Dear fourteen-year-old me,
Here is some advice that may come in handy.
1. Be nicer to everyone. This includes the shy kids no one ever talks to.
2. Never lose your temper and yell at anyone. Chances are you would yell only at someone smaller or weaker, and that is simply bullying.
3. Never pass up an opportunity for a kiss.
4. Treasure and preserve that Popsicle Major Mars rocket ring, the one that looks like a gray plastic rocket ship and that “prints photos with the sun’s rays.” It’s going to be worth $100,000 some day.
5. Treasure and preserve each issue of Forrest J Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland. Who cares what they will be worth? They will be fun to read.
6. Ditto Batman/DC comics. The comics of the fifties will be more fun than those of future decades, and you don’t want your mom to throw them out. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Steve Bryant (LUCAS MACKENZIE AND THE LONDON MIDNIGHT GHOST SHOW)
Jen accepting roses after she FINALLY performed in a school play.
Dear Teen Me,
We’re doing it again.
No, no, no, stop right there! Don’t shrink down on the couch and pretend to stick your nose in a Sweet Valley High book to ignore me. You know what I’m talking about. We have a bad habit of being a Follower. Don’t believe me? I’ll present the evidence:
Exhibit A: When everyone ditched kickline in eighth grade and we still loved doing those high kicks, what did we do? We stopped kicking too and had to turn in that cute green and white uniform we adored. (Another thing: Stop saying our legs are fat. They’re not. They’re one of our best features.) Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Jen Calonita (FLUNKED)
Dear Teen Me:
It’s 1979 and you’re 13 years old. Everyone on television is telling you you are going to die.
Not just you, everyone.
The planet is dying, disaster movies are a thing and there are missiles pointed at your house. Nuclear missiles. It’s the end of the world. Ronald Reagan is coming and is promising World War III, because it’s getting him votes. For years, every time the television goes fuzzy, you will know by endless repetition that this means they’ve nuked the submarine base, right across the water, and the blast will hit in a minute or two. You try to figure out what it means to be thirteen in the shadow of the bomb, but then again, so is everyone.
Punk gives voice to that, but so does post-apocalyptic science fiction, so you consume as much of this as possible as a kind of vaccine. But knowing the world is going to end also makes room for utopian inventiveness, and these visions give a flicker of warmth in a Cold War.
The war never comes. Republicans and Jehova’s Witnesses are disappointed.
But there’s not much in the way of vision, of alternatives. Nobody planned on surviving the war, so things like bridges and roads and schools and hospitals just stopped being built. The future had been erased not by a rain of neutron bombs but by a generation of baby boomers who had decided already they were the last of the human race. They planted nothing, built nothing, paid no taxes, kept what they had. We were on our own.
Pat Benatar sings “We can’t afford to be innocent.” She’s right. London is drowning, and we live by the river. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Jordan Stratford (THE WOLLSTONECRAFT DETECTIVE AGENCY)
Jody’s high school senior portrait.
Dear Teen Jody,
You hate your parents, don’t you? And you think they’re the worst people in the world. You don’t think they understand you or what it’s like to be in high school.
There you are at sixteen standing in front of your closet in that lovely pastel flower-print shirt and the purple jeans (the ones rolled up tightly at the ankles because that’s what everyone did, although one day you’ll have absolutely no idea why).
As you stand there with your curly sun-bleached perm and with two layers of mascara weighing down your eyelashes, you’ll despair that you have nothing to wear. Again. You’ll loathe the fact that you have to show up to school in the same outfit you wore last week.
Your mother will call down the hallway from the kitchen where she’s making homemade waffles and eggs. “Breakfast is ready. Hurry up and come eat, or you’ll be late for school.” Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Jody Hedlund (AN UNCERTAIN CHOICE)
Hey Kieran Sue,
Freshman year. Alas, Kieran’s hair was never able to hold a perm for more than three weeks at a time. Therefore, the feathered look.
I have the best news for you! You are NOT going to marry your father! HOORAY! I’ll pause while you take a moment to celebrate. Get yourself a dozen of those bite size peanut butter cups. I know how much you love those things. And you can still scarf them without gaining five pounds and feeling like you’re gonna hurl.
Okay. Sugar high accomplished? Good. Let us continue.
So, you hate it when people drop that line, right? That girls always grow up to marry their fathers? Like that’s somehow a cute thing? And then they explain that girls do this because their father is the person from whom they first learned how to love, so of course that’s the type of person a girl will seek out and blah blah blah. When your friends hear this they roll their eyes and fake gag, but then smile and say something adorable like, “Ew! But my dad’s such a dork! I’d never marry a guy who wears sweater vests!” But you . . . you get this awful deep down stomach knot of dread. I know that feeling. I lived that feeling. Well of course I did. I’m you. And you know how it is. But I’m here to tell you that you have nothing to worry about. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Kieran Scott (SOMETHING TRUE, The True Love Trilogy)
Dear Teen Me:
Shari in high school!
It’s 10 p.m. some time in 1994, which means you’re probably at Perkins with the gang. Brian is complaining to the already annoyed waitress about the preparation of the steak in his steak and eggs. Brett and Lauren might still be tender about something that happened last night when you were playing the True Colors board game, where you essentially point out other people’s flaws. Jeremy is coming up with names for your potential band; “Headless, Naked Ken,” is the current frontrunner (FYI, you will never form this band). You’re next to Josh, picking tomatoes out of your deluxe dinner salad, thinking about how characters in a novel you’re writing would react to this situation, and wondering if this will be one of the those nights when you and Josh make out when he drops you off, or if you’re back to being friends and not doing that anymore.
Or maybe it’s spring break and you’re in the Bahamas with Lauren and Andrea, all of you a shade of red normally reserved for apples and fire engines (for years you’ll call Lauren, Lobster). You’re drinking virgin daiquiris because even though the bartender winked and gave you girls a rum-heavy first round, that’s really not your thing. . .yet. You’re daydreaming about becoming a writer in New York and discussing the romantic way Andrea’s boyfriend put a note in her luggage asking her to prom. Josh, you lament, might never ask you to prom. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Shari Goldhagen (IN SOME OTHER WORLD, MAYBE, FAMILY AND OTHER ACCIDENTS)
Wendy at 15!
Dear Teen Me,
You are 14, and you are in the choir. You love the choir, even though sometimes you are frustrated with the kids who are only taking it for their arts elective, because they don’t practice at home. Still, it is the happiest part of your school day, feeling the sound coming from your body. When your classmates around you—no matter who they are, or if you like them, or they like you—are singing the parts well, you are all one voice, and the grubby risers (in your dismal school, in a desperately small town) vanish and there are only the notes. The songs are pop or sacred standards, but even the boring Christmas tunes take on a new dimension after working through the harmonies.
You are an alto, and you have a good voice. You grew up with music in your home so you also have a good sense for pitch, even if it is far from perfect. You are a little proud of this, and you actually enjoy the sight-reading tests in front of the rest of the class because you know you can locate each note, dangling there on the staff paper, waiting to be hit.
In the spring, your school goes to the county competition. It is in a town a few hours away. Remember, your choir is small, and while there are some strong singers, there’s no particular talent as a whole. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Wendy Fox (THE SEVEN STAGES OF ANGER)
To the teenager formally known as me,
Oh, honey. I know you hate her. Or at least you think you do.
You hate her because she criticizes your clothes (“If you’re such a peacenik, why do you wear army pants?”) and your hair (“Get those shaggy bangs out of your eyes.”) You hate her because she won’t drive you to the mall when you want to go (“What am I, your own personal chauffeur?”). And you especially hate her because she’s forbidden you to see the boy you are madly in love with and who miraculously seems to be madly in love with you. She has said so many times, “It’s not because he’s black, it’s because you met him on the train” that it’s almost funny. Except it isn’t. And she won’t change her mind no matter how many times you play Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child” on the record player in your room at full volume.
You not only hate her. You judge her, which in some ways is worse. You think she’s wasted her life. She spends her days drinking Maxwell House instant coffee, smoking Chesterfield King non-filtered cigarettes, knitting sweaters for her friend’s grandchildren, and watching “As the World Turns” and “All My Children” on TV. She doesn’t even cook; she defrosts. She doesn’t even clean; you’re the one who has to make the beds, wash the supper dishes, sweep the kitchen floor. You’re like a housewife-in-training, and you can’t wait to escape to college—your ticket out—and start living your own life, a life completely different than hers. You won’t eat meat; you’ll be a vegetarian. You won’t have a husband who trots off to work while you remain trapped in the house. You won’t have children who despise you. You will live on tofu and organic vegetables; you will have a lover or perhaps several lovers; and instead of children, you will have a career and a bunch of dogs and cats with whom you live happily ever after.
It’s a nice dream, and some of it will come true. But what if I told you, darling, that someday she will be your best friend? And that you will have the close, loving mother/daughter relationship that you are craving even as we speak, though of course you won’t admit it.
You wouldn’t believe me, of course. But trust me. Time will tell. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Lesléa Newman (OCTOBER MOURNING, I CARRY MY MOTHER)
Dear Liz Prince, Tomboy, age 15,
Liz Prince, tomboy, age 13: B.G. (Before Glasses).
Hi! It’s me! I mean you! From the future! No, I didn’t arrive here in a delorean or a phone booth, this is some kind of reverse time capsule, like the one you and your best friend made in 3rd grade by putting all of your favorite knick-knacks in a shoebox, but in letter form (and FYI, over 20 years later you still carry that box around). Before I go any further, I want to let you know that this is a love letter, from me to you. I know you have a hard time taking compliments, so you’re just going to have to suck it up and accept it. Fairly warned be thee, says I.
Ready? Here it comes…
You are special. Ew, I know, we kind of hate that word, because it seems so non-committal: saying someone is special is like saying “you’re good but I can’t tell you why because I don’t know and maybe I don’t actually believe you’re good, I just don’t know what else to say”. It’s a total grandma compliment. But I know why you’re special. I have been you for 33 years now and the reason why you’re special (sorry) is because you’re so unrelentingly YOU.
I know you are going through a lot right now, in Junior High and High School, still being a tomboy while all of your other friends grew out of that “phase” and embraced their newfound femininity. I can still feel the sting of betrayal when a once-tomboyish friend tried to give me a makeover, or whines that if I’d just wear a skirt we’d have more fun at parties. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Liz Prince (TOMBOY)
Dear Teen Me
Teen Me, I know it’s not easy being the only plain girl in a public high school. The other kids don’t understand that wearing a modest dress instead of jeans is part of your “example” to the lost—and it’s a sacrifice, too, because pulling on nylon stockings after gym class when you’ve only got ten minutes to make it up two floors to English is no joke. The times those things have gotten tangled up and you’ve nearly put your toenail through them, it’s so tempting to just wad them up and stuff them in your bag, isn’t it? But no. Bare legs are not a good example, even in summer. Bare legs do not uphold The Standard. (News flash: You’ll take yourself to Hawaii once you’ve been at your first job for a year and see the church members there with bare legs and sandals. It will really mess with your head.)
The other rules—scissors shall never touch a woman’s head, makeup is forbidden because that’s saying God didn’t do a good enough job, skirts will be mid-calf or lower so as not to tempt the male eye (you wish!), no short sleeves (well okay, you’ve fudged on that one), no jewelry because the only adornment a woman needs is a submissive spirit—you can live with those, right?
But the nylons. Argh. The nylons and the hair are the bane of your existence. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Adina Senft (HERB OF GRACE, KEYS OF HEAVEN)