Letter to Nine Year Old Me
By Catherine Ipcizade
I know how much you’ve always loved being first. You were born eight minutes before your twin sister. Your name was always said first—Cathy then Beth, because let’s face it—coming out the birth canal in the lead was a huge feat, and you deserved the recognition.
But things are about to change for you. You’ll still be first, but you won’t want to be. This year, you’ll have to start wearing a bra. Not one of those flimsy, flowery things your friends beg their moms to buy them before they actually need them, but a real, bona fide, cup-sized bra. And you’ll wonder, as you fidget with the clasps, if your future is destined to be the same as the memory you have of your grandmother—the one where she lifts her breasts one at a time, spraying Right Guard deodorant under each before she heaves them into her Over-the-Shoulder-Boulder-Holder. You’ll try to cover your chest—with your arms, with sweaters—but everyone will know what you’re wearing. People you thought were friends will tease you from the confines of the tunnels on the playground, and you’ll be embarrassed and angry that they have a place to hide, while you don’t.
So you’ll start running—literally. You’ll become the fastest girl runner in your class, and you’ll love the attention; that is, until the sixth grade—the day of the big race. You’ll start out strong. You’ll feel the wind in your hair, and you’ll hear the cheers. But then you’ll see her—a long shadow of competition edging closer and closer. And those voices that propelled you forward will begin to holler…for her. And just as she starts to pass you, at the exact moment you could plunge forward or hang back and take defeat gracefully, you’ll fake a stomach cramp and quit the race. Because this was the one thing that took the attention off your changing body, and because somewhere between the tunnel and this race, you started to lose your confidence. It’s not gone forever, though; it’ll come back.
By the time you’re in high school, you’ll wear a bra big enough to fit on your head like a helmet. In an unsuccessful attempt to cover it up, you’ll put on some weight. You’ll get bullied for that, too. It’s not easy to be the chubby twin, and kids and teachers can sometimes be thoughtless in speech.
And boys—older boys—will approach you and think you’re older than you are. Don’t talk to them. Other boys will be afraid of you. They’ll break your heart. Try to ignore them; they’ll get over it, and you’ll get over them…eventually.
Next year, before your tenth birthday, you’ll start your period before anyone else. And in the sixth grade, you’ll have an accident that stains your white shorts ruby red. You’ll wonder why you ever wanted to be first.
It’s going to be a rough decade for you, Cathy. You’ll become insecure, and sometimes you’ll get mad. You’ll think no one understands, and most of the time, you’ll be right. And the bullying—it’ll settle like a bowling ball in the pit of your stomach. But you’re strong. You’ll ignore them when you can. And once, though you won’t be proud of it, you’ll fight back—in the seventh grade you’ll slap a boy who makes crude comments to you before school. It’ll hurt you more than it hurts him, but you’ll see the embarrassment on his face. He won’t do it again. Neither will you.
So hang in there, kiddo, because things will get better. Eventually, your classmates will catch up with you—almost. And your intrigue will fade—the bullies will move on. Some of them will get bullied themselves, and you’ll feel sorry for them. You’ll have close friends—friends who are too worried about their own imperfections to notice yours—friends who see the inside of you before the outside. And you’ll find things you love—writing, theatre, books, and photography. You’ll have passions.
As you grow up, the bullies—they’ll grow up, too. They’ll face challenges of their own. Some of them will feel remorse. Some of them won’t remember your name. That’s okay—you won’t remember all of their names either, and you will have moved on. And in time—you’ve got to trust me on this—and with a whole lot of patience and a few too many double-stuffed cookies, you WILL learn to love yourself—Grandma’s breasts and all.
Catherine Ipcizade is the author of 24 books for kids and teens. She teaches creative writing for UCLA Extension and Composition and Literature for other universities online. In her spare time, Catherine loves cooking, photography, and spending time with her family. Catherine’s current work in progress is a novel in free verse for teens. Visit her online at www.catherineipcizade.com.