December 6, 2013

Dear Annie: A Letter to My 17-Year-Old Self.

Photo: Pink Sherbet Photograph on Flickr

Dear Annie,

I know you are cringing because I called you “Annie.” Everybody calls you that now, and you like it. Seriously.

I know that you are already convincing yourself that you are not going to be a part of the whole world of marriage, and babies and sentimentality and “cute” things like nick names.

I know that if you could right now, you would change your name to something like Spike. You are watching Woody Allen, listening to Mahler and reading Fran Lebowitz, and thinking that life as a misfit neurotic in Manhattan might suit you just fine.

You plan to leave this town full of pink and blonde idiots, homecoming parades and Sperry Topsiders at your earliest opportunity and find a garret somewhere to write long, sad poems and wear nothing but black. (And by the way—you did leave, for a long time, but you came back of your own free will and haven’t regretted it once).

You are pretending that it is all too stupid, from teenage romance (which you mock because you don’t have it) to familial love (which you discount as cheap because you do have it).

I know that you are building yourself a shell of sarcasm, irony, cynicism and humor that, for now, protects you from the fact that you are a not-pretty girl in a world full of Farrahs. I know you believe that everyone who teases you about your looks is a Delphic oracle, but anyone who tells you that your eyes are pretty, or your hair is thick and shiny is a fraud and a liar.

For the record: your eyes are pretty, and you have a beautiful head of hair which you should appreciate now, because after you have a baby, it will get much thinner and less lovely.

I shocked you, didn’t I? Not about the hair, you snarky twit; about the baby. You will be a wife and a mother, long after you give up on the whole thing, precisely because you stop wanting it so much. It will bring you the greatest joy in your life, and you will finally feel that you can melt the armor.

It’s true.

I will not tell you to do anything different than you’re going to do (although I could save you a lot of trouble), because even though you have a bumpy road ahead of you for a while longer, anything you change might make me someone other than the woman writing to you across the years.

If you make different choices, live different places, change directions, the ripple in the stream might magnify into a wave that would throw us onto the wrong beach. Again, I know you are shaking your head at the corny Rod McKuenesque turn of phrase, but I can take it. I’m a lot nicer and more spiritually generous than you are, quite frankly. (I’m not blaming you; just an observation).

Remember the episode of “Star Trek” where Kirk falls in love with Joan Collins, and she’s part of a group fighting Hitler, and she gets hit by a car and killed? (I know you remember it; you’ve seen it 476 times). It’s like that. If you change history, even though it might save somebody some pain, it also changes things that lead to sweetness and satisfaction.

However, and at the risk of disturbing that metaphorical ripple with some gentle spoilers, I will tell you a couple of things that might make things easier for you:

1. Everyone else is not always right, and you are not always wrong. (We’re still working this one out, and I’m not sure how we got this way) but it’s simply not the case that the opinion or advice of any other person in the world should trump your own instincts.

2. Perpetual sarcasm is unattractive, and you can be very harsh. You are scaring people off and then blaming it on your appearance. You kind of blame everything on your appearance, which, as appearances go, is not that awful.

Look around you: there are lots of people who are not particularly stunning, but who have dates, and can mix with different groups of people. It isn’t your thighs, it isn’t your acne, it’s the fact that you push people away. Really.

Maybe, if you “get” this now, you will not have a complex the rest of your life about the way you look.

3. You really are a writer. That doesn’t mean you can’t do other things (and you will) but think about what you have done so far in your life that made you happy and excited, and just keep it with you. I will not, at the risk of your scathing disdain, say anything about keeping it close to your heart.

4. Lots of people love you, and lots of people will love you. They will not care about your thighs. If you wear black, though (which you will, all the time) they will look smaller and you can spend less time fretting over them.

Best love,



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Editor: Bryonie Wise





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