Happy Birthday to Us! Here’s What We’d Say to Our Tween Selves

Have you heard? It’s our birthday! Happy 12 years to us; we’re excited to be here another year and to have reached that confusing in-between stage where you aren’t quite a kid anymore but still so far from grown up, and where your mom still won’t let you wear eyeshadow to school. We’re only going to keep growing up; that’s why we’re having this fundraiser to become ever more sustainable and independent! For today, though, we wanted to do something to honor how special and full of potential this time is; here’s our team with what we’d most like to say to ourselves at this age.

What would you like to say to tween you? Let us know in the comments!

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Carmen Phillips, Editor-in-Chief

So, you just saw Gia for the first time, and you know how your eyes were glued to Angelina Jolie? And her — ok this is going to embarrass you, but I’m just going to say it — specifically how you couldn’t stop staring at her lips? I get it. This is awkward. You are VERY MUCH not trying to have this conversation right now. And next year Angelina Jolie is going to star in this movie called Girls, Interrupted and she will spend most of it in a tank top and you are very much not going to want to have this conversation then either. And hey, I get it! It’s like 1998 out there and you just want to watch TRL with your friends; the last thing you’re trying to do stand out.

But here’s the thing, you’re about to bury something so deep inside of you that it’s going to take another 10 years (!!!) to find its way back out. And I really don’t think you want to do that. It’s going to fuck you up. Because sooner or later, you are not going to out run this thing, this weird seemingly small thing that’s starting with Angelina Jolie’s lips. And if we’re just straight up about it and we talk about that you’re gay right now, while it still feels small, we can avoid a lot of crying that you’re about to do because the boys in choir don’t like you. If you’re real with yourself, you aren’t that into them liking you in the first place. So we can save these tears!

Don’t listen to mom, and dye your hair in red streaks like Kelly Rowland in Destiny’s Child. Yes I know you’re afraid that you will get in trouble, but if you can trust one thing from the future, it is this: It’s better to get in a little trouble sometimes! Just like… 15% more trouble than you are currently, ok? Great. Buy a journal and write in it more, there’s one you’re going to love with a black cover and rainbow pages — get that one! Wear all the chokers you want (they are going to come back into style one day) and wear those cool leather cuffs as bracelets. Your new style icons are somewhere between Lauryn Hill and Drew Barrymore, just trust me on this. Spice Girls remain good to go, so feel free to stick with them. Hold your tongue less and say what you really think more. OK and last thing… Get a pair of Doc Martens — you’re going to love how they look in them.

Drew Burnett Gregory, Senior Editor

Tell Ali you have a crush on her. I know you’re worried about hurting your friendship, but next year you’re going to drift apart anyway, so just go for it. And someday you’re going to be a gay trans woman just starting your real life and she’s going to be fully straight married to some guy so, again, nothing to lose right now, babe. Oh! Yes. You’re a woman. Or a girl, I guess. Maybe do something about that? Like it’s fine if you don’t. It’ll work out eventually. But I’d super appreciate if you did something about that sooner than I did. But okay if that’s too overwhelming can you at least go to a dance class with Tyler? I know you feel like it’ll upset your parents and I know all your other friends will make fun of you and I know it feels super vulnerable to ever do anything that’s seen as different or girly. But at your Bar Mitzvah, the DJ’s assistant Briana Evigan is going to dance with Tyler because he actually knows what he’s doing and all your shitty little friends are going to be really impressed and then a year later she’s going to star in the sequel to Step Up and then they’ll be REALLY impressed and I know I should tell you to not care what your shitty little friends think but you’re 12 so of course you do and maybe knowing you’d get to dance with a hot girl about to star in a movie will help you get over that, because I really wish you’d take a dance class instead of playing all the sports you only enjoy as a means of working out your anger issues. Anyway, I love you. Best of luck. You’re not a bad person if you drink and do drugs in high school. In fact, I’d encourage it.

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

Hoagie! I have so much to tell you, but I can’t tell you too much. I know you’re not Biff Tannen or anything like that, and you’d never use a sports almanac from the future to cheat at betting and become a billionaire who causes a rift in the space time continuum, but we’ve gotta be careful. Yeah I’m referencing your second favourite movie, Back to the Future 2, which is still on your top ten all the way in 2021, along with a variety of other sci-fi and fantasy movies that you quote constantly — because, dude, in the future you have stopped hiding that you’re a giant nerd and you’re surrounded by other nerds and it’s rad as heck! I wish I could tell you a lot of huge things but I know you well enough to know they’d only make you panic, even though they’re really really good things, so please forgive my vagueness. First things first: Cut it off with your mom the absolute second you’re able to financially survive without her, and get your sister out of there too. I mean completely and totally no-contact goodbye-forever cut! it! off! You know how you’re always like, “Is this abuse?” My love, it’s abuse. Get out. Second things second: When you get your first job and your own insurance, get that anxiety treated, kid, and do not shy away from antidepressants. Get a good therapist who is not a “Christian counselor” and commit. It’s going to be okay. You will not always feel unsafe and terrified. I promise.

Here’s some good things: In the future, there will be so many women’s basketball games on TV that you won’t even be able to keep up with them. Including the WNBA — yes, the WOMEN’S NBA! You’ll own only the very softest clothes and never be forced to wear dresses, skirts, or anything that itches. You own suits! And so many ties! And every single item from Marty McFly’s original Back to the Future outfit! You actually got married in a suit but that’s all I’ll say about that for now because you’re not quite ready for the rest. You will never regret a single animal you rescue. You will never regret any money you spend on books. You’re gonna travel the world, bud, and meet so many cool people. You’re gonna love and be loved by real and true friends and your wif—your, uh, spouse is going to be your greatest friend and your favorite person on the planet. You’re gonna love where your career leads you and feel blessed every day to get to do what you do for a living. You won’t feel alone forever. There are so many people like you in the world and you’re going to know them and you won’t feel alone forever.

I won’t send along a sports almanac, but I am sneaking three books into this package: Ash by Malinda Lo, Batwoman Elegy by JH Williams and Greg Rucka, and The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Hopefully that’ll ease you into the way things are headed and apply a balm to your scraggly little heart.

I love you, my lamb.

lnj , Director of Operations

Oh you sweet fuckin weirdo. It’s hard to give you advice because if I tell you everything, two entire people probably won’t be born. I’ll tell you this: you’re right, about all of it. You’re right to be bored as fuck here — you’re too big for this place and so you’ll leave it. You’re right about how strong you think you might actually be — you’re strong right now and you’ll only get stronger. You are absolutely gorgeous, you’re hilarious, you’re so fucking smart, you’re fascinating, you’re telepathic and it’s fine. Oh and you would look good with short hair, almost too good.

Don’t be scared. Don’t let anyone speak for you and don’t give up when you’re embarrassed. Befriend embarrassment and learn that she’s just fear in a bad hat; love her for it and keep going anyway; teach her to be humility. Wear a crop top!! Buy a book about moss, buy ten. Tape record everyone you can. Stop apologizing for existing; you were literally born for this. Make your grandmother write down the recipe for chocolate gravy twice, because you’ll lose the first one that she’ll send you off to Florida with in 1999, taped to the lid of a Country Crock container.

Ok, if you promise to go ahead and skip your junior prom and make that drive up to Chicago where you’ll have unprotected sex with G, thus resulting in an unplanned pregnancy, a teen wedding that’ll require legal documents to be signed by your whole entire mother, and years of confusion, sadness, and lonesome dispair, I’ll tell you what you really need to know. Promise? Alright: Boys can never fill the gaping hole in your heart or quiet the desperate panic clanging around inside your head, because you are a lesbian, darling.

Nico , A+ Director

The word you’re looking for is bisexual. I don’t know how you know the “f” word and not that word, but there you go. It means you like boys and girls — people of all genders (we’ll get to this someday). That’s why you’re confused. There you go.

The hair you want (and get) and being into witchcraft will be very popular in 2021, even though they make you weird, now. No, you will not have this same hair in 2021. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with this information but it is fascinating.

Don’t stop reading books! I know that nothing can stop you from reading books and right now you’re pretending that your homework is giving you trouble so you can read in peace. This is fine to lie about, maybe play it up a little more and do it more often. Your dad can’t do this math so he knows he can’t help you, which also means he can’t call you on this. I don’t know how to explain this, but parents are supposed to encourage their children to read, not grab the book out of your hands and tell you to go scrub something because they’re in a mood. Most parents don’t resent their children for getting good grades, which you can’t really help. Spread out those multiplication problems, crack a fantasy novel under the plastic tub you’re using as a desk and see if you can’t work up a few fake tears and get them on your math homework when they check on you.

I know you won’t listen to me, but you’re going to have an important and confusing thing with a girl and then you’re going to try boys. Your life will probably be better (I can’t vouch for this 100% but) if you just don’t.

Your sister’s going to become your BFF someday! I know she is literally in kindergarten right now, but have some patience. And enjoy her growing-up journey! She’s funny as heck and will stay that way, and you’re really lucky to have her for a number of reasons. Make sure you always appreciate her!!

Rachel Kincaid, Former Managing Editor

Oh little one, you are so young and so worried about everything! God bless; it’s okay, I get it. I know it seems incredibly far off now, but you will get to move out, and everything really will get so much easier from there; even when it’s still very hard, it will be easier than now. You already have so many things figured out that will serve you so well for the rest of your life, and the stuff you don’t will come eventually, it’s fine. Also your hair will only get better!

Riese , Editorial & Strategy

Take your hat off

Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor

You can break the rules and still get into college. Nobody cares about your grade in Honors math. You are an athlete and dancing is a sport. Your value isn’t rooted in your looks. Don’t trust adults who invalidate your feelings. You’re not shy. You’re not too sensitive. You absolutely won that argument with your social studies teacher. Give yourself a bad haircut. Pick out your own clothes. Some of the ways you choose to express yourself are going to make people angry. You only need approval from yourself. Yes, you are gay, and also Cats is not the best Broadway musical.

Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor

OK listen, you’re not gonna like this, but here we go: all those dreamy infatuations you had with assorted summer camp counselors? Yeah, you’re into girls. Sorry! Also, you should stop hanging out with K, who makes you feel bad on purpose. While we’re at it, all those preppy girls who constantly make fun of you for growing boobs in fifth grade, the ones who follow you home jeering at you and bully you in gym class? I’m not saying karma is real but hoooo boy, you should see what life has in store for those girls. It isn’t pretty. One day you’re all going to be relatively friendly because middle school is long over, but you’re all going to follow each other on something called Instagram (stay with me) and your life will be much more interesting than theirs. While we’re here, now would be a great time to take advantage of all the therapy you’re in because later it’s going to be very expensive.

Valerie Anne, Writer

Yes, those feelings you’re feeling about your friend Monique are actually crush feelings. I know, I know, that’s scary, but I promise it will be okay. Someday you’ll get to kiss girls and even write about kissing girls and girls who kiss girls on the internet. For money! People will pay you to write about those very same gay feelings you’re terrified of right now. (PS. Keep writing, but delete your LiveJournal. Save future us the embarrassment.) Be kinder to your body, physically and also in your self-talk. Stop comparing yourself to other girls; you’re not like them, and that’s okay. Stop letting them get to you when they tease you for the things that make you different, ESPECIALLY for loving the things you love just because it’s not “cool,” whatever that means. (Spoiler alert: it means nothing.) Also, those girls are not your friends. You’ll meet more like them before you make it to New York. Even a few after. You don’t deserve to be treated like that. Not by them, not by her, not by anyone. You’ll find real friends someday. Real family. Hang on, okay? For them?

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  1. @nicole, when I was a kid I thought child abuse was not reading to your child. I know more now, but I still find it so sad when parents don’t support their children’s learning. I love that my kids love books! Much love for keeping your love of books and learning!

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