Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.
Running late is not my favorite. Those who know me well are chuckling at what a major understatement that is. I don’t really DO late. I am preternaturally punctual. And yet, I wasn’t.
I was rushing to get to my kid’s athletic event, but I needed to use the restroom first. I mean, I almost ALWAYS need to use the restroom first- before everything. And also, after. I darted into the girls’ bathroom outside the gymnasium. In the stall I hung up my purse (because, gross.) That’s when it caught my eye.
It was faint, and a little hard to read, but my eye was immediately drawn to it.
I AM NOT OK
I felt all the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. I searched in my purse for a pencil or a pen. Nothing. I needed to get to my kid’s meet, so I hurried out after taking a photo.
I have no idea who this girl is. How do I help her? What does she need? What can I do? Is she hurt? In danger? Sick? Depressed? Being bullied? Is it a home thing? A school thing? A boy thing? A girl thing?
When I was young, I tried every tactic EXCEPT writing this on a bathroom wall to let people know I was NOT OK. I drank young, and often. I would stay up all night obsessing over my appearance. I starved myself. I underperformed in school. I ran after boys who I knew would hurt me- that was, in fact, often their only appeal.
I remember not being ok.
So now I’m home. Kids’re asleep. My Favorite’s asleep. The dogs are asleep. And I cannot stop thinking about this girl. How long ago did she write it? Does she use that bathroom every day? Does she look to see if anyone responded? If it’s been a while, does that make her feel unseen? Unheard?
Hi. I’m Laura. I might be a little co-dependent.
I’m going back to that stall tomorrow, pencil in hand. I will ask her if she needs help. I will check that stall daily. I hope I hear back from her one way or another.
In the interim, I thought I’d write a letter to her, and all of the other girls who might not be okay right now.
This is not another one of those ‘open letters’ intent on shaming young girls. I am so hand-to-God tired of those letters. You know, the ones disguised as ‘straight talk,’ and loving advice, but really put all the onus of how the world treats our girls squarely on them? The ones supposedly written by mothers protecting their sons?
The only thing those sons are being protected from is personal responsibility.
I hate those letters.
I think most of them are smug and judgmental, and intent on shaming girls for being products of the world in which we live. I am tired of a world that bombards our girls with images of women’s bodies being monetized and then judges them for treating their bodies like currency.
They are learning what we are teaching, and they are buying what we are selling. Sorry. Rant over. This ain’t that.
Dear Necessary Girl,
You are not ok. I hear you.
This is an odd way to meet, I suppose- but here we are. If you are seeing this, it is because you responded YES to the question, “Do you need help?” That’s pretty brave. It’s brave to say you are not okay, and it’s brave to say YES, I need some help right now. Most women don’t learn to do that til they’re much older. You are so ahead of the game, sister.
High school is hard. It’s just so unbelievably hard. It’s hard when there are none of the ‘extras’ that life throws your way. Since I don’t really know you, (although, I suppose it’s possible I do, now that I think about it) it’s hard to discern how best to help you. I guess I’ll just respond the way I would like someone to if it was my daughter asking for help.
You are loved. Let’s start there. You are LOVED, and NECESSARY, and ENOUGH. Sometimes the people in our lives don’t know enough to tell us that, or they don’t know it about themselves. It’s awfully hard to teach what you don’t know. So, just in case, we’ll get that covered up front. LOVED. NECESSARY. ENOUGH. That’s your baseline, okay?
Do you feel different? High schoolers would have you believe that different is bad. High schoolers are not always the smartest. If you don’t believe me, revisit your fashion choices in twenty years. Love, A Child of the 80’s.
Different is FANTASTIC. Different means you are onto something. You’re figuring yourself out before a lot of the others. No surprise there, we already agreed you’re ahead of the game. Smart girl. Different is so much more interesting than trying to contort yourself to fit into a mold not made for someone as glorious as you. Different is great, but it will make things hard for a minute. I’ll let you in on a little secret, though. High school is hard for EVERYBODY- even the ‘it’ girls. At least it’ll be hard for you for a good reason- because you’re being true to yourself.
If it is hard because you are trying to figure out who you are and who you love, there is help.
If someone has hurt you, or is hurting you, it is not your fault, and there is help.
If your relationship with food has become challenging and it is starting to scare you, there is help.
If your home has become unsafe, there is help.
If you think you might have a problem with alcohol or drugs, there is help.
And if it’s bigger than that. If you are in a dark and scary place, if you are struggling to get through the day, if you are battling depression, sweet girl- there is SO MUCH HELP.
If you have asked the adults in your life for help and the call has gone unheeded, ask different adults. A favorite teacher, a guidance counselor, a pastor, a coach, a police officer, a doctor. You keep asking. Sometimes the adults in our lives are part of the problem, not the solution. You. Keep. Asking.
This world is so much better with you in it, honey. I promise.