Dear Peter: A Love Letter to My 16-Year-Old Closeted Self

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It’s 10 years, three states, one botched eyebrow waxing, a few broken hearts, a lot of grief, and a lot of love later. Take a seat. You should hear a few things.

First thing’s first: You are lost as hell right now. I mean, just a milk-spill of a person. Time will clean you right up, and when it doesn’t, you’ll clean yourself.

When you say no, you mean no. Saying no when you mean no is called respecting yourself. Self-respect fosters happiness. It's not a crime to deny someone what he wants to protect what you want.

The gym isn’t intimidating once you realize almost everyone there is moving through some pain. And no one is really looking at you.

Everyone everywhere is moving through some pain.

Your parents love you, but they won’t be able to do right. Not at all. Move on. Literally, emotionally, geographically. There are people who will love you and their love will transform you.

Watch Golden Girls.

Everyone who is popular right now will be intolerably boring in four years. This makes them no better or less than you. You will find your people.

Stop dating someone the moment you want to.

Stop writing the novel because it’s basically a far less interesting and coherent version of The Maze Runner. But keep writing and reading because these things will save you.

Imitating people you admire is only a good idea when you admire the right people. Stop glorifying coldness.

Start tap dancing now. Start saving now. Start doing that thing where you pause a haircut to politely tell the stylist what exactly it is you’re thinking. And start speaking up in class even though you can tell other people don’t like your gay voice. There is nothing wrong with it.

All mean gays hate themselves. Trying to be a mean gay is very surreptitious practice in learning to hate yourself. You will try to be mean because it seems cool. It does not make you exclusive or refined. It isolates you and makes you bitter.

You can only pretend to be mean for so long before you become mean. It’s hard to go back. But it’s not impossible.

When you come out and your mother pulls the car over to the side of the road while driving home from another state, she will tell you to get out. And you will, and you’ll spend hours walking home. In this moment, realize you have a choice.

Home isn’t the house you grew up in.

You don’t have to come out to everyone. Even though a lot of people already think you’re gay. You don’t have to come out now if you don’t want to. You can make it easier for yourself if you want.

99 percent of the time when a man tries to make you feel bad, it’s his insecurity, not yours.

Let yourself fall in love with the polar bear biologist.

The acne will be terrible, and it will get worse. And then it will go away.

And get the eyebrow waxing. It will go very wrong and you’ll completely hate it. But in a few months it will help you love what was there all along.

Disregard this at will. You’ll learn it all anyway.

Peter

Peter Kispert's writing has recently appeared in Salon and has been cited in The New Yorker, NPR, and Urban Outfitters. He served as editor in chief of Indiana Review, where he founded the Blue Light Books Prize partnership with Indiana University Press, and is a recent graduate of Columbia University's publishing program. He lives in New York City.

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