretty popular girl who not only ripped your best friend away from you, but who bullied you in the halls afterward.
The girl who, surrounded by her bevy of popular, pretty friends, would go out of her way in the hall to say, “I hate you!” and shove you with both her palms pressed flat against your shoulder, pushing you into the lockers.
I know you wanted to fight back, but you were surrounded. Her Popular Girl Posse always outnumbered you.
And even though you acted angry with her and the way she treated you, deep inside you were hurt and baffled why someone who got the prize – your best friend – could hate you so much. The only thing you had done wrong was be best friends with the girl she wanted to be best friends with. And she won that battle, anyway. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Kristi Belcamino (The Gabriella Giovanni Mysteries)