In a few short weeks I will be 49 years old. One year from 50.
How the heck did that happen?
It seems like just yesterday I was a 20-year-old acting student hanging out in Greenwich Village, drinking black coffee, and going to midnight showings of foreign films that I pretended I liked and understood because the guy I loved happened to like them.
Back then, I wouldn't have dreamt of telling someone I loved, or in fact someone I hated, what I really thought about anything. And I'd never disagree with someone, even when I knew they were wrong. What if they didn't like me?
I've often wondered what that young, extremely insecure girl would think of the outspoken woman I've become. What would I tell her?
I decided to have a little fun today and write a letter to my 20-year-old self.
Take off your shoes and sit down. I know your feet must be killing you. You're right though, your legs do look thinner in three inch heels. And, I must say, you do navigate the streets of Manhattan and the stairs in the subway stations pretty darn well in them. I'm impressed.
I'd like to tell you that your middle aged feet would appreciate it if you could lower the heel a bit, but I know you can't imagine that far ahead. That's why I decided to write to you.
Do you remember seeing a woman walking on Central Park West the other day? She was with her husband and three kids.
You noticed her beautiful red patent leather Coach bag and thought she was attractive for her age but promised to kill yourself if you ever got that fat. You also wondered how any woman who had a smidge of self respect could ever let herself go that far.
Well, I'm glad you're sitting down because that's you in about 29 years.
Yes. You were looking at your future.
I'll give you a minute to stop crying.
You sure you don't want a cup of yogurt or something? I know you haven't eaten all day and I'm thinking you might be a bit hungry. OK. I'll stop trying to be your mother.
I saw you walking with your friend and checking every window to see if you looked fat. You don't by the way. I know weighing 125 pounds isn't something that feels remotely OK right now. I know you were afraid that everyone was looking at you and thinking you were huge and ugly. They weren't. They were far too concerned with their own lives.
And even if they were judging you, that's not your problem. You don't need to fit anyone's ideal of what a woman should look like.
I know that boy was telling you something else. I know he told you if you cut your hair, lost weight, or wore different clothes, he'd be more attracted to you.
News flash! He's gay.
Yes, I know you know that. But trust me, no matter what he tells you, you are NEVER going to be what he wants. Save yourself some time and move on. Today.
I know you think he's the only person you'll ever love. Trust me, he isn't. You have a few more frogs to kiss, but in about five years you are going to meet the love of your life.
I should warn you right now, he isn't the type of guy you think you're going to end up with.
He's not flashy, he's just a really nice guy.
I know that's the kiss of death for any man you meet right now. Listen to me, in a few years you're going to want to be with someone who's stable and has a steady job.
He loves you for who you are and thinks you are beautiful no matter what size you are.
He's not going to swoop down and save you in the way that the knight in shining armor does in the fairy tales. That you're going to have to do on your own.
Don't worry, you do.
You'll go through many of life's ups and downs with this man. There are going to be some amazing times when you can't believe how blessed you are.
There are also going to be some extremely painful times when you will wish the world swallows you up whole. He's going to be by your side through it all. And you're going to be by his.
I know you're afraid of opening your mouth and letting people know the real you. I know it feels easier to just do what you think people want you to do. In reality, it only prolongs the pain. Start speaking up. NOW. Those people who don't like it aren't worth your precious time.
Let me let you in on a secret. There are some people who are just not going to like you. As you get older, you start caring less and less about them and start concentrating on the ones who do.
Kathy, you end up getting everything you want. It just turns out that what you want today at 20 isn't what's going to end up being evenly remotely important to you when you're almost 50.
Relax. Enjoy being young. Don't wish your life away.
And when you are about to turn 30 and are trying to capture a bit of your "youth," listen to the sales lady at Bloomingdales and don't spend $30 on the black lipstick. Take my word on this one.
A version of this piece was originally published on My dishwasher's possessed!