An Open Letter from Caitlin Moran

I like this.

The letter:

I can tell instantly as when you step up, darling. I know. The posture, the sleeves over the hands, something in your eyes – you the girls who are struggling right now.

Some of you are hard and tense with overeating. Others, anorexic, feel like starving baby birds when I  hug you – a handful of brittle bamboo canes. Maybe your arms are furious with criss-cross razor lines, or studs in your ear, your nose, your tongue, where you have tried to reclaim your bodies from something, or someone, with the snap of a piercing gun.

Sometimes your parents are there – standing in the background, nervous, their faces anxiously projecting, “She likes you. Please make her feel better now. Oh Christ, don’t break her.”

Other times, your parents aren’t there, but still present – their carelessness or rejection as tangible as if they were standing a foot away, casting mile-long shadows.

What do I say to you girl – you beautiful girls? You girls who are having the Bad Year – the Bad Year where you cannot remember why you were happy aged 12, and cannot imagine being happy at 21? What can I say in one minute, two minutes, three minutes?

So many things. That panic and anxiety will lie to you – they are gonzo, malign commentators on the events of your life. Their counsel is wrong. You are as high, wired and badly advised by adrenaline as you would be by cocaine.

Panic and anxiety are mad, drugged fools. Do not listen to their grinding-toothed, sweaty bullshit.

e is a promise, and a fact: you will never, in your life, ever have to deal with anything more than the next minute. However much it feels like you are approaching an event – an exam, a conversation, a decision, a kiss – where, if you screw it up, the entire future will just burn to hell in front of you and you will end, you are not.

That will never happen. That is not what happens.

The minutes always come one at a time, inside hours that come one at a time, inside days that come one at a time – all orderly strung, like pearls on a necklace, suspended in a graceful line. You will never, ever have to deal with more than the next 60 seconds.

Do the calm, right thing that needs to be done in that minute. The work, or the breathing, or the smile. You can do that, for just one minute. And if you can do a minute, you can do the next.

Pretend you are your own baby. You would never cut that baby, or starve it, or overfeed it until it cried in pain, or tell it it was worthless. Sometimes, girls have to be mothers to themselves. Your body wants to live – that’s all and everything it was born to do. Let it do that, in the safety you provide it. Protect it. That is your biggest job. To protect your skin, and heart.

Buy flowers – or if you are poor, steal one from someone’s garden; the world owes you that much at least: blossom – and put them at the end of the bed. When you wake, look at it, and tell yourself you are the kind of person who wakes up and sees flowers. This stops your first thought being, “I fear today. Today is the day maybe I cannot survive any more,” which I know is what you would otherwise think. Thinking about blossom before you think about terror is what girls must always do, in the Bad Years.

And the most important thing? To know that you were not born like this. You were not born scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed. Things have been done – which means things can be undone. It is hard work. But you are not scared of hard work, compared with everything else you have dealt with. Because what you must do right now, and for the rest of your life, is learn how to build a girl. You.

Love, Caitlin

Does anyone know Tina Fey?

Dear Tina,

In May 2007, my best friend L and I graduated from acting school in New York City. Like most acting students from super-serious pre-professional programs, we had a Showcase for agents and casting directors. We each got two 3-minute scenes to try and show all those theatre industry bossypants’ that they wanted us. It’s a psychical crisis waiting to happen.

During the time we called “Showcase Season,” L lent me her copy of Bossypants. Even after I finished the book, I kept it in the dressing room during performances. After facing a sea of our own headshots staring back at us from the audience of industry bigwigs, backstage L and I would refer back to our favorite chapter of Bossypants, in which Amy Poehler tells a room of execs that “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Y’know what, big bad world, we’d say, “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”  That line got us through (and I’m not hyperbolizing—we would have probably had severe nervous breakdowns otherwise).

Only two months into “real life,” on November 16, I went with L to a doctor to get some test results back. I sat with my best friend as the doctors told her that she had lymphoma. The world upended.

L is deep in chemo treatment now. Its physical effects are, of course, extreme, yet the emotional toll is in many ways even more difficult. To L, it often feels like she is losing time—two years of treatment is two years without a career, two years of living with her parents, two years of looking like a patient. She is learning, in the hardest way possible, how to find her identity when the only job she can have right now is to beat cancer.

Tina, your book helped L and I make it through the first test of our self-confidence together. Your words (and Amy Poehler’s) reminded us of the most important role of beauty (“who cares?), that it’s okay and totally normal to be “blorft,” and that life “will never be perfect, but perfect is overrated.”

Now, L is facing a frontier that she has to battle through alone. Yet even more than before, if that’s possible, your writing brings her comfort. You remind L of her identity. Me too.

Thank you for assuring us that there are perfectly imperfect, super-silly selves inside even when the world outside ourselves, like agents, critics, and cancer, seem to scream “NO!” Well, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to say yes. Yes to love. Yes to life. Yes to staying in more! And we don’t fucking care what you think.

If you have a moment in your busy time, might you write/call L? I can’t quite describe how important you are to both of us, and to our friendship. THANK YOU.

I’d really like to be you when I grow up.