Me at 18
I was supposed to publish a pro-santa manifesto today. It is done, it is forceful, it is thorough, it is 4,300 words long. Yikes. I will publish my (heavily) edited version on Tuesday. Apparently, I like St. Nick. Like, like like him. Until then, this.
I go up to the university to write on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Two times a week I get to disappear into a crowd and find the thoughts in my head. It is a luxury and I don’t really deserve it. This last Tuesday, I ran in from the cold, ordered a lukewarm cheeseburger (BYU, you are supposed to heat the product before slathering it in mayonnaise. Ahem.) and settled in for a few hours of typing and deleting. I usually have headphones, but had left them at home. Bully for me. The first hour went swimmingly, I picked up pieces of other peoples nights while I tried to create a world I’ve never seen. And then, THEY sat behind me.
A nondescript boy, pale faced and brown haired. His jeans were looser than is fashionable and his black fleece sweater had begun to look grey. The girl was thin and skinny jeaned with blond hair that reached down her back. When she smiled her eyes and nose crinkled into one another. She was cute and young. I kind of wanted to bundle her up and take her out for bubble gum ice cream so we could talk about One Direction. I was scraping the congealed grease off the top of my burger when their conversation started.
It was a first date. He dominated the conversation. When she spoke it was in ummms and sighs and giggled nervousness. She believed his claims to superiority and leveled her achievements below his. He asked her questions outside her breadth of knowledge to make her uncomfortable and waited while she searched for the answers. After a few moments of silence, he would chuckle and then explain the concept. A few choice quotes:
Him: When it comes to music, I have pretty refined taste. Probably because I've been in so many church choirs. Josh Groban and musicals all the way. I’ve got a very good voice.
Him: Do you consider yourself mature?
Him: Do you have a good sense of humor? Do you know the definition of "dry wit"? Tell me what you think is funny and I'll tell you if it is.
Him: You want to work with children? You think you are good with them? A lot of people think they are good with children, but they're not. What experience do you base that on?
Him: If I could do anything with my life, it would be to change our form of currency. Do you know how our currency works?(She giggles, tries to guess, doesn’t know. Her voice trails off as she bites her lip.) He shakes his head knowingly.) Let me educate you on currencies. Let's start with the people that used rocks of different sizes.
Him: Ah, so much about me. Tell me about yourself.
Her: Ummmm…well…(giggle)….my favorite color is blue?
Him: I don’t want to know your favorite color. Tell me something interesting. I’ve told you so many interesting things.
The conversation went on for 45 minutes. For the first half, I laughed. And then, when I realized she was taking him seriously, I seethed. I got up twice to tell him off. To give him a piece of my mind. Instead, I walked by and got napkins. When they finally stood up and walked off arm in arm, I realized what I should have done.
I should have stood up, I should have taken her aside, I should have talked to her the way that I hope someone would talk to my daughter.
I should have said this,
Hi. You don’t know me. But I know a little about you. I know what it is like to be eighteen and have an older boy pay attention to you for the first time. I know that when you are young it is easy to confuse smugness with confidence. I know you don’t know the value of your own voice, your own thoughts, your own strength. I know that you aren’t sure. I know because I was you. The small girl who thought a big man would make me stronger.
This guy sitting across from you? This boy? He is not a big man.
He doesn’t find you interesting, he is only interested in himself. He is not sharing knowledge with you to gasp in delight at the breadth of your shared horizons. He is expounding on his limited areas of knowledge to make it seem as if your world is small. He wants you to feel small, don’t you see that? He wants you to feel like you need to look up to see him. He isn’t interested in you, he wants you to be interested in him. Some men will treat you paternally, watch out for them, too. However, this kid isn’t even doing that. He is acting like you are some pet. A trained monkey that can ooh and clap and do flips on command. You, my dear, are no monkey.
Do you know what you are? Beyond the happy answers, the words we know by rote from primary and young women’s lesson. Look at me. Do you know what you truly are? You are the literal progeny of a divine being. You are fire and light and the dust of stars older than your mind can reach. You are a creation more precious that the sun and heavens and this earth we stand on with our two feet while we are blessed enough to breathe. You are not porcelain. You are not made to sit on a pedestal while a man parades his strength for your womanly delight. You are steel and armor and diamonds that cut. You are made by faith, you live by faith, you are the recipient of God’s faith. Do you know what faith is? It is power. It the means by which this universe was constructed and remains. That power sustains you, too. You were not made to be belittled, looked down on or educated by fools that think themselves your betters simply because they have a penis dangling between their legs.
You are only eighteen. You have so much time. Find yourself, find your voice, find your worth. Revel in it, swim in it until your fingers are pruny with the glory of it all. And then when it is time, a week from now, five years from now, twenty years from now, remember this.
You deserve a man. Someone that listens for your voice before listening for his own. You need a partner, someone to seek alongside of you, not in front of you. You don’t need direction, you need reflection. A man that puts you first, not out of some outmoded concept of duty but because he truly, gaspingly, mind-blowingly loves you that bleeping much. You deserve someone that makes you want to do the same. The right man will never make you feel uncomfortable for his own benefit. He will never make you feel like less. He will always make like more. And more importantly, oh darling so much more importantly, being with him will help you become more. More of yourself, not more of what a man or the world or even religion says you should be. The right partnership clarifies you. NOTHING else is worth your time. There is so little of it as we stand, do not waste it. Do not waste yourself.
But instead, I was quiet. And they walked away arm in arm. And I saw myself when I was her age and all the mistakes I made and the worthlessness I felt and the quiet of my voice.
And I wasn’t hungry anymore.