Please don’t worry about your looks so much. You will learn how little they matter, and how ultimately they fade anyway, no matter how generously they bloom.
Don’t cringe over your awkward, gangly body – all jutting limbs and angles like a newborn foal. And don’t frown at your long face that seems to sprout a new red dot each evening, like a cruel gift. These indignities are short-lived, and by the next time the trees lose their leaves you will be in a new grade and a new school, with a new body that makes boys look at you differently.
One of these boys – Bobby Connolly, the most popular boy in 9th grade – will tell your friend Allie you’re a fox and that he wants to take you to the movies to see Blazing Saddles, a dumb western comedy. You will go, but all Bobby really wants to do is make out in the back seat and Allie is no help since she’s doing the same thing with her boyfriend in the front seat. So you don’t even get to see the stupid movie, but Bobby Connolly doesn’t matter, and neither do all the boys and men after him.
Oh, and the boy you’re obsessed with right now? The one who doesn’t even know you’re alive? He really doesn’t matter, because from where I sit today, I can’t even remember his name now.
You will finally lose interest in boys who don’t know you exist. Because one day, you will meet your soul mate, the man who will become your husband. He will love you for who you are, not how you look. You will be 31 years old, and yes – that sounds so old to you now, but it isn’t really – it’s just old enough to be OD’d on pretty faces and empty promises, tired of flatterers and phonies, and done with Peter Pans and commitment-phobes.
Your husband will love you, and continue to love you, when you’re young and when you’re old, when you’re fat and when you’re thin, when you’re happy and when you’re sad or bitchy. He will love your mind and your passion and your curiosity and he will want to talk to you all night about art and love and the universe and about EVERYTHING and he will love you because you see the good in people, and because you are disciplined, a little bit silly, and definitely uncoordinated.
According to your husband you have 47 different laughs and he can name every one of them, like The Chortle, The Wheeze, The Little Piggy snort, and the Charles Nelson Reilly, and he makes you laugh enough times a day to demonstrate all of them.
You will have the everyday attention of the one person who understands you – who really gets you – in a way your parents never could. He will tell you all his secrets and share his life with you.
And you won’t have to choose between love and a career like in the movies, because your husband will want you to have everything, and you wouldn’t have chosen him otherwise. Even after 22 years together he says he’s so in love with you that sometimes you only register to him as a presence, as a soul, without even a name, just you, and that the fact he is so in love that he believes you are gorgeous is just an unexpected bonus.
You will also have the love of good friends, and they won’t care about your looks. There will be hard times and bad things will happen to you, but they will be there, you will come out stronger and alongside the people you love, you will learn compassion and empathy. You will learn that you can trust other people, and that you can count on them to help you through difficult times. And yes, those difficult times will come no matter how much planning you do or despite how much money you have. But in the end, you’ll stay afloat because of the incredible kindness of people. You can’t imagine how much love is out there.
Yes, you will have all the love you ever wanted. You will travel to faraway places and have adventures and magic, be afforded an exciting career where you meet interesting people and making lasting friends, and you will even work for your childhood hero Walt Disney.
You and your husband will move into a small but charming house that he will lovingly transform with his hands into your very own Love Shack, a song you will have danced to in college. There will be highs and lows, but mostly the daily small pleasures of eating together, sleeping together, and sharing your life will be the stuff you’d always dreamed of, living out your own Beach Boys song:
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new
After having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through
Thirteen-year-old self, you’re worried about your looks because you think you need to be beautiful to be loved. But being pretty is beside the point. One day, you will learn that love is everywhere, and that everyone deserves it.
Angela Barton is a writer, editor, and researcher, and is currently working as an editor on an animated children’s TV series. Her short stories and essays have been published in Cosmonauts Avenue, The Potomac Review, Sirens, Apollo’s Lyre, Vision Magazine, and the anthology Staying Sane While You’re Quitting Smoking, among other places. She is also the author of the non-consumer blog My Year Without Spending, which she started in January 2009 and wrote daily for several years. You can find the archives here. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles and one of the current joys of her life is being a “Big Sister” for the past four years to a remarkable young woman who is now seventeen.