Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear Teen Me...

San Francisco-based Zest Books, which publishes nonfiction for teens (the latest was Regine's Book, which was reviewed here in July by Erica S.) has just published a book called Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Keneally, and including letters to themselves as teens from YA authors Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Oliver, Nancy Holder, Carrie Jones, Robin Benway, Sean Beaudoin, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, and a bunch more...

One of the ways the editors have chosen to publicize the book is to "go" on a national four-week blog "tour," which means they enlisted bloggers--either teens or those who blog for teens--to feature the book on their blog in some way, hopefully by writing a letter to their own teen self. So...I decided I would do it, because the main reason I think I ended up as a teen librarian (when I went into library school planning to become an archivist!) is that I remember so clearly how much I hated being a teenager, and the empathy I feel for teens is what made me want to be their friend and advocate in the public library, now that I'm an adult.

[Teen flashback weirdness: The radio is playing in the background as I write this, and Roberta Flack's song Killing Me Softly ("strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words, killing me softly with his song...") just came on. That song always gives me the shivers, and not in a good way--it's what I sang as my solo in the one middle school talent show in which I chose to participate, and I will never forget shakily going to hit the high notes, opening my mouth, and having absolutely nothing come out. Brrrr...]

Anyway, Dear Teen Me...what advice would I give? What would I say to her? So many things...maybe a list?

Susan Dey in LOOKER, 1981
1. You are not fat. NOT fat. You think you are, but it's all in your head. Sure, if you compare yourself to supermodel and Partridge Family star Susan Dey, who, by the way, turned out to have a serious eating disorder, or to your mother, from whose hipbones you could hang a coathanger, then you could feel that way--but don't! You just take after the curvier side of the family (Dad's), but that's okay--you do NOT have to starve yourself from 126 lbs. (!) down to 115 just to please your mother, or deprive yourself of beach trips because you refuse to appear in a bathing suit in front of your friends. You are not unpopular because you are fat--you are unpopular because you have believed other people's stories about you instead of your own. When you get out of the hell that is high school and go away to college, this will start to change. In fact, ironically, much later in life you WILL be fat, but you will be a lot happier. Not because you are fat, but because you are YOU.

Me, at 17, senior year.
2. There is a reason you haven't had a boyfriend yet. It's not because you aren't pretty. It's not because you aren't smart. It's not because you don't deserve one. It's because you are afraid. Nobody ever taught you how to relate to boys. Nobody let you know that boys could be your friends, because your parents always cast them as either dangerous, or Prince Charming in waiting. That is why you keep falling into unrequited love with guys who are way too old, gay, out of your league, already involved with someone else, etc., so you can pretend to be involved without having to risk anything. So--take a deep breath, RELAX, and enjoy being around guys because they can be fun, interesting, different...not because you're looking for your future husband! You could wait for that until you're 30 or so. In fact, please do. Trust me.

3. Stop editing yourself. Deep inside that fundamentalist church-raised, uptight, shy, painfully self-conscious girl is spontaneity, artistic talent, and many other gifts, if you can only give up all the judgment, the preconceived notions, the "shoulds" and "mustn'ts," and let yourself be, well, yourself. You have been raised to think that every decision you make is irrevocable. It's not. You have been made to believe that you choose a career, a mate, and a life by the time you are 21 years old, and that's it--your path is set. That's nonsense. You can always choose to change your mind. Nothing is as important--or set in stone--as it seems when you are 17.

4. Save up your allowance and buy Apple Computer stock.

If you have enjoyed my painfully honest revelations and would like to go on the blog tour yourself to see what other bloggers have written in this same spirit, go to the blog tour schedule. Four or five different people have blogged each day for a month (October 15 to November 16), and you can read them all by clicking on each day's links.

Meanwhile, Dear Teen Me will be on our library shelves any minute now, so keep checking the catalogue and read the book to find out what your favorite authors have to say about being a teen, from their now-adult perspective. In the words of the LGBT youth campaign, "It gets better." I promise.

No comments:

Post a Comment