Dear Teen Me,
As you have no doubt already surmised, the next few years are going to be a wild swim. There will be epic rides to shore. And there will be demoralizing wipeouts punctuated by lacerating drags across coral reefs. (More of those. Sorry to report.) But those epic rides–those you will feel forever, they will imprint on your soul and heart and remind you on your darkest days of colors you’ve forgotten exist.
In the meantime, here’s a handy navigational guide for your current state of miasmic confusion.
A few things you are right about:
1. Mrs. Walsh is an alcoholic.
2. Driving fast feels good.
3. Guys that get you drunk probably don’t want to talk to you about your feelings. Or anything.
4. Your mother is reading your journal.
5. Music is the best drug you will ever take.
6. Taking other drugs is a one-way street to sad town.
7. The girls who are prettier than you are treated differently. And they always will be. Because they will come to expect it.
8. You will never use Algebra again. Not even in the subconscious ways your teachers keep insisting you will. Feel free to forget it the moment you graduate.
9. It is a weird and useless thing to worry about the people other people love. And when you make this point in chemistry class after your teacher basically gay bashes Tommy K for having an asymmetrical haircut, you are absolutely correct to do so, even if it does lead to your being sent to the principal’s office for “attitude issues.”
10. These “attitude issues” will not lessen with time or experience.
11. Love at first sight is real.
12. Nature is everything.
13. Where you begin doesn’t dictate where you end up.
14. Your grandmother is an Appalachian goddess worthy of so much more than her life saw fit to deliver.
15.You only get one brain. Don’t fuck it up.
16. Words matter.
A few things you are less right about, a.k.a. brace for the consequences, a.k.a. heads up wisdom from the future:
1. You are not fat. Your stomach does not stick out in a bathing suit.
2. People are not looking at your fat, sticking out stomach. Stop telling yourself they are and wrapping giant towels around your waist and feeling shame you don’t deserve. Because body shame for women is a white noise we never escape and you would be better off spending all that energy on something useful like reading or even freaking algebra.
3. If you aren’t going to bother to wear your retainer, expect your teeth to revert to their original jacked up state in less than a year.
4. Mrs. Walsh may be an alcoholic, but she deserves empathy, not to become a running punch line in the halls of the school. Half the people you know now will become addicts of some kind. Love them anyway.
5. Your mother is fragile. She is a wounded bird.
6. This is not your fault even when she says it is.
7. Not everyone is a cat person or a dog person. Some people are both.
8. The above applies to every binary in the universe. Nothing is as simple as we pretend it is.
9. It’s okay to say no to boys.
10. It’s okay to forgive yourself when you don’t.
11. Don’t pretend you don’t care. Denying your feelings is the worst lie you can tell yourself. Worse than the fat stomach.
12. Other girls are not your enemy. Even S.W. who has tormented you since grade school. She is just doing the best she can with the crappy hand she was dealt. When you are older, you and S.W. (or someone just like her) will have expensive cocktails after work and you will think she is awesome and she will think you are hilarious and you will both realize you were duped into hating each other by the ingrained patriarchy of our culture and laugh, laugh, laugh about it because really what else can you do?
13. When in doubt, date an artist.
14.The dudes in Duran Duran will always be kind of hot.
15. James Spader will not.
16. Take notes. You will be surprised by how much wonder you forget.
A magazine journalist for more than 22 years, Glock-Cooper’s writing has appeared in: The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Food & Wine, Elle, O: The Oprah Magazine, Men’s Journal, Marie Claire, GQ, The New Yorker, and many other publications. Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, South Writ Large, and the Portland Review. She is presently a senior staff writer for ESPN and a contributing editor for the southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun, as well as a columnist for Southern Living. Recent awards include the FOLIO Award for Best Sports Article (2011), the MIN Award for Best Reporting (2012), and a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Magazine Article (2011). In 2004 Glock-Cooper was the recipient of the Whiting Award for her book, BEAUTY BEFORE COMFORT, (Knopf) a memoir of her grandmother’s life in West Virginia and a New York Times notable book.