So, I thought I'd give you some insight into Teen! Kiersten!
First, we have my best friend. She snored. She'd eat chocolate and then throw up all over the place. Sometimes when I came home she got so excited she started seizing. And she frequently knocked over the garbage can and chewed on things too disgusting to mention. She was the best:
BABY PUG. When she ran in the grass, her little legs were so short and her belly so round it nearly dragged on the ground.
Here is Chloe in a more contemplative pose. She was always modeling.
Chloe was very important to me, because I spent a lot of junior high and high school feeling desperately lonely. Sometimes I'd hold her and just cry, worrying that I'd feel like this my whole life. Spoiler alert: I wouldn't. But when I was a teenager it really seemed like I would.
Girls, please remember that you are young. You have so very much time ahead of you for all types of relationships, and just because you might be in an unhappy place now doesn't mean you always will be. I met my husband when I was eighteen, just a few months after one of the most miserable periods of my entire life. And when it was right, it was right. And if it hadn't been right until twenty-eight, or thirty-eight, that would have been okay, too.
Aside from loving my dog, I also loved...boys. Oh, boys. I liked thinking about them and I liked having crushes on them. I was a rather determined flirt, even though many boys were vaguely terrified of me. At 4'11" and 95 lbs I was VERY intimidating.
Oh, wait, you mean it was my fault for refusing to pretend to be dumb? Ah well. Girls: boys who don't like you if they think you are smarter than them are never, EVER worth your time. Boys who like that about you? Those are the gems.
Fortunately I was VERY VERY SNEAKY about liking boys. For example, no one would have guessed that beneath these two pillows I was holding hands with a boy for the first time ever. Riiiiiiight. Super sly, Kiersten. I'm sure no one figured it out.
Spoiler: EVERYONE KNEW.
There was another boy at this time who liked me and had liked me for quite a while. Because the boy I actually liked lived far away most of the year, I encouraged this other boy. (Please see dog paragraphs re: how desperately lonely I was. I regret stringing him along just because it felt nice to be liked. It wasn't kind.) When the local boy found out I'd held hands with another boy (again: EVERYONE KNEW), he called me all sorts of nasty names.
Know what I did?
Stopped talking to him. Girls, if a boy ever calls you a name that reduces you to less than the amazing person you are, cut him out of your life. He has no right to be there.
Speaking of boys, once Teen! Kiersten! went to Mexico with her family and stayed at a rather bizarre resort. While there we met Federico from Argentina, who was quite possibly the most beautiful man any of us had seen in real life.
We also hung out with Carlos, who was adorable and funny and fun to be around. On my last night there, Carlos and I were walking around the grounds of the resort. Saying goodbye, I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "There!" I said, "Just like Mexicans!"
"No," Carlos said, a sly smile on his face. "I'll show you how Mexicans say goodbye." He leaned in, and...
Sorry. This is not a YA novel. He leaned in and I leaned away, stammering that I had a boyfriend. (Please see: EVERYONE KNEW.) But wouldn't it have been a better story if I'd had a sweet summer fling with the cutie-pie tennis instructor?
The worst part of the story is, when I got home and told my boyfriend about it, his response? "You should have let him kiss you."
Yeah, that relationship didn't last much longer.
Girls, if the boy you like seems rather ambivalent about you, it's not your fault and you're not doing anything wrong. It's time to move on. Be by yourself, or find someone who likes you as much as you deserve to be liked. Regardless of whether you are single or dating, surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself.
In retrospect, I really should have let him kiss me, right?
Speaking of kissing, another friend we made at the resort had the most depressing first kiss story I've ever heard. She was eleven, and on a boat, and...drunk. GIRLS: PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME TELL YOU HOW MANY PARTS OF THAT ARE WRONG.
(The boat part is okay, fyi.)
Actually, I'm glad I have a picture of the girl we fondly referred to as the Psycho Dutch Girl:
The Psycho part has nothing to do with the Dutch part. I love the Dutch! The Psycho part has to do with her hiding in the bushes, spying on us.
She actually contributed a crucial element to Evie, the heroine of the Paranormalcy series. PDG was fascinated by American culture, but most of what she knew of it came from television shows and movies. And guess what she was totally fixated on? Yup: LOCKERS!
Thank you, Psycho Dutch Girl!
Anyway, after breaking up with EVERYONE KNEW, and not kissing Carlos, I went on a few fun dates. This was from a dance with a very nice boy:
Spoiler: I didn't kiss him, either. But I would have, if he'd called me.
(Girls: if you like a boy, it's okay to call him! I asked my husband out on our first date. Best decision I ever made.)
And finally, to cap off a more-miserable-than-not high school experience, I went to prom with my new boyfriend.
This wasn't him.
My family was a little excited when we broke up, so they went ahead and got rid of all of his pictures. But I remember kind of wishing at the time I was with this boy instead, anyway. My boyfriend was a very smart, talented, handsome boy, but the biggest thing we had in common was that we both liked boys. It's kind of a hard obstacle to overcome in a relationship.
On so many occasions I wished I wasn't in that relationship. I wasn't happy, he wasn't happy, but for some reason I kept going. Girls, please don't ever feel like you have to stay in a relationship when you find yourself driving in a car, staring out at the night, wishing you were anywhere but there. Decide to go ahead and be somewhere else. If a relationship isn't working, it might be scary to think about being alone. You might be unhappy alone. But...if you already KNOW you are unhappy, what's the loss?
In the end, what I wish I'd accepted more as a teen was this:
It's okay to be alone sometimes.
Find friends who love you and make you happy. Make your parents get you a dog. Develop your interests and don't be afraid to enjoy things. And if you do like a boy? AWESOME. So much fun! And if it stops working, or it never starts working, or it works for a long time and then suddenly doesn't, or you don't even like boys, that's okay, too, because you know what you still have, no matter what?
And you? Are awesome. (EVERYONE KNOWS.)