I sometimes think if I could go back in time to meet my pre-teen self, I wouldn’t. Mainly because of the whole “Butterfly Effect” and my inner dread of somehow erasing my own children, or possibly my own self.
But… if I was able to travel back in time and actually be triple-pinkie-promised, by the Big Man in the Sky himself, that nothing would change in my life when I returned, and that my entire memory of the event would be wiped out, and that the girl (that is little me) would not be negatively affected in any way whatsoever or have her life altered drastically, and I could verify I was really talking to God, and get the archangels, all the great gurus, and talking trees to back Him up, then, and only then, would I maybe consider traveling back in time. I’d want a contract too that insured I wouldn’t explode on impact, and I’d likely ask for a cute Dr. of some sort to come along.
In meeting me there are several things I’d want to say. Beyond the greetings, and saturation of unconditional love, positive affirmations, kudos, information about boys, men, and safe dating, and lessons on proper etiquette and manners, and compliments on my beauty, and the reassurance that all would turn out, and so much more, I’d definitely want to set myself straight on the whole hygiene and puberty thing.
I’d probably put the hygiene stuff into a list form, specifically listing things I was relatively clueless about.
1) Brush the back of your hair. I went until my early forties not realizing that just because I cannot see the back of my head does not mean that everyone else can’t.
2) Look at your toe nails every once in a while. Try to get into the habit of cutting them and cleaning them. Despite what your stepmother once told you, in an attempt to get you to cut your nails, you will not get nor die of toe fungus. Never. Stop obsessing. And if, and when, you go to get a pedicure, try to remember to clean your nails first. As an aside, you will feel guilty getting pedicures and making someone clean and touch your feet. The best way to solve this is to tip big, preferably in cash. You’ll always forget to cut your children’s toe nails too; so teach them young or they will look like little hobbits.
3) Remember that food gets stuck between your teeth. I know you don’t like smiling in the mirror. Eventually your chipped, discolored, and dying front tooth, and your extreme overbite, will entirely vanish. Look in the mirror, open your mouth, check in between your teeth, and floss. If you don’t have floss, you can use a piece of your hair. If you learn this before you are a senior in high school, your boyfriend’s older sister will not have to teach you these things in a public restroom.
4) Scrub your hair with your nails when you shampoo. Suds up the soap and scrub all over. Scrub hard and only use a dab of shampoo. The chemical shampoos will cause an allergic reaction; so start saving up now for the expensive natural alternatives.
5) I know you don’t like washcloths, but try ever so often to scrub behind your ears. You will discover in your forties that dirt collects there.
6) You don’t need to go to the dermatologist at all, until after you are in your forties. The spot on your eyeball is a freckle, it will not kill you. It will not grow. It will not change. You only have like five dark freckles on your entire body, and the doctor will not consider that a concern or a lot. The red spots are red freckles. There is nothing they can do about the dark patches you got from pregnancy on your forehead and along your jawline, except offer expensive laser treatment. Just wear a hat and sunscreen in the summer. When you move to the dreary northwest, you’ll be too pale most of the seasons to notice. (By the way you will get every pregnancy side-effect imaginable. Don’t panic. You will be fine.) That one dermatologist you see about the age-spots on your arms, well he will way over charge you to burn the spots off, your arm skin will turn red for weeks, hurt like hell, and the treatment will make no noticeable difference. And by the way, that skin doc closed down shop permanently two years later after being sued for malpractice. You were smart not to pay that $400 he wanted to remove the one red scalp freckle.
After answering hygiene questions, I’d sit myself down and tackle the topic of puberty. Then I’d leave my little self a reference letter:
Dear Beautiful Me,
Those books mother gave us in third grade aren’t going to help you in most areas. I know the nude beaches were creepy, but wait until you watch those movies in that Human Sexuality Class you take in your first year of college. Maybe prepare a bit for that. Your bodily changes at age twelve will totally freak you out. Hair is supposed to grow in those places. Please, please, please try not to kiss so many boys. Perhaps fixate on a movie star and write him letters—a much better choice than boy chasing. Do not, I repeat, do not tell your friends everything. Do not tell anyone about kissing boys, your body, or fantasies. Write it out, and don’t show anyone. Keep it under lock and key. Try very, very, very hard to share nothing private with ANYONE. Remember we spent an entire day together, you and me, discussing the concept of PRIVATE. Take out those notes and refer to them again and again. Do not under any circumstances draw pictures of boys’ private parts or the diagrams will get passed around middle school. I guarantee you will regret it. It’s funny when you are thirty, and a great joke to retell, but so not worth it! The entire “here comes the period” drama… you are not bleeding to death. That terrible feels-like-your-guts-are-being-eaten-by-a-mutant hamster clan, those are called cramps. Take some pain reliever. It will improve after you have babies. Don’t wait four months to tell your mother. The toilet paper won’t work. Give mom a note, if you are afraid to speak to her. And talk to her years before the event, so you can fill up an entire walk in closet with supplies. Huge Warning: Do not take the free samples of super-size expandable tampons that they PE teacher gives out in gym class. That should be illegal. But if you do by mistake, whatever you do: DO NOT USE THEM. Also, do not look too closely at that baby-birthing area, after your first child. Your insides are not on the outside. I totally promise. The emergency examination by your family doctor caused by your full on panic-freak-out-episode will result in the same level of humility as the penis picture in middle school. And goodness, use soap and water or shaving cream when you first shave, unless you want a scar atop the shin bone area of your leg the rest of your life. Oh, and don’t announce to the other seventh graders standing in the lunch line: “Look, I got a new training bra.” That circles back to the whole privacy thing. Read the reminder list, please!
Sam (Who somehow turned out just fine, despite all the little mishaps.)