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Dear 13-Year-Old Me, Girlfriend Please

July 3, 2014 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick

I've reconnected with so many of my childhood hometown friends, that I'm being constantly reminded of two things:

I look the same as I did when I was in middle school.

I am nothing like I was when I was in middle school.

When I'm forced to think back to 1971, all I can think is, "Oh, brother." And I'm not talking about that brown corduroy jumper. Although that, too.

If I could go back and have a little chat with myself as a 13-year-old, I would have a lot to say. I wouldn't want to scare her with my neck wrinkles and gray roots, but maybe sit in a dimly lit room and tell her some things.

Hi Diane! And yes, you'll be called Diane. "Di" will never catch on, you'll have some brief success with "Lady Di" when Prince Charles gets married (Oh yeah! Wait until that happens! She's great, the wedding is magical, and then - um, never mind), and some guy in college will call you Dee once and only once. In a rare incident of gumption, you'll muster up the courage to tell him you aren't crazy about being called Dee. Your heart will beat really fast for a few minutes.

Your adult life is really great. Your fantasies of having Ann Stiftinger's haircut and clothes will not happen, but you'll look OK anyway. Your skin is going to go crazy with acne here pretty soon, but don't let it get you down. You'll get modern dermatology's finest, which involves zapping you with cancerous death-rays and that won't help at all. You'll follow the anti-acne diet religiously and you'll go four years without eating chocolate and that won't help at all either. But when you turn 18, your skin will slowly start to clear up. Your face will never win any awards, but eventually you'll be able to afford some of the finest products the makeup industry has to offer, and honey, that's a lot. Wait 'til you get a load of Sephora at the mall.

Your hair, which Pam has already described to you as being oily enough to make salad dressing, will also settle down. You'll be using Dry Remedy conditioner by the time you're 40.

Those tortoiseshell glasses do make you look sophisticated and beyond-your-years classy. But don't get too attached to them. You'll be glad to know that by the time you put on a wedding gown, you'll have had contacts for a long time. And 30 years after that you'll have something we now call LASIK surgery. Picture McCoy coming out of a Star Trek episode and putting you under a big machine, and zapping your eyes into 20/20 submission. Next year when you read Clockwork Orange, pay close attention to how they hold that guy's eyes open. Never mind. Don't think about that.

Now listen up, while I tell you about those popular boys that you're obsessed over. They're fine. They'll all turn out to be very nice men and some will even hit the dance floor at class reunions. (Bring your camera.) But I want you to pay closer attention to the quiet ones, the boys who make you laugh. They'll make the best boyfriends and the best husbands. Not that you'd know that. None of them - popular or not - will ever ask you out. Sorry to be so harsh, but just trying to school you here.

Pay attention in math. I don't care what people say, you will so use math again, especially algebra. Don't bother buying encyclopedias or big ole' atlases. If I told you where you'll get information and how fast you'll get it, your mind would blow up.

Bobby Sherman will stop singing and acting and become an ambulance driver. You will one day tower over Davy Jones. Did the Beatles break up yet? They will. Cat Stevens will grow a crazy-ass beard and change his name to Yusuf Islam. I am not kidding about this. David Cassidy will go Vegas. Oh, sorry: Vegas is Las Vegas, where people go to gamble. You will never go there and you will never want to.

Be nicer to people. You do OK, but you could do better. Speak up and stand up to all that nastiness that descends like a cloud over middle school and high school. If I told you how guilty you'll feel for not being a more honorable person as a young girl, guilt that will follow you into old age and probably to the grave, you wouldn't believe me.

Some people you know now will die. I know you know that people die eventually, but it's really, really hard, especially when you regret not doing or saying things. So just keep that in mind, all the time, but try not to let it make you too morose. (I know, this conversation is going south . . .)

So let's talk about your career! I don't know how to tell you this, but you will not be a teacher. I know, I know. You've wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten. But when you're a junior in high school, you'll take a journalism class - I can't remember why - and your teacher will be a short, spitfire of a woman, Mrs. Alexander. She will make you want to be a newspaper reporter, just so you can show the world what you know about comma conservation.

You won't ever work at the New York Times, but the Niles Times? Yes, you'll rock that place. It's near the Eastwood Mall. You'll have some other fun jobs, too, like making salads and scrubbing pots at the Rathskeller at Kent State, frying fish for drunk people at King's Inn in Lowellville, and waiting on truckers at Howard Johnson's on Belmont Avenue. Those guys will ask you out.

And since we're on the subject, you better sit down for this one. You'll be a stay-at-home mom. I know, I know! But when you meet your kids, you'll understand. And you won't ever regret it.

Which is more than I can say for that brown corduroy jumper. And that perm you get in 1985? Girlfriend, please.

~ ~ ~

Diane Laney Fitzpatrick is the author of Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves. Her Just Humor Me column runs here on her website at


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