… What would you say?" ~ Dave Matthews Band "What Would You Say"
I'm sure by now most of us have seen the YouTube video Dear 16-Year-Old-Me. And then there's the blog post regarding the Mom whose 7-year-old declared she was fat. So I started thinking. If I could tell my younger self, my daughter, my sister, my niece, my little cousin, my goddaughter, or some random little girl on the street one thing I've learned in my 36 years of living, what would it be? Just for the record, I have no daughter, no niece or goddaughter to whom I could dedicate this post to so I'll dedicate it to my younger self.
Dear 16 Year Old Mo:
At some point today, you probably felt sad. Most likely, it was because of a boy, whether a boy said something mean to you, or because you don't have a boyfriend and have never really been on a date. Perhaps you overheard one of the more popular girls laughing behind your back because you're wearing clothes from 13 Below or Dots. Or maybe it's because you saw one of the cutest boys in school point at you while talking to his friend, who in turn turned around to look at you. And you knew without a doubt that it was you they were talking about because you were the only one in that particular hallway at the time.
You know what? It doesn't matter. Because in high school, everyone cares about the most unimportant stuff. They think you're cool based on the clothes that you wear, the car that you drive, who your friends are, and whether or not you spend your weekends drinking with them.
The truth is, you my dear are like a fine wine. You just get better with age. In college, when you realize no one is judging you on your clothes, your car, your friends, etc., you open your mouth more. And suddenly, people start listening to you. Whether what you've said is funny, thought-provoking, or challenging to the the professor, it doesn't matter. Your teachers look forward to hearing your spin on a topic they've chosen to discuss in class. Your English 101 professor actually publishes one of your papers in one of his books. You become good friends with Dr. Hartman, a David Letterman-like advertising professor who includes you in the small group of students who organize a visit to Central Michigan University's campus by Tom Curley, President and Publisher of USA Today (and who is now the President of the Associated Press). Although you should also note, math and science? Still not your strong suit. Neither are 8:00 a.m. classes.
Occasionally, you'll run into some of your high school classmates. Some will be students at Central with you, some will be there for a visit. They will be in awe of you. Gone is the geeky Monique of high school, who was probably best known for her long hair and timidness. College and beyond Mo comes into her own. She's not afraid of speaking her mind, standing up for herself, and creating her own sense of style. And yes, just for the record, you do start wearing Ralph Lauren, Jones New York and all the other brands you coveted in high school. Though with the exception of a few pieces, most of your "brand name" wardrobe comes after college because you work at Marshall Fields while searching for that first "real job." And just so you know, the Coach and Kate Spade purses? Yeah, you don't get those until you're 35.
Unfortunately, boys turn into men, and they don't get any easier to figure out. Well, they do. It's just that you, my love, are too smart for your own good and you figure them out way before they've even learned your last name. You have no great loves in college, although there's a fling or two thrown in for entertainment. You continue to carry a torch for Rich Sands and Heath (and by the way, dress just a little better and drink just a little less the night of Devin's bachelorette party. You'll thank yourself later when you run into Heath at 3 a.m.).
And then you meet Dipshit. I would love to say run, far and fast in the opposite direction, but the truth is: You will learn more from your relationship with Dipshit than you will from any class, teacher, professor, friend, person, book, etc. you ever come across (well, by the time you're 36 anyways). These are important lessons for you to learn, and though it's been more than 6 years since Dipshit and I have parted ways, I can still assure you that there is no other way for you to learn these lessons without going through the turmoil you go through with Dipshit. And the lessons you learn will be with you a lifetime. And so while you will hurt and be angry and be sad and reach the darkest point in your existence because of him, everything Dipshit puts you through in the end will be well worth it.
There are some behavioral patterns that continue with both young and older Mo. You have a tendency to stray towards promiscuous behavior. This isn't always a bad thing, but more often than not, it can be. As you get older, you realize that having a one (or five) night fling isn't always a bad thing. But younger Mo, you end up getting hurt a lot. That's because your self confidence is such that you believe a boy won't be interested in you unless you sleep with him. THIS IS NOT TRUE! So don't do it. Unless it's California. Because he makes it worth it. No joke.Once you and Dipshit part ways and you begin dating again, make up your own mind regarding whether or not to sleep with someone, but I'll give you this hint: five years after meeting him you still can't figure Catholic Boy out. And it both annoys you and challenges you.
But the most heartbreaking thing of all….
At the age of 18, when you are a freshman in college, you will find out you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). After spending your entire spring break shuffling between dermatologists, endocrinologists, and gynecologists, you and your mom are sat down in front of the doctor and told that between your hormonal condition and your genetics, you will most likely never be able to have children as you do not ovulate. In addition to this, you will sprout hair in the most embarrassing of places such as your chest, your back, and most obviously your face. Losing weight will be even more difficult for you because your body doesn't process sugars like normal. You will find yourself curled up in bed in the fetal position with horrendous cramps. Your periods… well, when you do have them, it looks like someone spilled grape jelly into your panties.
I am sorry, younger Mo. There is little to nothing we can do about this medical condition as it's something older Mo is still struggling with. Be up front and honest about it though, with everyone you meet. Someone may (okay, does) leave you stranded at a restaurant with both the check and no ride home when you tell him you can't have children, but he wasn't worth it. Make sure the guys you date are open to adoption. Or maybe they'll be divorced or widowed with children. Or maybe we aren't supposed to have children at all. I don't know. As I said, it's something I'm still struggling with twenty years later.
But what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Survival of the fittest as Dad says.
Other things you need to know:
- Don't skip that semester of college. It was a really really really bad choice.
- No matter how much he angers you, bothers you, annoys you and just pisses you off, always tell Michael how much you love him.
- Don't bother trying to involve Mom in wedding planning; she's going through her midlife and you'll probably end up trying to kill her anyways.
- Mom and Dad do end up getting divorced, so you can start wishing for something else when you blow out the candles on your birthday cake.
- No matter how counter intuitive it seems, you are far more happy single than you've been with any guy you've dated thus far.
But most of all, the most important thing I can tell you right now is to love yourself. Know that you're funny, smart, well-rounded, stylish, well-adjusted (for the most part), and loved by your friends and family. You, darling Mo, are worth it. Always remember that.
Even if you should have bought a dining room table instead of that Kate Spade purse and wallet the Christmas of 2011.
With all my love,