Answers For My Younger Self
Dear Young Mara,
Hey, you! It’s me, you at twenty-seven. I’m here to tell you one of your biggest dreams is coming true: you’re going to be an author! Congratulations! It’s finally happening.
While I’m here, though, is there anything you want to know?
- Yes, you can ask anything.
- Yes, I’m going to answer your questions like this.
- Because when you were fifteen you read a book of plays by David Ives, and in the foreword he answered a bunch of questions from his fans, but didn’t write what the questions were. You must have thought that was funny, because it stayed with you. Maybe this is an homage.
- Your book will be essays about your life, especially about being young. (It will be written for grown-ups, you’ve put your young adult and middle-grade book ideas on the back burner for now.) I know you like to think of yourself as a grown-up in a child’s body, but you’re really not. And that’s OK.
- Remember seeing the little Penguins on the sides of the books your brothers were reading? Those guys will be publishing your book.
- You submitted a book proposal through your amazing book agent, Alyssa Reuben, and met with some publishers, including a very cool editor at Viking/Penguin, Lindsey Schwoeri. There was some bidding and business stuff and then everything was finalized. They wanted your book, and they’re getting to publish it!
- Yes, a Penguin dressed as a Viking sounds adorable. Your sister thought so, too.
- Yes, you’re still close with Anna.
- The Boys are doing well. You’re closer now that you live in different places and don’t have to fight over the bathroom.
- No, you don’t live in Minneapolis or Chicago. You live in New York.
- Yes, New York City. Not the area of New York where Dad grew up. Be glad, you’ve driven through it, and it’s depressing.
- Yes, you do have a cat! You have two, in fact.
- Dogs aren’t scary anymore. Dogs are great! You like them now they aren’t as big as you.
- Yes, you’re still short. You’ve come to appreciate it, though. There’s nothing more fun than having people judge you by your size and then showing them up. Yoda was right.
- No, you never really did have a Bat Mitzvah. You could do always what your grandmother did and have one at sixty.
- Riding a bike is still hard, but you actually are trying to get better at it.
- Well, fortunately, you live somewhere with reliable public transportation.
- Sports are still hard, partly because you have (as yet undiagnosed) asthma. But you like exercising now! You actually like running. And at one point you worked out so much at the gym you got folliculitis. You disgusting, bacteria-ridden jock, you.
- You also kind of like math now, too. And you LOVE science. Sorry.
- That never really got off the ground. It’s OK, most screenplays by eight-year-olds don’t get picked up.
- No, you never managed to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. I know how badly you wanted that. The good news is no one over the age of 12 really cares that much about the Guinness Book of World Records.
- No Oscars, either.
- You don’t really care about that anymore.
- Or that, either.
- NO NO NO YOU ARE NOT.
- Yes, it’s OK to admit you like the Spice Girls now. You have seen your brothers sing “Still Alive” falsetto on Rock Band, they can’t judge you anymore.
- No. Were you really going to believe a Ouija board? It wasn’t even a real Ouija board. She made it out of a pizza box.
- No, you didn’t go to Northwestern like Mom and Dad.
- You did go to NYU! You thought about University of Michigan, but they didn’t have the kind of program you wanted. You also wanted to go to Emerson, partly because Jon would be nearby, but NYU accepted you and that was that.
- You’re not a more observant Jew. You’re actually kind of the opposite.
- Yes, you have dated several Nice Jewish Boys. Some were nicer than others.
- Yes, you’ve been in love. Sometimes it’s the best thing ever, sometimes it’s exhausting, and usually it’s nothing like you expect.
- No, you are not going to die a virgin.
- No, you are also not going to be a virgin on your wedding night.
- No, you aren’t married.
- No, you aren’t getting married anytime soon. Honestly, you have your doubts about marriage in general.
- Yes, you still like kids and want some for yourself someday. You still aren’t quite ready.
- You have a niece and a nephew, and they’re wonderful.
- Yes. Be honest with yourself.
- Um. Not huge, but decently sized, yes.
- That’s not really a complete question. Are you really that embarrassed? I’m you, I’m not going to judge — OK, that’s not true, I judge you all the time. But I won’t this time.
- Is that all?
- OK, sorry. Twenty, almost twenty-one.
- A dorm.
- Fifteen, unless you count spin-the-bottle.
- It was at Michael’s birthday. It was not with Michael. Michael’s doing well, he’s in Twilight now. You don’t know what that is, but you will someday. Trust me, you will.
- An actor and a “musician.” I’m sorry.
- Yes. You want to be a writer. Of course the answer is yes.
- Almost seventeen.
- Yes, you have. Sorry.
- Twenty-five. It was in the middle of Hurricane Sandy.
- Not really, no.
- I know. I’m sorry.
- No, but once the NYPD pulled you off the train because you had your feet up on the seat. You’ve gotten a little better about mouthing off to authority figures. Just do what Jude will tell you to do and “imagine their genitals stapled to their foreheads.”
- Yes, you loved it there, even when it was hard. It felt like home.
- Yes, you’re still friends!
- We’re back to that? A little.
- Sushi is still gross.
- That’s still gross, too.
- No, that isn’t gross anymore.
- Well, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
- You still apologize a lot, sorry.
- Fuck yes, you still swear a lot.
- Things are better.
- Things are MUCH better.
- It’s just a number, stop giggling.
- You know what, it’s fine. I still giggle when I say “TD Bank” too quickly.
- You don’t believe in that anymore.
- Fine. It’s pink.
- Of course.
- April is the worst.
- No, and I know that’s going to hurt to hear. I’m sorry.
- No, you don’t have panic attacks all the time. You have them a few times a year, now, and when you do, you know how to handle them.
- You still have some symptoms, yes, but again, you know how to handle it.
- You don’t have to be ashamed of it. Having OCD is like having diabetes. Besides, so many cool or famous people have it, too!
- You’re not alone.
- You did!
- Let’s end on a perfect square, I know that will make you happy. Yes, I do: stop trying to control everything. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Being insecure doesn’t make you more endearing. Forgiveness feels GREAT. Please take time to enjoy being your age. Things might suck right now, but they will be better someday. And even when they’re not, at least you can always write about it.
Again, congratulations, we did it!
P.S. Please don’t try to kill me in some kind of time travel paradox.