I’m not saying people didn’t try telling me these things when I was thirteen, but I wish I had believed them. (Sorry, Mom and Dad. I know you tried.)
1. Those kids who look at you funny in the hallway are probably not thinking about you or mentally mocking your outfit. They’re probably worrying about why you are looking at them funny. Or maybe they just have intestinal issues. Anyway . . . most people that you think are looking at you or thinking about you or talking about you . . . aren’t.
2. You’re not as weird as you think. Maybe a little bit weird, but that’s actually normal. That weirdness is what makes you interesting—what makes you you.
3. Models and celebrities don’t look like magazine pictures in real life. They spend hours in the makeup chair being worked on by world-class makeup artists to look the way they do . . . they definitely don’t look that great when they wake up every morning. They don’t even look that great after slapping on five minutes’ worth of drugstore makeup like normal teenagers do. And even after all that professional beautification, the pictures are still doctored! A lot of magazine pictures are really—and by really I mean almost completely—fake. Seriously, they do all kinds of wacko alterations—they can even erase people’s fat and add in killer abs! It’s just not fair to compare yourself to someone in a magazine. If you ever look at a model in a magazine and think, “I could never look like that,” don’t worry—the model doesn’t look like that, either.
4. Everyone is insecure. It doesn’t matter if they’re a model or cheerleader or athlete or class president or class clown—everyone is insecure sometimes. (This was one of my dad’s favorite lines for me in middle school. I tried to believe him, but now I know he was right.)
5. Speaking of parents: Parents are people, too. They have feelings, and they do not exist solely to make their kids happy and drive them places and feed them and pay their cell phone bills and listen to their complaints and buy them things.
6. When you finish middle school, you might hang out with a few of your middle school friends in high school—but you won’t be stuck with all of them. I’m not saying you should give up the friend search or anything—I’m definitely a believer in perseverance—but if you’re not finding the world’s greatest friends in middle school, don’t worry about it too much. In high school you can start over, friend-wise, if you want to. And if you aren’t loving the high school environment, never fear: When you graduate from high school, you will never see most of your classmates—people whose opinions you’ve spent years obsessing over—again. Really. If you’re lucky enough to have made real friends in high school, you might stay friends with a few people, but that dude in your math class who always gave you the creeps, or that girl who always seemed like she was laughing at you with her friends (even though they were probably just laughing at some random YouTube video) . . . you never have to see them again. Ever. Not even on Facebook, if you don’t want to. So if you feel out of place in middle or high school, don’t worry . . . this isn’t your forever life. You get to start over in a few years—so just hang in there.
7. Getting a bad grade on a test in middle school is not going to destroy your future. (Nor is flunking two tests in a row in calculus in twelfth grade, by the way—though it might cost you being the salutatorian, darn it. But you get over it, and thirteen-year-olds don’t take calculus, so you don’t have to worry about that one till high school, so forget I even mentioned it.)
8. Corollary: Turning in a homework assignment late will not kill you. I’m not saying you should do it all the time, but if you’re a perfectionist like me, then you might need to hear this.
9. Alternate corollary, if you are the slacker-procrastinator type who regularly turns in homework assignments late: Turning in a homework assignment late will kill you (through the vehicle of your parents and their murder-your-social-life-cell-phone-take-away powers).
10. You are probably not going to meet the man of your dreams when you are thirteen. I know, this one’s kind of depressing, but do you know anyone who married their middle school boyfriend? High school, maybe—and that’s a big fat maybe—but middle school . . . not so much. So when your parents tell you not to obsess over the fact that boys are not paying you much attention yet . . . they might actually have a valid point. (Sorry.)
11. Back to the good news: If you don’t like how you look when you’re thirteen, you’re not going to look that way forever. First of all, you probably look a lot better than you think you do; but even if you’ve got braces and wacked-out teeth, or if you haven’t grown into your nose or your feet yet, don’t panic—just give yourself a few years, and watch what happens.
12. More good news: Chocolate probably isn’t giving you pimples. Neither is pizza (unless you are deliberately smearing its grease all over your face). I’ve tried doing without these foods, and my face still had major issues. The trouble is your hormones, and you’re going to get your share of pimples even if you become a gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, salt-free, flavor-free fruit-a-tarian. I’m no dermatologist, but I have been to the dermatologist many a time, and as an Expert Dermatologist Visitor and Payer of Co-pays, here’s my take on the whole pimple problem: If you’ve got a huge zit (or, heaven forbid, many zits), don’t deprive yourself of chocolate and pizza while you’re already miserable. That’s just torture. Go ahead and chase your sorrows away with a little junk food . . . while your youthful metabolism can still handle it.
13. Being thirteen is hard—but it’s crazy fun, too, in a wacky, hormonal, roller-coastery, “sheesh what a crazy ride,” laugh-your-head-off-and-dance-around-in-your-pj’s-while-you-still-can kind of way.