This is you at age 49. There is so much you don’t know about yourself, your life and where you are headed. But, I thought I’d give you a little heads-up on a few things to spare you some future heart ache. I know you won’t listen. (First bit of advice: Don’t be so stubborn.) But, no one has ever stopped us from expressing ourselves, have they?
I know you feel you are behind everyone else. You are. But, it’s okay. You are a late bloomer, that’s all. There are terrific benefits to being that way. For one, you get married much, much later than most people. This means you travel, develop a career and get to explore interests far more than your counterparts, most of which no one in your peer group get to do to your level. They are too busy raising babies, taking care of houses and husbands, and walking around in a daze from sleep deprivation.
Oh, speaking of sleep, all those people who make fun of you for needing nine hours a night? Well, they are wrong. Science will prove it.
Also, while everyone is making fun of you for using so much sunscreen right now aren’t laughing today. (SPF 30 at age 18? Good choice, girl.)
So, let’s talk about men, something that scares you more than you are willing to admit. This is because you have a heinous stepfather and divorced parents who went through a lot of drama. You got taken along for the ride. And, no, it wasn’t fair. Deal with it. (P.s. They go through more ups and downs. You just get on with your life.) All this unjustified garbage gets dealt with later and becomes a complete and utter moot point by the time you are 40. (Sorry it takes that long.)
First, the guys who are paying no attention to you and who you are pining for, well, don’t look so hot anymore. But, the ones who are nice in high school to you, they are still nice to you when you occasionally run into them today. Try to not to lump in everyone at your high school as being scary, mean and clueless.
Know that graduating high school a virgin does not make you undesirable. It just means you weren’t willing to climb in the backseat of [insert name]’s truck, smelling of chewing tobacco and beer. The girls who were willing to hit their head on the gun rack as they climbed over the seat, eventually marry many of these truck drivers.
Those guys – so cute and macho in high school – aren’t looking so hot now, either. You will go to your 25th high school reunion and barely recognize most of them. A little thing that will be invented much later called Facebook will show you that most of them are unhappy by the time they hit my age. You will be wise enough to know to feel sympathy for them instead of some worthless “I told you so” pettiness, however. This is because of what happens to you later that develops some much needed compassion in you.
Oh, and those guys who grab you in the hallways and the teachers just say “boys will be boys?” Well, that actually is sexual harassment. But, in 2012, you will be happy to know that the wrath of hell would rain down on them now by parents, teachers, bully counselors and the media. Bullying is not allowed today, instead of if being some mark of being strong. You don’t realize it now, but too many people around you – including many adults — are treating you like you are a slice of deli meat available for sale behind the counter. You aren’t.
You get together with a much older guy in college, who you don’t end up with in the long run, but who was the right one to sleep with at first. No truck back seat required. And, he knew what he was doing. He will open a Pandora’s box, which gives you newfound confidence around men.
Oh, and in college, you need to have more fun. You also need to learn more. They are not mutually exclusive.
Don’t worry so much, don’t be so shy. No one thinks you’re a geek. In fact, years later a former male model will tell you that “geek” is the opposite of what he would call you. You don’t believe him. But, it feels good at the time. (P.S. He kinda breaks your heart later. But, it was fun while it lasted.)
In your 20s, you get out a lot. In fact, by the time you hit 28 you are going to travel the United States with an expense account and stay at the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons and go to restaurants your boss reads in Gourmet magazine. This is where you will learn about food and wine. Pay more attention than you do.
But, most of your travelling is alone. You don’t mind. Your ignorance and youth will make you brave during these travels. Good for you for taking time out to see the sites along the way. By yourself, you will take walking tours of Frank Lloyd Wright homes outside of Chicago, go up in the St. Louis arch, explore the French Quarter in New Orleans, visit nightclubs in NYC, and walk on Venice Beach, visit Mount Rushmore, and more. You’re not going to be afraid. You’re going to be excited.
You will have eight serious boyfriends before your mid 30s, all of whom you should have thrown back to the relationships market much, much sooner. You will know, much earlier than the breakup, that they aren’t meant for you. Disqualify earlier. It’s kinder in the long run. Speaking of being kind…
Many men will admire you in your 20s and early 30s. You will find this a tad annoying, but mostly because you are insecure and think they are secretly making fun of you. They aren’t. Plus you’re still really pissed off at earlier treatments by adult men. So instead, absorb those glances, looks and mild flirtations. Be kinder to the men who give them. In fact, be much, much kinder to all men you encounter – even the ones you know you need to let loose.
This is important because by the time you reach our age of 49, as good as you may look for your age, they will not see you. In fact, on your 38th birthday, you will watch your much younger friend be kissed by the lead singer of a band while you just watched on the sidewalk. You will stand there unnoticed. This grows worse as your grow older.
I would like to tell you that when you meet a man in Asheville, NC, in your late 30s, that you should ignore him, however. Actually, I want to tell you to run. But, I can’t.
You will move to Asheville, dumping your Vice President position, your condo and your Washington, DC life to move in with him. By day two you will know you’ve made a huge mistake. The next nine months will be hellish. But, know that it’s not really hell. It will just feel like it.
You will leave him (you’ll know when). You’ll do it quickly and it will feel humiliating. You will spend the next 18 months trying to heal the brokenness inside. You will swear your soul is irrevocably damaged. It isn’t. No one will understand. But, that’s okay.
You must go through this because the next few years will turn out to the happiest of your life to date. I don’t know how else to get you to those next, very important years of your life without Asheville. So, I’m sorry that you’ll have to go. You will survive.
Karma is a bitch, but she’s fair.
You’ll move to the place you are meant to be. You’ll meet two more assholes, but you’ll recognize them this time and move on quicker.
Then, another guy will appear. You will dismiss him completely, and several times. He will not leave even after you tell him that there is no way you could see yourself with him. In his persistence you will have the epiphany of a lifetime and realize that the stupid bumper sticker that says “someone out there is looking for exactly what you have to offer” is actually true. So, you change course. (Don’t let him suffer too long, though. He’ll bring it up several times after you’re married.)
Marrying him will be the best decision you’ve made to date. He will be nothing who you thought you’d walk down a wedding aisle toward. He will be smart, kind, and will make you feel safe but adventurous. He sees you and loves you anyway.
After getting married, you see how many adventures you didn’t take when you were younger — as well travelled as you are — so you rush to catch up. You discover pole and lyra dancing, motorcycle riding, that perhaps creative writing should have been your career choice, and get a tattoo. That is just a snapshot of so, so, so much more.
If you can, do these things earlier – much earlier – they will give you confidence and courage (all things you struggle with greatly until your 40s).
You will attract so many girlfriends by the time you are in your 40s that you need – sincerely –a bigger house for your annual party where you invite them all. You cannot live without these women.
However, you will not own a real house until you are in your late 40s. You already want a house now, don’t you? But, you’ll have to wait. It will turn out to be the most magnificent piece of land you could have imagined with 180 views of the Blue Ridge mountains. And, within three months of moving in you will realize that owning a house isn’t the most important thing in the world because your husband will bring home a puppy – something you’ve wanted your whole life – and he turns out to be better.
But, the most important thing I want you to know today is to stop listening to everyone around you telling you what you are good at and what you should do with it. Instead listen to the voice inside that is saying, this is my path. You know what it is. Just do it. (But. trust me when I say be kinder and less angry – especially in your 20s.)
(P.S.S. You’ll be bridesmaid nine times. No matter what anyone says, you will never wear those dresses again. Just sayin’.)