To: Mme L.F. Indulgent-Scalawags
From: Miss Lily Fields
Woods of the Lake, Northeastern Ohio
Dear Mme Indulgent-Scalawags,
You didn’t mention anything about my cute blond hair, and honestly, I’m almost offended.
Well, I decided not to continue studying with that voice teacher. We had a few…differences of opinion, but you seemed to know that would happen. Now I am studying with a new one who…get this…one of his students is Christine in Phantom on Broadway! (I thought you might be impressed.) He demands I practice several hours a day, as though he himself were some kind of sadistic Angel of Music. He says he can tell when I don’t. We’ll see.
I was thinking about something you said in your first letter, something I disagreed with at first. I’m coming to have a bit of a change of heart.
I’m finding that in my broadcasting journalism class our lab groups never choose my scripts to put on tape. (Apparently, “snarky” isn’t the best tone for the evening news? It would at least make it more interesting.) What I hate is that I get spoken over all the time until the camera is on. That’s when everyone shoves their scripts at me to read. Like I was their doll, or something. There are “real journalism” students, and then there’s me, “the talent.” I hate that feeling.
For someone who has always loved being the center of attention, I am really starting to dread it.
Plus there’s this guy who lectured in our On-Camera Technique class. He ended up at the shop where I work last weekend, and while his girlfriend tried on clothes, I mentioned I that I enjoyed his presentation. He was both cold and hot, and I didn’t quite know how to take it. He said he knew of a job I would be perfect for but I would have to lose some weight and insisted we go out for drinks to talk about it. I didn’t feel right about the whole thing, I mean, his girlfriend was right there. I laughed him off and said, “I’m not twenty-one yet!”
I’d rather quit my job than ever run into him again. Yet he seems to know so many people and be really important. I don’t know what to think.
It doesn’t matter. I’m not twenty-one yet, but I will be soon. At any rate, your last letter gave me plenty to think about.
PS: How did you know my boyfriend was going to Bolivia?
Mrs. Indulgent-Scalawags Responds
To: Miss Lily Fields
Woods by the Lake, Northeastern Ohio
From: Mme L.F. Indulgent-Scalawags
If I didn’t say anything to you about your hair, Lily, it’s because that hair is going to get you a lot of unwanted attention. It’s already starting, it sounds like. I think it looks cute, obviously. But so do a lot of other people who have less innocent intentions towards you than I do.
Listen to me, Lily: the next time that guy shows up, just look him straight in the eye and tell him to get lost. Hold your head up high. Wear his insults like a badge of honor. It would be better to lose your little part-time job at Express for insulting a customer than put up with Mr. Creepy hanging around offering to drive you home.
Whatever opportunities he is dangling over you are not worth the self-doubt you are feeling and the self-loathing you will feel if you let this continue.
Listen to me, Lily: Whatever he says about how you dress, about your cute hair, or your “@!#£ me” eyes: it does not justify his behavior. It’s not your fault. He is a predator with a little bit of power and you are too trusting for your own good.
Listen to me, Lily: What I’m afraid of is that his creepiness is going to become a reason for you to dissociate from your body. Please don’t do that. Please, please, please. Please don’t do that.
Further pep talk about your body.
Your body, Lily, is going to be with you until you are my age, and I suspect I still have a few years to go with mine. The more you know your body, the more you befriend it and care for it, the happier you are going to be. Start listening to it. Start speaking kindly to yourself now. It will pay dividends later.
If you don’t listen to your body, if you don’t know your monthly cycles and pay attention to what makes you feel good and if you simply act like you only exist from the neck up, well…you are going to make a miserable wife to someone some day.
Don’t wait until you have had two babies and a body you don’t even recognize anymore to start loving yourself.
Not that you are thinking about marriage right now, obviously.
Listen to me, Lily: I want you to be obsessive about tracking your monthly cycles. Start a notebook with one page for each day of your cycle. On Day 1, write your symptoms. Day 2, the same. Day 3. Day 4. All the way to Day 28. Then flip back over to Day 1. Do this every day for a year. By the end of the year, you will know that on days 8-14 you are a raging fireball of hormonally influenced bad decisions. And days 25-28? Lock yourself alone in your apartment and do not leave. Do not answer the phone. Do not write letters. Hibernate.
Learn to live with your cycles, Lily, and you will learn that you aren’t crazy. I promise you that 90% of your marital, relational and professional conflicts will be avoided if you just follow this advice. Mr. Indulgent can attest that our life became measurably less conflictual once I understood just how real the impact of hormones is on our relationship. There is no shame in this, Lily. This is just how you were made.
Plus, you will find that there are certain parts of your cycle during which you are most productive, more creative. Other parts during which you are more analytical. These all work together to make you who you are, with all your sharp edges and all your sparkle. As I seek to forge a career as a professional creative person, this knowledge allows me to live in harmony with my body and with my creative process. (Enter quietly from stage left: Peri-menopause. But that’s another story for another time.)
While you are at it, study your creative process. Listen to me, Lily: Study the ebb and flow of your inspiration, creative gluts and dry spells. The minute you can get your hands on this book about living with a creative mind, DO IT! Memorize it the way you would learn your lines for a play. Become a student of what inspires you, how you feel just before your creative bubble bursts. Find ways care for yourself kindly once you start coming down from a creative high so that you don’t hit rock bottom and do something stupid.
I know I just threw a lot at you. I really want what’s best for you. Thank you for reading all the way to the end of this letter.
Mme. L.F. Indulgent-Scalawags
PS: I really want to insist on this, Lily: if you don’t deal with your Mr. Creepy situation you will be putting yourself on a path that will take decades to recover from.
This article is part of a series called Letters to Twenty Year-Old Me
Part One: Dear Miss Fields
Part Two: Miss Fields Writes Back
Part Three: Listen to Me, Lily (You are here)
4 thoughts on “Listen to me, Lily”
I’m glad I discovered your blog recently. I’ll confess I haven’t had a chance to read all of the recent blog posts (you’re quite prolific) but when I’ve had a chance I really enjoy them. I think I’m enjoying these most recent posts because I’m going through a bit of a mid-life crisis myself and kind of wish I could write some letters to 22 year old me. Beyond that, I hope you’re well!
Write yourself some letters, Jonah. Lots of them. A midlife crisis can ruin you or make you better. All next week I am going to be suggesting some ideas to get you through it. Just write those letters. Start now!