As each day passes, it is becoming quite evident that Marlo is my clone both in physical form (as can be seen above) and personality. I would like to take this moment to offer my sincerest apologies to my parents. Mom and Dad, no WONDER I was never the favorite. Just like I recall being as a child (ahem, still am as an adult), Marlo is extremely dramatic, sensitive, enthusiastic, chatty, curious, hungry for stimulation, hungry for attention, and loud. These aren’t all necessarily bad traits all the time. They all have their place in this world, but let’s just say when a parent has to cope with them all at once all day every day, it can be thoroughly exhausting. It quickly turns Nice Mommy into Yelling Mommy.
Yelling Mommy has an uncommonly precise memory. I remember everyday events from my childhood like they were yesterday. When I watch Marlo play by herself and interact with me and the family, it is beyond creepy to retrieve memories of saying the exact same things and behaving the exact same way and perhaps having the exact same emotions. The creepiness is exacerbated by the fact that she couldn’t look any more like me at that age (well, I was a little blonder). It’s like watching yourself grow up, or for Jeff, watching your spouse grow up.
But Marlo will never have the same experiences as I did. Her parents are different than my parents. She is not the passive little sister that I was. She’s the first born. That’s huge when it comes to shaping one’s personality. So I must remember that she will eventually grow into a person that will likely be much different than me. I find a lot of relief in that fact, as I look back at my adolescence and cringe. You feel the same way? Yes, I’ve heard that’s a common reaction when reflecting upon the teenage years. Though, my obsessive neurotic scrutiny of every memorable experience as a kid has made me somewhat anxious to want to control to prevent my little clone from having to experience the unnecessary heartaches that I found myself in. If I could talk to 14-year-old Marlo today, this is what I’d say.
1. Your Skin is Fine.
You have my pasty white complexion. You have no choice in the matter. It will not tan in the sun or in a bed, and those tanning creams will only make you look dirty. You are different. You may be uncomfortable with this. People can be uncomfortable with this. They will try and make you uncomfortable if you already aren’t. If your mommy had a nickel for every time she heard varying versions of “You need some sun, honey.” and “You look so pale, are you feeling well?” she’d probably have ten dollars. Kids will say mean things. Maybe they will call you Casper or ask you if you rolled in flour before coming to school. Think about those insults. They aren’t even clever. Worse, women with deeply golden tanned skin will say things like “Oh, but your skin is so porcelain and beautiful” or “You won’t have a single wrinkle when you’re older.” You will quietly think, “Well, you, too could have this complexion with a little SPF, why don’t you?”
You may have things a little easier. It appears you will have reddish hair. All people give red heads a pass on their paleness. Also, I think it’s become more urban chic to be untanned. This may be in my head, but lately tanned has become equivalent with Jersey Girl. I really hope pale becomes the conventional in your future. What will make things easier for you is you have a mommy who knows how to get through life being the same color as a vampire. I wasn’t so lucky. Both your grandma and your aunt can achieve beautiful tans. They ended up just being a more well-meaning one of “those women” when trying to console me. My mother used to and everyone else I know still to this day thinks I should wear pastel clothes and pastel make-up. It took me until my Junior year of high school to realize that our skin’s best friend is black and nude. Black clothes, honey. Nude make-up. Black make-up will just make you look harsh and goth.
2. Speaking of Make-up
You’ll probably want some to feel like you don’t look like a zombie. Pale skin has a funny way of being translucent. Every little capillary in your face will show. Your dark circles under your eyes will look like you have an abusive mother. Remember, though, this is only what you see when you look in the mirror. Others don’t see anything but your sparkly eyes and your pretty smile. Learn to go easy on the foundation and powder. Learn to go easy on the eye make-up. Never line your lower lid with black liner, it’s just too much for us pale girls. And you have big lips kiddo, bright lipstick will just make you look like a clown. Feel lucky that you’ll probably just need a little chapstick. And finally, blush can easily be your friend and quickly become your enemy. Your mother wants to help you with this. She’s practiced for 20 years and made all the mistakes all very well documented in photographs.
3. You’re Beautiful. So What?
Let me say this again. You’re Beautiful. Gorgeous. Exceptionally Pretty. Now get over your self-doubt and move on with your life. Hone your other skills. Accept only more quality flattery from people. Stick with the ones that recognize how smart you are and think you’re funny, because you being pretty is obvious and meaningless. Remember that and don’t swoon over someone who thinks you’re pretty. Boys that just want pretty are no good, boring, stupid and going nowhere in life.
4. And Speaking of Boys (or Girls, Maybe You’ll Like Girls)
I struggle with this one. I don’t want to say “Stay away until you’re 25” because I think the relationships you have as teenager are excellent practice and are good opportunities to learn about yourself emotionally. Maybe the right approach is to suggest you don’t make a romantic relationship top priority. Use your adolescence to figure out as much about yourself as possible, not only what kind of lover you are.
5. Be the Right Kind of Joiner
Your Papa always told me “If you see a group of people, turn around and walk the other way.” That is generally good advice. Especially for a teenager. Groups of people can many times amount to nothing but trouble. But that’s just in the bare social sense. I encourage you to dabble in extracurriculars and join organizations. Have confidence and try things. Think maybe you’d like to try out for the school play? Oh please do! You have nothing to lose. Debate team? Newspaper? Go for it. You ARE smart enough. Figure out what excites you. Focus on that and less on dramatic social circles.
6. Be Kind. To Everyone.
Except for the real nasty jerks. You can spot ’em. Don’t be them, and don’t waste your energy trying to appease them. Everyone else though, they need your smile and your enthusiasm. If you see someone alone, go say hi. As a kid, I always felt compelled to make people around me feel better but I didn’t have the confidence that anyone would want my company, so I did nothing. That is complete nonsense. Go make someone’s day better.
7. Like What You Like
Having passion for something is an attractive quality. Don’t get caught up in editing your choices or hiding your real self because they may be different from your peers’. Standing firm and running against the grain makes you more interesting as long as it’s genuine. Authenticity will attract good people.
8. Always Remember Your Family Loves You
…is proud of you, and will always support you. Share your ideas and your feelings, don’t be shy. We are listening intently.