A few days ago at work I saw a girl who reminded me of myself at 11 years old. Then I got to thinking about some things I wish I could tell that awkward middle school girl who I buried deep inside of me.
1. You are not bad at math. I’m not really sure when you started thinking that you are, but this happens to a lot of girls because they are told in subtle ways every day that boys are naturally better at it than they are. That is sexism. And it doesn’t help that the math teacher you have this year is a really tough grader and probably would have been better off teaching at a higher level than fifth grade.
2. You are not a bad person for being curious about sex. Even though the video they showed in home ec make it sound icky, most of the adults in your family have told you that having it before marriage is wrong, and a lot of people suggest that only guys are allowed to think about it, you want to know what it’s like. Contrary to what all these people think, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Since at this point the only object of your fantasies is Daniel Radcliffe you don’t really have to worry about the consequences of actually doing it yet. But when you’re older and it becomes more of a possibility there is this cool thing called birth control. But still, wait until you’re older and you’re absolutely sure you want to do it. And remember that only you can make the decision about when that happens.
3. You already know that some girls like girls and some guys like guys and that that’s cool, but if my memory serves me correctly you’re not yet aware that there are some people like both and that is also cool. These people are not confused, not afraid to come out as gay, are not going through a phase, and are not “just slutty.” They just date guys and girls. Just like how you can like pizza and ice cream. There are also a lot of other cool new bits of information that you’ll learn someday about the wide range of people who occupy this planet and are still cool. I’m telling you this bit of information because if I knew it when I was your age I would have spent a lot less time in denial about who and what I like.
4. Don’t worry so much about not having a boyfriend. People vastly underestimate how mature they need to be in order to maintain a healthy romantic relationship. You’re not there yet and frankly most of your friends aren’t either but it’s best to let them learn from their own mistakes.
5. On a similar note, you are going to meet a lot of people who you are interested in dating who are not interested in dating you. Yes, it will hurt but remember that it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. It also does not take away your right to turn down people who are interested in dating you.
6. So this acting thing that you just started getting into? You will have to work twice as hard to get half the reward that some of your peers who are into it get. Why? Because there is this weird phenomenon that even though more girls like to do theatre, there are more parts for boys available in most shows. So a boy can look like a turd and be a mediocre singer but still get a leading role but a girl who looks like you will often get turned down in favor of a “prettier” and “more feminine” girl even if the girl they pick is also a mediocre singer. Yes, it is completely sexist and unfair, but you like performing so much that you’ll find it in you to keeping trying your hardest all the way up through high school and you will enjoy it and several members of your community will enjoy you enjoying it.
7. That whole “If a boy makes fun of you he likes you and if a girl makes fun of you she’s jealous” thing? Completely false. It just encourages girls to accept terrible treatment from boys and to compete with other girls in ways that are completely unnecessary. They are making fun of you because they are mean and see any deviation from what they consider normal to be threatening.
8. Don’t let anyone try to tell you what you should and shouldn’t like and how you should and shouldn’t express your interest in things. Your ability to really enjoy things in a way that few other people can makes life a lot less boring and you do not need to apologize for that.
9. Stop calling other girls sluts. Just stop it.
10. Books, movies, TV shows, and other forms of media do not represent reality. They can send a lot of false messages about relationships, gender roles, beauty standards, consequences of actions, and all kinds of other stuff. Feel free to enjoy them, but make sure to think about what messages they’re sending.
11. Yes, teamwork is important, but so is telling people what your needs are. Don’t be so concerned with taking one for the team that you bite off more than you can chew.
12. In a few years all these people who give you grief will barely even exist in your memories, let alone be a part of your life. Their opinions of you won’t mean a damn thing.
13. I hate to break it to you this way, but we haven’t met Daniel Radcliffe. At least not yet. And if we ever do it will probably not be everything you hope it would be. You’re probably mad at me now, but please forgive me long enough to listen to the rest of this.
14. Start learning how not to hold huge grudges over little things. It’s easier said than done, which is why I wish we had seen earlier that the only person that hurts is you.
15. I go to U of M now. And I love it there. It is not too lofty of an aspiration for you.
16. Trying new things is the best. I think you’re starting to figure that out, but sometimes you may still need a friendly reminder.
18. If I timed this right it’s at the point where kids are just starting to figure out the hilarious pun with our last name. That’s probably never gonna end and people will always act like they were the first person to ever notice it, but you will get used to it.
19. Friends will come and go from your life. They were not intended to stick around forever. Sometimes it’s painful, yes, but it’s a reality that you’ll have to get used to.
20. If it’s any consolation, I consider the time when I was you to be the peak of my awkwardness. Things can only go up from here, so hang in there.