Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PS: Black hair dye is a BAD idea

In the past couple of months, I've had two younger cousins ask me for advice. They're both in their teens and are having relationship issues. Both in love with people who don't appear to love them back. Both wondering what to do.  

Why they came to me for advice, I'm not too sure. The older, single cousin living in her dad's basement isn't exactly the first person I'd go to for advice on men, but what the hell. 

Looking back to high school, I know exactly how they feel. I tried to tell them, gently, that what they're going through right now is only a small, small speck on the immense canvas that will be their entire lives. I know they don't believe me, but in a few years, the person occupying their thoughts constantly now won't cross their minds at all. Except maybe in a fit of giggles with girlfriends over a glass of wine on a Friday night. 

Instead of giving them advice (I'm really no good at that,) I thought back to myself at 15. What I thought I knew back then. Twelve years has passed since then, and I feel like I've learned so much from all of my experiences, both from other people and myself.  

If I could go back and hang out with 15-year-old me, there's a few things I'd like to tell myself. Things like:

1. Oh my god, woman! Enough with the vests. They are not cool. I don't care if they're suede, or have tassels, they are SO not cool. People are probably making fun of you behind your back. Lose the vests, cowgirl. 

2. That guy. Those guys. The ones who come in and out of your social circle, who seem like the most important thing, I don't know, EVER. They're not. Here's a tip: 15-year-old boys are stupid. Most of them only care about looking cool in front of their friends and bragging about getting to third base. This won't change for another few (maybe 10-15) years. Don't put so much pressure on yourself. Being single and having fun with your girlfriends is even cooler than being alone and crying over a boy into your pillow on a Saturday night. Believe it or not.  

3. Go hug your mama. Hug her as tight as you can, for as long as she can stand it. When she laughs and says "Jeez, what's up with you?" ignore her and hug her some more. You don't realize it now, much she'll turn out to be one of the most influential people in your life. Ask her all of the questions you'll need to know later. Did she get morning sickness when she was pregnant? When did she know she was in love with Dad? How did he propose, exactly? Find out minute details. Believe me, it's important, and Dad's good with details like "the first time I saw her she was wearing short-shorts and a white tank top and I thought she was the most beautiful blonde I'd ever seen," but not so much the "I asked her to marry me looking out over a mountain-scape at dusk exactly a year after we met" kind of stories. There's going to be so much you wished you knew. Go hug her again. Tell her you love her. She'll be kind of surprised, but it will fill her heart.

4. Be nice to your family. Not that you're particularity mean to them, but later on in life, they're all you've got. They're the only link to your past, and the people you'll miss most when they're gone.

5. Just be nice. Try to be nice to everyone, even especially the people who everyone else makes fun of. I know you're concerned about fitting in, walking that fine line between being cool and being liked by everyone. You don't realize it now, but that person people are teasing, is dying on the inside. Just like you, he just wants to fit in. Don't join in the teasing, don't follow the crowd. Smile and say hi when you pass the "unpopular" kids in the halls. Your smiles are making their day. 

6. Study hard. As hard as you can. Do your homework. You will open yourself up to a world of possibilities if you keep your grades high. Don't drop that math class. Math is important. In about 10 years, you're going to look really silly pulling out a calculator at work to do simple division. 

7. Take care of your teeth! Wear your retainer! Wait, check your tray before you throw it in the garbage at the mall food court. That one move is going to cost your parents a LOT of money in dental bills.  

8. Don't be shy. Say what you want. Be straightforward and honest. You will learn this later in life, but not before being caused a lot of pain by holding back your feelings. If you're mad, get mad. If you're sad, cry. Tell people if they are pissing you off. If you like a boy, tell him. You'll feel SO much better.  

9. Listen to Dad's crazy expressions more. Later on, you'll realize they are the pillars of your values. "It's life it's own self," is a good example. "All is well," and  "You'll only be cool if you don't try to be cool," are others. Now, you roll your eyes when he starts telling you his three rules in life: Don't lie, don't feel sorry for yourself, always pull your own weight. Later, you'll realize this is some of the most important advice you've ever received.  

10. Know that you can't control the outcome of any relationship, romantic or otherwise. During one of your more dramatic episodes with a boy, a smart (and SINGLE!) older cousin will send you a piece of writing that will change the way you think about love. Forever. You'll continue to send it to girlfriends going through breakups for the next 15 years. Just so you don't have to wait, here's a little preview: 

From the book Letters to my Son by Kent Nerburn: 
"It is a mystery why we fall in love. It is a mystery how it happens, when it comes, and why some love grows and other love fails. 
Sometimes, hopefully at least once in your life, the gift of love will come to you in full flower, and you will take hold of it and celebrate it in all its inexpressible beauty. This is the dream we all share.  
More often, it will come and take hold of you, celebrate you for a brief moment, then move on. 
When people fall out of love, they want answers where there are no answers. They want to know what is wrong with them that makes the other person no longer love them, or they try to get their lover to change, thinking that if some small things were different love would bloom again.  
There is no meaning beyond the love itself, and until you accept its own mysterious ways, you will live in a sea of misery. 
If you fall in love with another, and they fall in love with you, and then love chooses to leave, do not try to reclaim it or to assess blame. Let it go. There is a reason and there is a meaning. You will know in time. 
Remember that you don't choose love. It chooses you. All you can really do is accept it for all its mystery when it comes into your life. Feel the way it fills you to overflowing, then reach out and give it away. 
Give it back to the person who brought it alive in you. Give it to the world around you in any way you can. 
Remember this, and keep it to your heart. Love has its own time, its own seasons, and its own reasons for coming and going. You cannot bribe it or coerce it into staying. 
Love always has been and always will be a mystery. Be glad that it came to live for a moment in your life.  
If you keep your heart open, it will come again.  

I know you'll be fine. You'll love. You'll live, and you'll learn.
Just wanted to give you a little help along the way. 

Go get 'em, tiger!


Ray of sunshine

Today is a dreary, rainy, feels-like-Fall kind of day, so I thought we could all use a little sunshine.  

This photo was taken on a warm summer day. I was off work, and went for lunch with my niece Kenah and my girlfriend Ang. After lunch, we ate ice cream and chatted on her patio.  

A perfect summer day, stashed away for the coldest January nights.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

To Gillian on her 25th birthday

Dear Gilly (or Gigi, Donkey, Shorty, G-Mac, McLayclay, Gilly-Bean. Whoever you are,)

Yesterday you turned 25 years old. A quarter century. I've been meaning to write this for a long time, but I've been struggling to find words. I don't know how I'm supposed to sum up what you mean to me in a couple hundred words. I don't even think a book would do it justice (even though it would be beautifully written with a killer jacket design.) 

I've said many times how you've always seemed like the older sister to me. You are still the first one I call for advice on outfits, men, life in general. Your advice is always spot on, and I cherish it more than you'll ever know.  

I know right now you're probably giggling at the idea of you being the older sister. My nickname is Memere for a reason. There are certain ways, though, that you seem so wise, so worldly, so independent and strong.

Remember the time I got my period for the first time on the train to Toronto, stuffed in that tiny, swaying bathroom? How I started to cry and you smoothed my hair and told me everything was OK, that I was a woman now? Yeah, me neither. But I do remember you screaming "WHAT IS THAT?!" and leaving me stranded in the restroom, hovered over the aluminum toilet while you quite nonchalantly sat back down with Nana like nothing had happened, too embarrassed (or scarred?) to tell her what had just happened in the bathroom. I don't remember how long I waited for you to come back with supplies, but I do remember the smirk on your face when I finally came out and sat down again. Ok, maybe that's not the best example. 
Along the same lines, though (I know this is a lot of woman talk, and I apologize to any bashful males who happen upon this post, but I probably lost you at "advice on outfits and men" anyway) the day I "became a woman" was full of fanfare for me. We went out for dinner. I passed out in the mall. I was the center of attention. It was a celebration, because my dramatic ass was now fertile and able to bear children. I couldn't wait to tell the world, on rose scented floral paper sealed with dried daisies and fairy dust. 

I'm sure we would have celebrated when you "became a woman," except nobody knew. Not a soul. Not for three whole months. When you finally did come out and tell me you were officially a woman, you were PISSED. Pissed at mother nature, pissed at life, pissed at me, pissed at the mailman. Turns out, you weren't going to magically turn into a boy one day like Dad always said after all! I was ecstatic.

I used to feel guilty that I was the showy, flashy, in-your-face sibling. But you never seemed to want the limelight. Now, this is a trait I admire. Your modesty, charm, and calm personality makes you so well-liked among everyone you meet.  

Having the chance to live with you, Gigi, was one of my favorite experiences. You're the only person I know who can make a trip to the grocery store, a walk in the bush, the task of cleaning out the playroom a laugh riot.  

I once overheard someone at a party talking about how weird it was that we only laugh at each others jokes. A couple of seconds later, I said something totally strange to anyone but you, and you killed yourself. I laughed too, because that's what we do. We have each others backs, sis.  

Only recently, when the real world with all its shades of gray started to set in, did I begin to realize not all sisters are close. I used to think it was a requirement. Sisters = Best Friends Forever. What a sweet deal! All you had to do was be born, and like me. Forever! I really could not imagine my life without ya, ya big dumb nut!

The bond we've shared our whole lives is almost indescribable for me (can you believe it? Me? Speechless?), but look, a dozen paragraphs and I still don't feel like I've done you justice. You've been there for every event that has shaped my life and made me who I am today. You've given me so much, without asking for anything in return. You're one of the most selfless, creative, beautiful souls I know (are you barfing in your mouth yet?) You've held my hand in the darkest times, celebrated with me in the bright shiny moments, and made me laugh until I peed. On multiple occasions.

I guess all of this is to say, Gig, you the shit. And I mean that in the absolute best way possible. 

Happy Birthday to my sissy, my kindred spirit, my soul mate. Keep smiling that shit-eatin' grin of yours and your world will continue to be filled with wonderful things.

Yo' Sis