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For My Daughter, on Her First Birthday
It’s a little challenging to come up with meaningful advice for you, because you’re only a year old. If you were, you know, twelve, I’d be great at this (ignore those bitches! flip ’em off! there is no such thing as a “permanent record,” not one that involves grade school niceties, at any rate). I’ve got your back, though. My cousin and I were talking the other day about how much being a tween sucked, and she remembered that one day she told my mother that other girls were mean to her, and my mother (your gran) said: “POINT THEM OUT TO ME, AND I WILL GOUGE THEIR EYES OUT WITH MY FINGERNAILS.” And it really meant a lot to her, even though she didn’t want to actually sic my mother on a pack of bitchy little girls. So, just so we have it in writing: point them out to me, and I will gouge their eyes out with my fingernails. Unless, of course, you’re the mean one. That must happen! I bet there are moms all over the country who assume their child is sweetness and light, and in fact, their child is a real asshole. Don’t do that. There is nothing less important than being popular with idiots in grade school.
Why am I even bothering to say that? It’s like in graduation speeches when speakers say “what other people think doesn’t matter!” as though this were helpful. I’m sure it would be completely liberating and wonderful to not care about what other people think of you. It sounds like it would be something that might happen to you if you were a character in a short story who had a terminal illness. It’s just not plausible. They might as well say “have millions of dollars!” That being said, your best bet is to pick a small cabal of people whose opinions DO matter to you, and then try to live authentically towards that aim. They don’t even have to be real. Sometimes I’m at at the supermarket and plan my trip through the aisles in hopes of impressing Sherlock, as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. You should try it, you’ll never wander through bulk cereal twice because you forgot you needed oatmeal for cookies.
Oh, the body things. I tremble, I honestly tremble to think about the body things. I hope that we are just heads in jars by the time you get there, but since my car’s trunk sensor opens even when not in park, despite what the manual claims, it seems unlikely. I do not have an answer about the body things. You are very beautiful, and I will do my very best to always act as though I believe myself to be very beautiful, and perhaps this will be sufficient? Right now you have skin like the inside of a September peach, for what it’s worth. I don’t know. Let’s table this question for another year, maybe I’ll have figured something out by then.
Love is very important. Domestic felicity is the most important thing, possibly, that there is? That may not be how you feel, which is fine. And, oh, man, please make sure I don’t try to make you be gay just because I’d be so happy if you were gay, so I could be AWESOME about it for you. You’re already gay! Or not! Or gay-and-trans! Or straight-and-trans! See how embarrassing I’ll be for you? Horribly embarrassing. “Look, I’m hip with the kids and their Tumblrs. Oh, you have something else now? In my day, it was Tumblrs.”
You’ll loathe me for a bit, it’s okay. Maybe we’ll go away for a weekend together just as puberty dawns on the horizon, and have a great time, and I’ll tell you: “We’re not going to get along for a few years. We can’t. We have to separate, and then gravitate back together. It’s okay. I know you don’t mean any of the aggravating shit you’re going to say to me. It happens to almost everyone.” Let’s plan on that?
I promise I’m not going to write about you. I feel like I got a pass on that until you were out of my body for the same amount of time you spent in it. (Gross!) And that’s not because I’m a good person, it’s because I don’t want you to write about ME afterwards. Okay? No books. No novellas. Your potty training stories will go to the grave with me. You’re just starting to be a person now. I can already tell a bunch about your personality, which leads me to think that you are not going to wanly wispily drift your way through an excessively bookish childhood like me. Which is great! Be a freaking bruiser, you know? Agitate! Refuse to say the Pledge. Make it hard for me to bullshit you.
But please do be bookish. I go back and forth on this, because your dad is a physicist, and it’s made his life a lot easier to be an intensely numerate soul. Jobs and schools and stuff. It would be hard, for me, though, if you didn’t cry over books. That’s about me, not you. Do both! Or, be terribly attached to books and change the world such that people are all “WHY, A YOUNG WOMAN WHO READS NOVELS! WE NEED HER IN OUR ORGANIZATION TO TELL US ABOUT THE ROLE OF CAPITAL IN HENRY JAMES!”
I hope you are always conscious of how good your life is. You will almost certainly have a better standard of living than 99% of the people who’ve ever been alive. It’s important to think about that when things piss you off, like the Gap being out of your t-shirt size. You have clean water and a college fund and a dog and a cat and two parents who will at least consciously try not to mess you up psychologically. That’s a lot! That’s a really good deal for you. I have subscriptions to baby sites, and everything. One just sent me an email this very hour called “11 poisons babies get their hands on.” Jesus Christ.
Look, I love you very much. I hope you had a nice birthday. We got you an ice cream cake.