From Cinnamon Gurl (February 2007)
Dear Katie (January 1992):
Thank you for your two recent (well, ok not so recent) letters (well, ok they weren't addressed to me specifically, but they weren't addressed to anyone else either so I think they were really for me). Sorry it's taken me 15 years to get back to you... I guess they got lost in the mail (or mom's attic)?
I was proud to open the shoe box of papers and discover among them, some copies of Al Purdy's poems, especially Arctic Rhododendrons (we still love that poem) and a quote from Taming of the Shrew:
"That being mad herself, she's madly mated
I warrant him, Petruchio is Kated." III, ii
I wasn't so proud that pretty much all the letters that you never sent our sister only reported boy crazy news. Although maybe that's why you didn't send them, which would be ok. The letters you wrote but didn't send to our brother are slightly more interesting and less embarrassing. Years ago, he told us how much he admires us, and we were floored. As adults, we get along a lot better with our siblings than you do now/then.
The first time I came across the two letters with no particular addressee, I felt a physical ache in my chest. I remember how unhappy you were, and now that I am able to finish reading the letters two months later, it's all right there on the paper: how you hate yourself, how you feel like everyone is judging you by your weight gain, how you don't feel like you can talk to anyone about it but how desperate you are to share some of your burden.
I want you to know you aren't pathetic. You're a teenager, and despite what mom says, being a teenager sucks. It's the worst part of life. She's some kind of alien creature, the only person we have come across that enjoyed high school. Everyone else just survives. You aren't boring. Once you gain some confidence, people find us quite intriguing I think. You won't be shy forever... in fact we asked out our first boyfriend, which I think is pretty cool.
If I could, I would reach across these fifteen years and give you a hug. Hang in there. You won't be miserable for much longer.
And you know all the answers, they're all right there in your letters. You've already given up weighing yourself, which is a good step (although be warned that during pregnancy, they weigh you a lot). You know that just losing weight won't make you happy, that 'fixing' your body won't really fix your feelings.
That said, you will lose weight and soon. Then you'll gain some and years later lose it and find it again. But more importantly, you will learn to like yourself, to reject our culture's unrealistic ideals of beauty, and to accept your physical 'flaws,' even to like them, I think. It takes considerable effort, but it's one of the things I am most proud of, and makes life so much more pleasant. Eventually, you will take pride in what your body can do (belly dancing! horseback rding! er, um, sex and the Big O! growing and expelling a baby! breastfeeding!) above what it looks like.
Soon you'll start asking people to start calling you Kate instead of Katie, and you'll grow into your more mature name.
You may be a later bloomer than your friends, but our first boyfriend isn't that far off (I won't tell you exactly how long), and university is a blast! (Well mostly... there are a few painful life lessons in there, but we survive.) A word of advice: don't bother signing up for classes before 10 in the morning in the first couple years or before noon in the last couple. Waste of money.
So I know you want to know what our life is like 15 years later, even though I know your mind doesn't actually compute anything beyond the year 2000. Nothing much happened then, by the way, and the world now usdoesn't really resemble a sci fi novel... well not really. Maybe it's just that the changes have been gradual enough for us to get used to them instead of freaking out. I'm torn, because I kind of want to leave the details as a surprise, but I also want to share them.
We have a wonderful husband, who really loves us for for ourselves, and enjoys our changing shapes. We enjoy being annoyed by his quirks and idiosyncracies, as he does by ours (well, mostly). He has a sexy South African accent (just like that lady you work with at Burger King but sexier), and a beautiful warm smile that crinkles his eyes up. We have a son, who has the same smile and the same eyes, and is seriously the most adorable baby ever. Seriously. And life with a baby is way more enjoyable and rewarding, and way harder and more intense, than we ever imagined. We have a job we enjoy, writing and editing, but haven't done anything so exciting as write a book (we did have a poem published and an interview with Al Purdy back around 96-ish. Oh yeah -- that's something that comes with age: referring to objective years instead of using relative terms like three years ago... the numbers eventually get too big to calculate easily). Don't worry, we don't have a mini van OR a picket fence, but we do own a house with a crumbling patchwork fence and a new car. Oh -- and we just got a cleaning lady. Sorry. I know it's totally Mom but our pack rat tendencies haven't really abated. (I mean, we still have the purple docs you're wearing as you read this!) We don't really write poem anymore, though we did write one this past summer. But we've been making photos... check it out!
(Yeah, we got to go to South Africa -- twice! Although we're not the world traveller we fancy ourselves some time between you and me... but that's ok. We've accepted our mostly home body status.)
Oh, and I know this will make you sad, because it's such a huge part of your life, but we haven't ridden a horse in several years. I know you adore Bailey devotedly -- don't worry, that part doesn't change -- but we sold him when we went to university. It wasn't fair to leave him in the field in the prime of his life. We haven't been able to bring ourselves to visit him because he holds such a special place in our heart. If he were thriving, we would be upset, and if he weren't, we would be upset. So we don't go. But we enjoy the occasional dreams we have about riding him still.
Soon you will get your driver's license and gain some beautiful freedom out there in the boonies. You will enjoy the wind in your hair and a car full of friends and good tunes on summer days. Those will be good days. Why don't you take some pictures? Soon you will really discover booze and cigarettes, and mom will bust you on the butts. Several times. Soon you will discover she has a nose like a bloodhound. You may as well enjoy it while you can. Eventually you stop the self-destructive behaviour, and it's all part of an important learning process. The boy craziness won't really subside until shortly before you meet our husband -- but I'm not gonna tell you exactly when that is.
Oh -- maybe stop writing letters to celebrities and leaving them for me to find. The one to Todd Stottlemeyer wasn't bad (actually it was kind of cute with the marriage proposal and subsequent retraction since you didn't even know him), but the one to Kish was horribly embarrassing: I couldn't get past "I think you're an amazing rapper and amazingly sexy." Especially knowing that the guy wasn't even a one-hit wonder. Oh crap. I've just caught sight of the "Peace Bro" at the end of the letter... I'm cringing hard at that.
So... hang in there. You are a wonderful person, and it won't be long until you can see that yourself. I love you!
PS Thank you for writing those letters. If our son, or any future children, have miserable adolescences like we did, I will have proof that I have some knowledge of what they are going through. So I will put your shoe box of letters and poems in the closet with our other mementos, until we meet again.