Jennifer Meyer
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Letter to My Younger Self

me at 15I can see you so clearly in my mind’s eye: fifteen and fumbling, carrying the weight on the world on your slumped shoulders. You are beautiful – long wavy hair, almond-shaped green eyes. But you toss any notion of beauty aside as only those who have it can afford to. Instead you focus on what’s important in the world. Peace, poverty, and justice.

Clips from the evening news haunt you at night. Naked children running from bombs. Bloated Biafrans with limbs like chicken bones. You write songs that others find depressing. You worry about what kind of world you’re inheriting, and already you are nostalgic about your childhood, when your world was smaller and untainted.

It’s okay, I want to say to you. The world is a mess; it’s true. But it gets better. In some ways at least. The Vietnam war ends. Not before your brother is drafted, but he always could talk his way out of anything, and he gets conscientious objector status. All that pollution you were worried about starts affecting the climate in a bad way and eventually world leaders start to take notice and try to do something about it. Contraception, abortions and infertility slow the Population Explosion down. The Civil Rights movement makes huge strides toward equality for blacks. Racist attitudes still fester in shameful pockets, but nothing like what you experienced in the South in the 60s. The New Racism focuses on Hispanics and Muslims. Other wars start, there is still poverty and hunger, atrocities continue.

The thing is, there’s always something. A true Utopia will never exist, at least not in the lifetime of anyone on this planet today. There is suffering, there is evil, but there is also beauty and kindness and the astounding preciousness of life. Eventually, you will learn how to focus on the good while not being oblivious to the bad. And if there’s anything I could tell you now to help, it would be, Lighten up. Connect with others and feel the love. Let yourself have some fun.

And another thing: Mark. What’s up with him? He’s a nice guy and all, but come on. What are you doing there? You don’t know it yet, but there’s a reason relationships with guys just feel kind of, well… irrelevant. It’s not because you’re frigid, as a future boyfriend will tell you. Or too easily distracted. (Another boyfriend will stop in the middle of sex and ask, “Am I boring you?”) There is something much better for you. Remember Charlie? One day you’ll clock him for calling you “such a little dyke.” But honey, he wasn’t trying to insult you. He was just stating the obvious, in a loving way. You are gay. A lesbian. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s fantastic. It’s just too bad it takes you so long to figure it out.

You’ll be a junior in college before you first fall hard for a woman (who is even more afraid to take that step forward than you). You’ll offer to cut her hair every time she needs it because you just can’t get enough of running your fingers through her thick black curls. And she’ll offer to rub your back whenever it hurts, because it’s the only acceptable way she can run her hands over you, and you’ll have such a chronic backache that senior year.

1982After graduation she’ll promise to run away to California with you, and then she won’t. But that’s okay, because in California you’ll land in this beach town called Santa Cruz, and you’ll see more lesbians than you ever knew existed in one place. Women who call themselves “dykes” with pride and walk arm in arm in public with a glint of challenge in their eyes. You’ll channel some of that angst about the universe into activism. You’ll volunteer as editor at a feminist newspaper, and you’ll end up devoting yourself to it for 11 years.

In that newspaper office, you’ll meet some of the best friends you’ll ever have. Some will be lovers and you’ll realize you are far from frigid. And one day a woman comes looking to volunteer, and something about her just bugs you, but you’ll glance over at her lover standing off to the side and her blue eyes catch yours and the freckles on her nose make you smile. You’ll say, “What about you? What do you want to do?” You’ll feel a spark, but hang on, things are complicated. Give it a year and everything changes.

You know how much you love kids? Turns out you don’t have to pretend to be straight to have them. You’ll be in the first wave of lesbians doing home inseminations with known donors in the 80s. Your kids will bring you heartbreak and joy and you’ll love them more deeply than you ever knew possible. And one day – this is the really unbelievable part – you will get to marry your children’s other mother. For real. In the eyes of the law with most of the country cheering you on and a few ranting and praying for your soul. But generally, you will be accepted in this country as a valid couple, and even flag-waving seniors in RV parks won’t bat an eye when you refer to your wife.

That is probably more than any teenager should ever know about their future, but I want you to know that life gets better, the world gets better, everything can change with time, and there is so much good in store for you.

So take a breath, look around you, and soak in the good stuff. Stop slouching. (Your mom is right; you’ll grow that way.) And if, between now and 20, you could skip over a few of those boyfriends without altering the course of your destiny, you won’t be missing anything.

© Jennifer Meyer. To reprint, please ask for permission.

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