It’s me. Well, it’s you — just 7 years from now and you’re writing this from a house in Portland Oregon, with a cat on your lap and your hair in a high ponytail. (All three of which come as a surprise, I know.) I don’t want to give anything away, but things turn out wonderful for the most part, even if they never really get easier. You just get stronger. You get so much stronger than you think you are right now, darling.
I know you just lost your virginity. It wasn’t how you thought it should be. You didn’t even want it to happen but it did. It shouldn’t have, sweetheart. You might not have said no, but in truth, you really didn’t need to. You were vulnerable, he was your friend and he should have known better. Years of therapy and self reflection will help you realize that it was not all your fault.
But there’s still now and right at this minute, you’re sitting in your living room, on the ugly tartan sleeper couch and you feel filthy. You want to take a shower that lasts for six days and spend a month praying for forgiveness. All you’ve heard your whole life is that sex is for marriage, and anything before then is so very wrong. It’s in the commandments. You’ve heard that husbands don’t want ‘used goods.’ You’re scared you’ll end up alone and, quite possibly, in hell.
You’ve got this weight on your chest and you feel like you can’t breathe. It won’t be the last time you feel it, either. You know you’ll be judged, or pitied so you can’t talk to anyone. So the the hurt mingles with isolation and it sinks all the way down to your soul.
I have so much I want to say to you about all this, and I don’t know where to start. So let me lay it all out, and see where we end up.
Sex isn’t wrong. You’re allowed to want it at your age. Sex is not something you’re only allowed to want when you are married. Sex isn’t a shameful, awful thing that suddenly becomes okay when your last name changes. Sex is not a natural and beautiful part of marriage. Sex is a natural and beautiful part of LIFE. It should be something you enjoy, something that makes you feel empowered and loved. But for you, for a very long time, it won’t.
So here are some things I wish I could have said to you, some lessons you will learn along the way.
Your body is your home. It is where you belong, a place you should feel safe. It is not a temple designed so that other people seek something in it. It does not exist to for the sole purpose to be admired and praised.
If a man makes you feel like you are worth no more than your body, put your shoes back on and walk away. If he, at any point, makes you feel like your body isn’t good enough for him, he doesn’t deserve to see it, clothed or unclothed. Button up your coat and catch a train home. Don’t ever let someone put their hands on you because it’s easier than pushing them away. If a man makes you feel like you can’t say no because you’ve already said yes, slam the door on your way out and make sure he never sees you again. You are allowed to change your mind.
Your body is not a thank you card for a nice dinner. It is not a currency or a bargaining chip exchanged for love and kindness. It’s your home and yours alone, and you decide who you share it with, and how you share it with them. It is the only true home you’ll ever have. Share it with one person or many people — as long as doing so brings you joy.
Be safe in everything that you do, while knowing that best protection you have is knowledge and good contraception. Take the time to find out more about your body. Read books. Look at yourself naked in the mirror. Always know your options, always have one friend with who you can be absolutely, entirely frank. Learn the number of your local women’s clinic. Don’t wait for the ‘right time’ to see a gynecologist, don’t ever apologize for asking stupid questions. The more you know, the safer you are. Accidents happen, but you always have a choice. There is no right way to do things, only doing right by you and that’s the most important fact of life you’ll ever learn.
You’re beautiful, no matter how many times you tell yourself that you aren’t. You will not grow taller on the outside, but your small stature will be something you embrace in the next few years. You will learn to hold your head high when others talk down to you about the way you look, and you will learn how to speak up for others, too. Your body is perfect in the way that it keeps going no matter what the world throws its way. Whatever happens in these next few years, your eyes will stay bright, your wits will stay sharp and you will learn how to wear red lipstick like you invented it.
You will love yourself one day, and you will be loved for yourself, too.
Like I said, everything doesn’t easier. It does get better because you get so much stronger.
I love you.
I promise I always will.