I was going to title this one "A Letter to My Daughter Within a Letter to my Daughter Apologizing for My Not Understanding Her in the Future," but that was way too long and reminded me of the movie Inception, which, as good of a movie as that was, wasn't how I wanted to start this post off. So instead, I'm wasting time with a paragraph about it, because I have a hard time throwing things away. I'm a word hoarder. I have a problem. Anyway, on with the show...
I had a ridiculous moment in the car on the way home from work on Friday. "The Freshmen" by The Verve Pipe was on the radio.
If you're not familiar with the song (and since you weren't a teenager in the '90s, there's a good chance you're not), it is an overwrought ballady barf of a song about some teenagers who didn't take some advice and then one of them dies, or something, and at some point in a made up future the singer is wailing about how innocent they were, and how it wasn't their fault because they were MERELY FRESHMEN!!!
Anyway, I love that song. I love it because it takes me back to a very specific point in my life, where I too was innocent and nothing was my fault and things happened that seemed much more important than anyone besides myself thought they were, and I couldn't control them, and that really upset me because we WERE MERELY FRESHMEN!!!
So there I am, singing along to this wonderfully awful song, and the strangest thing happened. I thought of you and started tearing up a little in the car. Not 2-year-old you, 15-year-old you.
Why? Well, I started crying because I realized at some point during the second chorus that I had completely forgotten how incredibly hard it was to be a teenager.
The stress and anxiety of those years hadn't even touched my thoughts. I am forgetting. And while some magical combination of perspective and senility has probably afforded me this wonderful gift, which I can only describe as content happiness, it is tinged with sadness by the fact that by the time you reach your teenage years, I will have probably completely forgotten what those teenage years felt like.
So, before this part of me fades away completely and I join the Republican party and spend the rest of my days talking about how good, kind and respectful everyone was when I was younger, please allow me a few minutes to let you know that I, too, was once where you are, and I, too, was lonely. Then I'll tuck this letter away in the blog and someday you can pull it up on your iPillow and read it just before you cry yourself to sleep because you're sad about some incredibly important thing that future me will not think is important in the slightest. So here you go -- a letter from your dad while he still barely remembered what it was like to be a teenager.
Dear Duchess (I call you Duchess on the blog because in 2013, we have this illusion we call privacy),
You know that thing that is going on that you think is the most important thing to happen in the history of you... or even of the world? You know, the one that has your stomach all balled up and tears leaking out from your eyes every time you tilt your head the wrong way? It's that problem that has everyone telling you that they know how you feel because they've experienced some bastardized form of said problem, and if you just give it some time, everything will feel better and you'll look back on it and laugh. I need you to know something. It is the most important thing in the world, and knowing that someday you may or may not care about it isn't going to make you feel any better. Perspective is only valuable once you have it, and right about now your perspective is telling you "f*ck perspective." I'm on board with that. Because whether something is the end of the world, or it just feels like the end of the world, it still FEELS LIKE THE END OF THE WORLD!
Here's the hard part for me: Not only can I not fix that thing that is eating you up inside, I'm probably too old and detached from what you're going through to even understand it. Old me is going to look at you and tell you I love you, and you're going to scream at me that your life is over and that I will never understand, and you're right about at least half of that. I probably won't ever understand you. But I did once. I promise.
When I was a teenager, I parked my car in an alley once and screamed at the top of my lungs while repeatedly slamming my fists into the steering wheel. I sat, balled up, on the floor of my shower one time and cried until the water was ice cold. I wrote poems for girls. I dreamt of being liked and being popular and getting the part in the musical or the position on the football team. I longed for those I couldn't have and lost those I did have. I went through long patches of my life where I felt immensely lonely. And every time, I didn't know if it was the end of the world or if it just felt like it -- and I didn't care. And it was only made worse by the fact that my awesome and loving parents just didn't get it. And now I'm the parent who doesn't get it. So, I'm sorry.
I'm sorry that future me doesn't understand. 2013 me does. Maybe in the future, you'll be able to upload a hologram of 2013 me and tell me about how much of a douche bag I've become. I'll compliment you on your laser hair and you'll complain about how future me hates that it cost $4,500 dollars. Then I'll go to give you a hug, and you'll go to hug me back and you'll fall on the floor because I'm a hologram. We'll laugh a little and that will make hologram-me happy, or at least appear happy since I most likely won't have emotions because I'm a hologram. Then you'll say good night, turn hologram me off, and switch your iPillow to the classic rock station where, I hope to god, "The Freshman" by The Verve Pipe is playing. Because, while future me may not understand what you're going through, The Verve Pipe always will.
I love you, honey,
Still Kind-of Cool Dad from 2013
An earlier version of this piece appeared on John Kinnear's personal blog, Ask Your Dad.