I'm very excited to be featuring a few YA authors on the blog, writing their own Open Letters, through out this month. Not aware of this fab feature? Be sure to check out my introduction post HERE. You can also read my Open Letter To My YA Self post HERE.
Emery Lord has secured a spot among my favorite YA contemporary writers. She won me over with her debut OPEN ROAD SUMMER, only to recapture that first love feeling all over again with THE START OF ME AND YOU. (psst, I've also had the privilege of reading her 2016 release WHEN WE COLLIDED and its every bit emotional & thought provoking that I have come to expect from Ms. Lord) Today she has stopped by the blog to write her own letter to YA Emery, forecasting words that any woman, at any age, can definitely take away from.
Oh, YA me,
I know you often think that you could handle high school a lot better if you could just see one snapshot- a single Polaroid- of your future. A little reassurance that it all works out. Are your friends still in your life? What do you major in? Are you dating someone—married?—in the future?
You'll find out. Sorry, baby girl. I'm not going to help you cheat. Your lessons need to be learned in their own course, and I won't hand them to you any sooner.
Except for this one.
By now, you've been shamed about your body and wronged as a woman more times than you could possibly count. You don't think of it this way. I know that. This is what you think: That something about you must have made that awful man approach you, that you should have known and walked away sooner that you did. No, your mom tells you. You didn’t do anything wrong. He did. This is what you think: That your chest makes even modest shirts look "slutty." Your teacher pulls you aside and tells you that your top is distracting to boys. It's a turtleneck. This is what you think: That the guy who charmed you so much became cold—made you feel guilty—because high school guys expect certain things, and you probably should have known that going in.
Everything feels like your fault.
It takes you until age 26 to get well and truly pissed. You're sexually harassed badly- terrifyingly- outside of your own home in broad daylight. And you snap. Years of micro-aggressions and more obvious offenses finally compound.
Because none of it was ever, ever your fault. It has never been that you were too nice, that you chose the wrong clothes, that you misunderstood some unspoken high school dating rule. All the other hundreds of examples that I won’t list—the ones you know, the ones you will know, all of which I wish you didn’t: Not. your. fault. Hear me.
Chickadee? I’m giving you permission for two things:
1. You are allowed to get pissed now. In fact, I insist. Let yourself feel angry, and then do something with that anger. Because I know what you currently feel is shame and hurt and confusion. Tucking those things inside only turns you against yourself. I don’t want you to operate from anger, but this particular kind of anger isn’t self-destructive or poisonous. It makes you passionate. It makes you speak up. It makes you unashamed and committed to calling out casual misogyny, to advocating for girls, to claiming what should be ours and is routinely taken.
It makes you finally hear your mom's words, all these years later. Listen to her. Do not listen to that teacher. In fact, tell that teacher she's shaming you for boys' failings, undermining your self-worth and safe space for education, then tell your mom so she can call the principal. Walk the hell away from any useless boy who pressures you, and never look back. If you don't feel comfortable with them, that is reason enough.
2. You are allowed to do whatever you want with your body. It's yours. No one gets to tell you how to feel about it. No one gets to pressure you into or out of your choices. People will try to make girls feel bad for saying yes AND for saying no- to anything. To another slice of pizza (unhealthy! anorexic!), to sex (slut! prude!), to liking our bodies (vain! self-conscious!). They should not get a say in your idea of yourself. Keep making choices from a place of authenticity to yourself and with mindfulness of health/safety. I know. I sounded like a grownup there. I am, though, kid. Don't worry; we still eat brownies for dinner sometimes.
Look, you can’t change the things that have already happened or even the things that will. But you can let these things make you a better woman to other women. When those other women come to you, give them what your amazing mom gave you. Tell them you believe them. That they didn't do anything wrong. Before you ever lift an eyebrow at another girl's choices, remember what it's felt like to be judged. That people will judge you over even a turtleneck. Support your girl friends in walking away from boys who don’t respect them. Tell them what they’re worth.
But first, know what you’re worth. Know that it's not your fault you exist as a girl in a world that needs to change. So get mad and be kind—to yourself, to others. It’s possible to be both; I promise. Do it now, bb. Don’t waste another moment.
PS- Okay, two cheats: Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. You’re not supposed to find them till college, but Ivy and Offred are incredible women to have in your corner as you start showing the world that you will only be yourself. And that you will never be ashamed of it.
Don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY for this feature! Only days left to enter...
(just click the image below)