Letter to my 12-Year-Old Self

Photo by Nihal Demirci on Unsplash

Hey, Jen! It’s me — “future Jen”. Yes, that sounds impossible. You’re gonna have to trust me (even though you don’t trust anyone right now.)

I know you really want to quit your ballet class. When you were a little kid, it was fun. Somewhere along the way it got exhausting and stressful. You got your first pair of toe shoes when you were nine (which was way too young) and your feet never stopped hurting.

Our parents get angry every time you outgrow your toe shoes, leotards, or tights, but they won’t let you quit ballet. Over and over, our parents tell the same old story. You were born disabled, and the doctors didn’t think you would ever walk. It is frustrating that they cannot see that you walk — and dance — without difficulty.

One of the worst things about ballet is the leotards. Your body is growing curves, and it’s totally embarrassing. It doesn’t help that Dad keeps calling you “fat”, or that your ballet teacher said you would never have a “dancer’s body”. Hang in there a little longer. I promise you won’t be forced to take ballet forever.

There’s another problem, though. The girls at school have started painting their nails and wearing lip gloss. They check their hair in little mirrors, worried about how it looks. Some of them have crushes on boys.

You think these girls are being dumb. It is as though they are trying to “out-girl” each other. You wear hand-and-me-downs from your cousins (a mix of “boy’s” clothes and “girl’s” clothes). It is the first time that you think that maybe you’re not really a girl.

The boys at school, whom you grew up with since kindergarten, are the same as they always were. No one has said it out loud, but you get the feeling that they see you as one of the guys. This feels comfortable, but you realize that you’re not really a boy, either.

You’re going to take a long time to figure out what you are. For now, the word “tomboy” seems to almost fit. I promise you there will be language for what you are that becomes normalized in the future. It might be hard for you to understand that right now. Just know, there are others like you, who are also neither girl nor boy.

This piece of writing was inspired by an article posted on Autostraddle titled: “Happy Birthday to Us! Here’s What We’d Say to Our Tween Selves”.

Originally published at https://bookofjen.net on March 30, 2021.

Freelance writer with invisible illnesses and chronic pain. Poet, podcaster, video game player, creator of strange artwork, they/them @OwnkaMav

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