Okay, so yesterday, May 5th, was HUGE for me. SAINT ANYTHING, the book that is basically my HEART right now, was released into the world. I got up at 3:45am in NC to fly to Los Angeles, where I had a great event with so many wonderful readers to celebrate the launch. And the tour began! But something ELSE happened, too. An essay I wrote for Seventeen.com was published on the internet, and with that, one of the most personal experiences of my life was suddenly public. This was my choice. I wanted to put it out there. But still, it was jarring, in a way I had not expected.
The article’s title (which I did not write) is I Thought Dating An Older Guy was Cool—Until I Sensed Something Was Very Wrong. It’s a little misleading, in that I did not ever actually DATE said older person, although that was what he wanted. It’s the whole point of the article: how as a teen, you have this need to please, to not rock the boat, especially when it comes to your friend group and community. The article is also about feeling unsure and guilty about signals sent or not sent, getting in over your head, and what happens when you realize you have a voice and that’s enough. Just writing it was kind of wrenching to me: I’m not sure what I expected to happen once everyone ELSE saw it. All I know was that I was in a strange hotel room in LA and this part of my life that was pretty intense was suddenly RIGHT there and I sort of freaked. I called my husband, who told me to calm down, all was well, go for a walk. So I did. Then I came back, turned on my laptop, and saw something amazing.
It wasn’t just me. What happened, what I felt, how it affected me: I wasn’t alone. People were retweeting the article, and telling me bits and pieces of THEIR stories. Other authors I respect and admire gave it a signal boost to THEIR teen readers. This thing I’d always been so ashamed of was going wider and wider before my eyes, and as it did I saw what had happened to me was something that had also happened to SO many other girls. Wow. I’m still in awe of it, still amazed. As I write this, the full article I posted on Tumblr has almost 20,000 notes–and for that, I must thank my friend John Green, who gave it a huge signal boost there. As I write this, I am looking at a picture of myself from a day I wrote about in that article. I was fifteen, and in a picnic in the woods. For years when I looked at this shot I just cringed, remembering that day, how awkward and scared I felt later, and how that girl on that rock in that army surplus tank top has no idea what she’s doing. It made me feel kind of sick, to be honest. Now, though, I see her as so many OTHER faces, voices, names on Twitter and Tumblr. It wasn’t just me. It is such a comfort.
Thank you ALL for reading the article, for reading this, for sharing stories and kind words. Thank you to everyone who retweeted it or reblogged or pointed out to their followers it was worth a look. All I wanted was to let some other girl know if she, too, was in over her head, she wasn’t alone. But it turned out this one heard it too. It helps.
Have a good day, everyone.