Good morning! Welcome to blog #76 and today I’d like to give some advice to my 13 year old self.
There I am! I’m the youngest of three, with two older brothers. Yes, they made my life a living misery which was their birthright (even so, they seemed naturally adept at it, like it was no effort at all).
When I was thirteen, we moved towns. From a large-ish regional centre of a hundred thousand or so to a smaller mining town or less than 10,000 people. Big change.
By the time I was thirteen I was wearing glasses and a bra. Those two things kind of neutralised one another, in the invisibility/visibility stakes anyhow.
This giving advice to your younger self is quite a popular phenomenon. It is a concept pioneered by Ellyn Spragins in her books, New York Times bestseller What I Know Now (2006), If I’d Known Then (2008) and What I Know Now About Success (2010).
I saw it first in a magazine a few years ago, a woman in her 50s giving advice to her 10 year old self. It was poignant. And you know what they say “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood”. I think they’re referring to the power of therapeutic interventions like reframing, rebirthing and re-writing. But perhaps laughing, loving and drinking will also help to re-create those memories of childhood?
Ok, so here I go. Here’s the advice I would give to my thirteen year old self (and I’ll try to make this as style/fashion/shopping focusesd as I can, since that’s what’s probably brought you here, reading this, in the first place, right?)
And before I start, let me just say this. I could just recite the entire set of verses from the Sunscreen song , except perhaps the bit about living in New York City and Northern California (that would have been weird advice to a kid living in Central Queensland, Australia, right?), it’s all so on point. But I won’t – you can listen to the song yourself. That said — there is one piece so good from that song, I’m going to start with it.
- You are not as fat as you imagine. You are not even fat. Full stop. If you could see yourself through my 40 year old eyes you’d see how unbelievably cute you are! Ok, so you’re not a swizel stick and you don’t have long legs like Theresa (a family friend who lived with us and was (probably still is) six foot tall). Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. And you are beautiful.
- Ok, you can read Dolly magazine. But it’s like diet soda for the mind – too much and it will rot your brain. And those advice columns? They’re just made up – 27 year old freelance writers use pseudonyms and create all those ‘problems’ and write all the answers.
- Don’t fret about the freckles. They’re there, and I can tell you now that we don’t end up becoming a mega movie star like Nicole Kidman so we don’t end up having ourselves dipped in bleach like she did to get rid of her freckles. So, they’re here. We got ’em. And in a weird way they’ll be kinda good because, when you hit your late 30s, they disguise some emerging wrinkles.
- Yes, you do end up making it out of that small mining town. And yes, you do end up being grateful for spending your formative years there, which seems unbelieveable now but it happens. (why do we end up grateful? Well, for one reason because there wasn’t enough of a police presence on Saturdays at 2am when you were driving 12 people home from the disco in the back of the Mini van. But that happens in a few years so don’t worry about it now).
- Pay attention to the things that work for your body, and I’m talkin’ clothes here now, ok? Like, that long full waist-gathered skirt that you get given next year? Don’t wear it – it doesn’t suit you. And those bright yellow brass button up “bib” style jeans that somehow make it into your wardrobe in 1985 – hmmm, go easy on wearing those, ok? You look like you should be on romper room in them. And I’m not even going to mention the pale pink pant suit you buy in the early 1990s.
- The kids-curtain-fabric shorts epidemic will hit in the late 1980s – lots of people at University wearing home-made elastic-waist shorts made out of kids curtain fabric. You think I’m making this up, but I’m not. And because your Mum owns a fabric store, and you have rudimentary sewing skills, you’ll end up making about 29 pair of these. Stop at 2, ok?
- Those jeans you cut off at the knee and then cut horizontal strips in them an inch apart, all the way from thigh to knee… and then you wash so the fabric ends up not only frayed but a mass of tangled threads – don’t do that. Those shorts frighten people.
- Pale purple doesn’t suit you. Hot pink doesn’t suit you.
- It’s ok that you and Tina (best friend in last years of high school) dress like the Bobsy Twins in reverse-matching outfits (she wears the black t-shirt with the pale jeans, I wear the white t-shirt with the dark jeans). You might rethink the “one ear only pierced” policy though where you buy one pair of earrings and each wear only one. That’s taking ‘twin’ dressing just a bit too far.
- No, you don’t get caught driving around the streets at the age of 14 – 16 without a license, although you probably should. Yes, you do get your drivers license on your 17th birthday. No, in the driving exam, he doesn’t ask you to reverse parrallel park.
- Boys. Sigh. There is not enough room in this blog (or the right kind of rating) to cover this topic thoroughly. Or even briefly. They come. They go. You live. I’ll leave you with this: if he says he’ll call and then he doesn’t? He’s either had his hand caught in a piece of industrial machinery and literally can’t call, or he’s saving you a lot of time and grief right up front.
- Don’t ruin your eyebrows by overplucking them. I cannot tell you the grief I’ve had to go through to get decent eyebrows back after that mad tweezing of the 1990s. You’ve got a good eyebrow line – don’t bugger it up!
- The high-neck cream long-sleeve blouse with the lace around the neck isnt’ really your style – it’s nice, sure, but not really you. You’re not really a frills and flounce kinda girl, right? Now, those blue Edwin jeans from 1984 – they’re you!
- That cropped turquoise jacket with the funky collar you buy in 1992 when you first move to Sydney — keep that. We’d still be wearing that today if you hadn’t chucked it out in one of your frenzied clean outs when you moved from one flat to another.
- Choose happy. You get a choice in this. Choose happy. If for no other reason than happy looks better and it’ll save us a fortune in skin care down the line.
Ok, there’s probably a lot more I’d say to my 13 year old self. I might have a private 1:1 session with her to cover a few more topics. Maybe later. It’s fascinating to think what might have happened if time travel were possible and our younger selves could hear, and take, our advice from now. How our lives may have been different. What advice would you give your younger self? There’s one more thing I’d tell my younger self: those typing lessons in Grade 9 Typing — they’re worth it. Who knew typing would be such a millenium skill. Right?