An Open Letter To The 12-Year-Olds In My Neighborhood

Hey, Guys,

How are you? How’s puberty? Hitting you pretty hard I guess… yeah, braces, rough. Girls aren’t as smelly/ weird as they were last year, you kinda want to talk to them now, and you have a mouth full of metal and a face full of acne. I feel that. And the ladies, how are we doing? Into Justin Bieber or Demi Gomez or whatever is popular right now? That’s cool, that’s cool.

Look, I wanted to talk to you because, well, things are getting kind of weird. I’m 22, and I know that puts me in about the same age bracket as Cloris Leachman and Father Time for you guys, so I feel I speak with some authority. But, you know, it wasn’t so long ago that I was 12 years old. I was listening to the Backstreet Boys, sitting on my inflatable glitter chair, and putting heart stickers on my Walkman. They were poignant times, and I wouldn’t want to take them from you. We all deserve that moment when we fumble through hormones and middle school pre-algebra.

But the thing is, I see you guys around here a lot–I see you guys smoking, licking the backs of each other’s throats, talking about getting drunk/ high the night before, yelling at us older people, playing in traffic, wearing stilettos with miniskirts (a combination not even a Jenna Jameson in her prime could really pull off), and generally being… old. And I know, I wasn’t an angel when I was your age. No one was. It’s a time for experimentation, that’s for sure. But I feel like the kind of experimentation you should be taking part in at your age is sneaking out to the clubhouse past curfew and chugging the Fun Dip sugar straight out of the packet. You know, kid stuff.

And I know, you guys aren’t kids! Some of you have those painful little beginner breasts and some of your testicles have even descended! Theoretically, some of you could be reproducing. But if Maury and MTV have taught us anything, shouldn’t it be that just because you can have children, doesn’t mean you should? I have friends my age with kids and, believe me, they are still well in the train wreck league. No need to be challenging them at the Premature Parent World Series. And perhaps the fact that you guys have grown up in a big city, constantly exposed to scary strangers, hypodermic needles, and public transportation has led you to believe that you are mature and world-weary enough to handle the kind of crazy you seem to want to get into. But just because your childhood wasn’t spent chasing fireflies, playing with your dogs in your backyard, and running home when your mom calls you in for dinner doesn’t mean that you are any less an innocent 12-year-old.

But who could blame you, really? I mean, look at what you’re growing up with. You go on to any computer and type in “porn,” you are welcome into a world beyond your wildest dreams, filled with people having sex from every angle conceivable. (Though despite your assumption that no one will ever find out about your lying when clicking the “Over 18 To Enter” buttons, I assure you–Obama knows. He knows, and He is judging.) But regardless, your unlimited access to all that is immediate, vulgar, and misleading must be hard to overcome. And what are your pop icons? Ke$ha? Katy Perry? I will be the first to admit that Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are by no means saints, but we got them at pre-meltdown/ stripper phases, and some of their songs could be considered, by any standards, a bit chaste. Ke$ha rubs glitter on her vagina and sits on the camera lens.

All I’m saying is, you have your whole lives to grow up. You have your mid-teens to do like we did and fumble around ungracefully on the internet, looking for a few scraps of guidance in this terrifying sexual labyrinth. You have your early twenties to wear incredibly uncomfortable shoes and stand outside, ridiculously underdressed for the weather, shivering as you wait to get in some overrated club. You have your whole life to smoke–but let’s try to just avoid that one altogether. I know the temptation to grow up and own your adolescence at such a tender age is powerful, and I know that growing up in a city filled with so many opportunities must entice you to pick the worst ones, but seriously–calm down. All these mistakes and deplorable behavior will be waiting for you when you get just a smidge older. At least wait until you can coherently blog about it to start ruining your lives.

And while I have you here, could I ask you a quick favor–could you go get your parents for me? We need to have a quick talk.

Society TC mark

image – Milishor

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • heh

    Ke$ha rubs glitter on her vagina and sits on the camera lens.


  • Laura

    Damn. What 12- year-olds are hanging out in your neighborhood?

    • Guest

      she lives in the projects, me thinks.

  • Jonathan OperaJon North

    “Obama knows. He knows, and He is judging”I think this is my favourite line from any TC article ever

  • Renee

    This is SO dead on….

  • Luckynumberinfinity

    Dear Gah, this is lovely. My Kiddo’s 7 now, and I ache to think of her missing out on a childhood not saturated in sexuality and consumer identity… you should still be giddy about catching fireflies and getting skinned knees when you’re 12.

  • Mack Peterson


  • TO

    I’m 12 years old and what is this

  • Anonymous

    thank you. this is literally my brain when looking at all my little neighbor-lings.

  • Anonymous

    thank you. this is literally my brain when looking at all my little neighbor-lings.

  • Anonymous

    An Open Letter to the 22-Year-Olds Bemoaning the Death of Polite Society on the Internet:

    I am older than you, and in my day 22 year olds weren’t patronizing, paternalistic, and self-satisfied about the privileges they were raised with. What’s the world coming to when people in their early 20s aren’t sticking up against the same logic that justifies mocking them as morally bankrupt wastrels who fart around on the internet all day, accomplishing nothing? The 12-year-olds of the world (those who aren’t successfully plied with walkmen, pop albums, and inflatable chairs, anyway) have always engaged in ghastly, degrading, antisocial behavior; it’s not long ago that they’d have been considered old enough to go to work in the factories or get married and start producing children. You urgently need to watch the film “Kids,” which was released when you were seven years old.

    Go outside into your community and accomplish something more meaningful than parrotting the hollow, pearl-clutching contempt of “Good Morning America”. For shame!

    • brotastic


  • Brogan

    I love this. It is so true and so sad. What has happened?

  • Remy Lexington

    I think its funny that a 22 year old wrote this. I am older than you so I suppose it is only right to be condescending to you as well. I mean, I am older…so I clearly know more. That’s just how it goes. So take it from me. Stop writing things like this. It only makes you look foolish and immature.  You’ll thank me when you’re older and you look back at how silly you were for thinking you knew better.

  • Guestropod

    the only thing worse than back-in-the-day-we-didn’t-blah-blah nostalgia from old people is back-in-the-day-we-didn’t-blah-blah nostalgia from young people

  • Dani

    Eff the haters trolling blogs and telling you not to write articles like this. I liked it and thought it was a well-written opinion from your perspective.

    • i dont get it

      why are people so devoted to defending chelsea fagan when she is pretty much consistently full of herself / condescending …

      • Dani

        I don’t know Chelsea at all. I read this site because I find the articles interesting. 

      • Dani

        Or rather, I don’t give a flying fuck about any of the authors of these articles. Not two shits. I want to read things I can relate to or things that make me think. Whether I agree or not.

  • Anonymous

    The alpha generation and generation z is overexposed to the world around them, yet what is wrong? Nothing is wrong with doing it when you’re too young if you’re going to do it anyways (aside from detrimental health reasons). Kids are growing up faster due to the fact that they’re learning more and such. This is hardly an issue, the only issue is on how immature they and the rest of the teenagers in our society today are.

  • please don't sell out too much

    Hey TC

    Been following this site for a while now and I can’t help but notice that lately, Thought Catalog has been less…diverse and quirky than it used to be. It’s all articles on dating and hangovers and sleeping with a lot of people and how much hipsters suck/rock, being 20somethings and New York City.

    It has also come to my attention that Jimmy Chen’s genius piece ‘On Blowing a Zucchini’ has been removed due to the vested interests of advertisers. I mean, okay, yeah whoever manages TC needs income and stuff and props to y’all for gaining a wide readership and everything and shitting out pieces to appeal to the masses,
    but to quote the ‘About’ page – “You’re going to find out about stuff here you won’t see in the mainstream media,” – which I think just doesn’t apply here anymore. There are so many Cleo-like or wholesome Chicken Soup-esque articles and y’know, chicken soup is tasty and all but I miss the sorta weird shit like the article about the dominatrix who gets paid to pee in a guy’s mouth, or the girl traveling abroad to London and exchanging money for sex just so she could continue living there, or the one about what it feels like to get a tattoo. Just a few of the random ones that really stuck with me.

    I don’t know if anyone relevant is going to be reading this comment but these are just my thoughts. I really hope JC’s piece will be catalogued here again.

    • just sayin

      hey genius unfortunately web sites run on traffic. pretty sure hangover/chicken soup gets more hits than some guy talking about fellating produce. yell at other people for preferring the lowbrow, don’t hate tc for trying to feed themselves.

      • Kyle Angeletti

        That’s not the point though, bro. They set their own mandate, it made them popular, now they are just toeing the line. Look at Vice. 

    • Kyle Angeletti

      I so whole heartedly agree with this – and this article isn’t even so bad, but it is indicative of a general theme and decline in content. 

    • Mary

      I neither agree of disagree with you. I just also wanted to point out that in their “about” section it also says “thought catalog is clutter free”. Yeah, that’s not true anymore. 

  • Greg Petliski

    Its like in Idiocracy when all anyone does is watch “Ow my balls!”

  • lia marie

    so usually when i read articles on tc it makes me jealous that all of you live in such glamourous cities like ny; but right now i’m happy i was country-bred.

  • Kennneth Gibson

    Ok so your advice is from the ages 13 – 17 don’t do anything fun. 

    • Susu

      im not sure thats what she meant. 

    • Alison

      So you can only have fun by getting drunk and fucking around? I know I did some questionable stuff in my teens, but I also had plenty of normal kid experiences too. Twelve is a little young for sex and substances. I for sure had a few “stealing some of dad’s beers and drinking them in a friend’s basement” type drinking experiences  between the ages of 14 and 16 like a normal person. But I definitely wasn’t out getting blackout drunk at parties. You have  senior year and college to be a dumbass and realize that it isn’t that fun to wake up covered in puke and not knowing where you are.

  • Lauren Wilford

    “About the same age bracket as Cloris Leachman and Father Time”
    lol forever.

  • Michael Koh

    what is in the water these days?

  • Michael Koh

    what is in the water these days?

  • kaylee

    How are you? How’s puberty?
    lol yes

  • Raennem

    My friends started saying this kind of stuff about twelve year olds when they were sixteen. “When WE were that age…” It’s bullshit. I know for a fact that my friends said that stuff to make themselves feel more mature/intelligent/worldly- and at this point none of them could so much as touch alcohol without getting blackout drunk. So I’m always a bit wary when people crack out the “just enjoy your childhood”, “mourn for the loss of innocence” crap.

  • TuraLura

    Sigh. What are things coming to when young suburban post-graduates move to the inner city, and instead of creating intense and challenging art based on their exposure to the raw lifestyle of the lower classes- they ask the unwashed to behave themselves, goshdarnit?

    I find it difficult to relate to this post-rock generation and their somewhat smug bourgeoiserie. But then I am old enough to be Chelsea Fagan’s mother.

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