It’s really good to be able to talk to you. I think I know you better now I’ve had another 27 years to think about everything we’ve been through together. I understand that now’s not a good time, and you’d rather I didn’t talk to you directly because it all seems a bit much and its wayyyyy too embarassing anyway! So you might find a letter an easier way to hear what I’ve got to tell you. That way you can pick it up when you’re on your own and want a friendly ear.
There’s sooooo much I want to tell you I don’t know where to start. I guess the single biggest thing you’ll find different in years to come is that, believe it or not, you’ll be able to talk to people about all the shit that’s going on in your life rather than keep it all tucked up inside making you feel like you’re going to explode. I know it doesn’t feel like that now. I know that when you’ve tried to open your mouth before it’s all felt too overwhelming and intense. It’s frightened you and it seems to scare other people so you’ve learnt to keep your gob shut unless you’re clowning around, being a smart-arse or having a pop at someone close by.
That’s all going to change one day. But if I could offer one piece of advice – you don’t need to take it, it’s your choice mate – pop round and speak to Jan next door. I know mum’s got enough on her plate right now and it would be just too hard to tell her what’s going on anyway. But Jan is really cool and she’ll listen and you won’t feel so bad.
Remember that shit in the summer with Action Man Scuba-Diver. He was bang out of order mate and it wasn’t your fault. I know you feel like you must be a slag because you were pissed on all the vodkas he bought you and you didn’t fight him off. But, and there’s no easy way of breaking this to you mate, what he did was rape you. Yes I know you think that rapists are ugly men in balaclavas who pounce on innocent girls in dark alleyways like it says in the newspapers. But in years to come you’ll realise that rape is when you don’t say yes to sex and when a 26 year old man who is your scuba/canoeing coach buys loads of vodkas for a 15 year old he’s not doing it because he likes you. He’s doing it so you can’t say no.
You remember that he asked to take pictures of you without any clothes on before that night. Well that made you feel like he was a bit weird right? It gave you that uh-oh feeling in your tummy even though you never told anyone! Well if you tell Jan what happened she won’t think it’s because you’ve been a slag mate. She will want to speak to mum about it, but mum also has a funny feeling about that night too so don’t worry about that. What you don’t know is that mum will also be fucking angry about what happened – but not at you – at HIM. You know how she shouted at Action Man Scuba Diver later when he tried to drop you off halfway down the road gone midnight. Well she’s always remembered it mate and I’m sure that Jan and her will get their heads together to help you deal with this sooner rather than later. In fact I just talked to her about it and she said if you didn’t feel comfortable talking to her then Jan would be exactly the right person to turn to.
You’re brave mate. You don’t feel it yet but later this year you’ll dive into a river to save your friend’s little brother from drowning. Be brave now and trust Jan to talk to and you’ll save yourself years of carrying the secret and the rage and the shame around with you. You get there in the end but if you sort it out now mate you can focus your anger into something that will make you feel strong and confident again… and you’ll stand a much better chance at getting the A level grades you need for veterinary college.
But right now you’re angry. Really pissed off about everything, including yourself. Channel it mate. You’ve got every right to be bloody angry. But go easy on yourself for crying out loud….because right now it’s eating you up, making you hate yourself, telling you that you ain’t worth anything anyway. Why do you think you keep wanting to get drunk? Even though what ends up happening is that you’ll either make a complete tit of yourself or you’ll burst into a blubbering heap of snot sooner or later. I know I sound like an old fart and that you don’t get bad hangovers yet so why should you care what I think? But you’ll thank me in years to come if you backed off of the binge-drinking because, believe you me mate, the hangovers last forever now!
Now for something even more shocking mate. IT’S OKAY TO FANCY GIRLS!!!!! It’s even okay to kiss and have sex with other girls. It’s okay to be a lesbian. There….I’ve said it. The L-Word. You’d love to have a girlfriend really. But wait a minute, there’s also that other feeling you’ve had all your life. Something you can’t really put into words without feeling mad so stand no bloody chance of being able to explain to anyone else yet (though I am sure again that Jan next door would have listened to you try and work it out).
I’m really a boy
It’s always been there mate. One day you’ll work it out that it’s okay to be bigendered and it’s okay for your inner boy to go through puberty and become a man, just like your girl is even now becoming a woman. You know how much you respect and admire Boy George. How you’re drawn to the gender-ambivalence of his image. He’s gay of course! You’ll meet him one day….but you were recovering from a drink being spiked so you didn’t get to say hello. He ends up serving time for enacting violent revenge against a guy who he believed had posted naked pictures on something called the ‘internet’ (in the future when home computers can do zillions more things than dad’s ZX81 from BT). But that’s a whole other story which you’ll just have to wait and see…
But stick with the Boy George thing!! You’ll get to college in a couple of years and then the Evil Witch Thatcher will try bring out a disgustingly prejudiced new law against lesbian and gay people called Section 28. You’ll meet loads of girls, women, boys and men and realise that it really is okay to be proud about who you are!! You’ll also get really left-wing and discover revolutionary socialist political activity. That’s a great channel for your anger but you do also need to concentrate on your education. Don’t keep giving up so easy….especially when you set yourself such high standards that it’s hard always to continually achieve them. But don’t walk away. Learn to be ‘good enough’….it will save you much stress-related illness and cycles of depression in years to come.
Get back into judo mate!! It’s only been a couple of years really and you were dead good! I remember you really wanted to train with the Olympic coach but tore off your toe-nail in the warm-up exercises. Well, you’re ‘good enough’ mate and there’s no reason at all why you couldn’t be ‘good enough’ for the Olympics in time. Your 43 year old fitness levels would really appreciate that too!
It’s been really good to catch up with you after all these years. I hope I haven’t blown your mind. But give me a shout if you want to talk about anything I’ve said. I’m always here. If you can’t talk to me then talk to Jan or mum or find someone else you can trust.
With all my love and respect mate
ABOUT THE BOOK
If you were to write a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would it say? In DEAR ME: A LETTER TO MY SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD SELF, some of the world’s best loved personalities have written just such a letter.
They range from the compassionate to the shocking via hilarity and heartbreak, but the letters all have one thing in common: they offer a unique insight into the teenager who would grow up to be….
Stephen Fry, Alan Carr, Kim Wilde, Annie Lennox, Paul O’Grady, Jackie Collins, Fay Weldon, Peter Kay, Debbie Harry, Brenda Blethyn, Jonathan Ross, Liz Smith, Will Young, Alison Moyet, Rosanne Cash, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Yoko Ono and Emma Thompson… to name but a few! And it’s all for a fantastic cause: the Elton John AIDS Foundation will receive £1 for every copy sold.