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Dear Annie – A Letter to My 17-Year-Old Self

Dear Annie,

I know you are cringing because I called you “Annie.” I know that you are already convincing yourself that you are not going to be a part of the whole world of marriage, and babies and sentimentality and “cute” things like nicknmames. I know that if you could right now, you would change your name to something like…Spike. You are watching Woody Allen, listening to Mahler and reading Fran Lebowitz, and thinking that life as a misfit neurotic in Manhattan might suit you just fine. You plan to leave this town full of pink and blonde idiots, homecoming parades and Sperry Topsiders at your earliest opportunity and find a garret somewhere to write long, sad poems and wear nothing but black.

You are pretending that it is all too stupid, from teenage romance (which you mock because you don’t have it) to familial love (which you discount as cheap because you do have it). I know that you are building yourself a shell of sarcasm, irony, cynicism and humor that, for now, protects you from the fact that you are a not- pretty girl in a world full of Farrahs, a quirky eccentric, a person who believes that everyone who teases you about your looks is a Delphic oracle, while anyone who tells you that your eyes are pretty, or your hair is thick and shiny is a fraud and a liar. For the record: your eyes are pretty, and you have a beautiful head of hair which you should appreciate now, because after you have a baby, it will get much thinner and less lovely.

I shocked you, didn’t I? Not about the hair, you snarky twit; about the baby. You will be a wife and a mother, long after you give up on the whole thing…precisely because you stop wanting it so much. It will bring you the greatest joy in your life, and you will finally feel that you can melt the armor. It’s true.

I will not tell you to do anything different than you’re going to do (although I could save you a lot of trouble), because even though you have a bumpy road ahead of you for a while longer, anything you change might make me someone other than the woman writing to you across the years.

You will also, no doubt, be surprised to learn that we are happy. If you make different choices, live different places, change directions, the ripple in the stream might magnify into a wave that would throw us onto the wrong beach. Again, I know you are shaking your head at the corny Rod McKuenesque turn of phrase, but I can take it. I’m a lot nicer and more spiritually generous than you are, quite frankly. (I’m not blaming you; just an observation). Remember the episode of “Star Trek” where Kirk falls in love with Joan Collins, and she’s part of a group fighting Hitler, and she gets hit by a car? It’s like that. If you change history, even though it might save somebody some pain, it effects and changes things that lead to goodness.

However, and at the risk of disturbing that metaphorical ripple, I will tell you a couple of things that might make things easier for you:

1. Everyone else is not always right, and you are not always wrong. We’re still working this one out, and I’m not sure how we got this way, but it’s simply not the case that the opinion or advice of any other person in the world should trump your own instincts.

2. Sarcasm is unnatractive, and you can be very harsh. You are scaring people off and then blaming it on your looks. Look around you: there are lots of people who are not particularly stunning, but who have dates, and can mix with different groups of people. It isn’t your thighs, it isn’t your bad skin, it’s the fact that you push people away. Really. Maybe, if you “get” this now, you will not have a complex the rest of your life about the way you look.

3. You really are a writer. That doesn’t mean you can’t do other things (and you will) but see #1 above, think about what you have done so far in your life that made you happy and excited, and just keep it with you. I will not, at the risk of your scathing disdain, say anything about keeping it in your heart.

Lots of people love you, and lots of people will love you. They will not care about your thighs. If you wear black, though, which you will, all the time, they will look smaller and you can spend less time fretting over them.

Best love,


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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

4 responses »

  1. Ann,

    Glad it all ended up as it has, but I always thought Kirk was nuts for passing on that particular dame……..

  2. This made me wonder hard about what I would say to my 17 year-old self…It was not obvious at the time where I was headed.

    • Me neither. i was dying to say “don’t go to law school,” but if I hadn’t had a law office, i wouldn’t have met my husband…it was a good object lesson.


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