Dear Abby

Dear Abby,

You turned 12 earlier this month and you still haven’t received a card or a gift from me. I have sent it. I sent it late. But I did send it, and a gift, so it should be in your letterbox any day now. Honestly. I am so terrible at this Long-Distance-Aunty stuff. It’s not like I forget birthdays and important events – I usually buy the card and gift weeks in advance and pop it on my desk and then the big day comes and goes and the gift and the card are still on my desk. It can’t post itself. I know that. So why don’t I just post it on time? Why don’t I? What is that about?

I have a One Direction collector card and lollipop pack thing sitting in the top kitchen drawer. I don’t know why it is in the kitchen drawer but it is. Every time I need a tea-spoon I see it; Zayn, Louis, Harry, Liam and Niall mocking me and my inability to post things on time. I bought you the collector card and lollipop pack thing on a whim from the local 7-11 months and months ago. I thought, I should send Abby a little something, let her know I’m thinking of her … But it just ended up in the drawer. You probably don’t even like One Direction any more, do you? Have they suffered the same fate as Justin Bieber who you didn’t like, then you did like and now you don’t like again? Bieber spat on one of his fans so I think you made a good decision to move on from him (1D haven’t spat on anyone have they? Oh, and did you notice I wrote 1D – that’s cool right?). What is with that behaviour? I suppose there is a lesson in it for all of us. If you ever get so famous that you think it okay to spit on someone who adores you without even knowing you, the same person who has, in some way, however small, elevated you to this level of fame where, for some reason, you can get away with the aforementioned behaviour then maybe it is time to just take a step back and rethink your life choices.

Now, I have never spat on anyone and I don’t think I ever would. Someone spat on me once. I was on the tram and this woman thought I was spy and said some disgustingly racist things to me (even though I’m not the race she seemed to think I was) and then she spat on me. Yep. That’s when I moved. In hindsight I probably should have moved when she thought I was spy but I didn’t want to be rude or judgemental or anything. So, instead, I got spat on. It was really gross. At least you could bottle up Justin Bieber spit and sell it on eBay to some Bielber for a lot of money.

Even though we can roll our eyes at Justin’s spitting there will come a time when we all, metaphorically, spit on a fan. We will do something that we know isn’t right or makes us feel horrible inside because we want to fit in or feel better about ourselves. Especially when you are 12.

I did it.

I said some really mean things about people when I was hanging out with this so-called popular group (our relationship didn’t last long but it has had a lasting effect). I remember them all laughing at one girl and her bra; a whole group of us laughing over something to do with her bra-strap. It was something so minor and idiotic, absolutely nothing worth laughing or picking on someone about, but I was going along with them because they were the ‘popular girls’.

I felt horrible inside. But I didn’t stop them. I was part of the group.

This group would relentlessly pick on someone because they were fat or thin or short or wore coke-bottle glasses or stumbled over an answer in class or wore the wrong sneakers or couldn’t run fast enough or didn’t play netball well enough or fell over or cried or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time …

It was at this time I also decided to stop eating. The ‘popular girls’ liked me, I was in their group, and I knew the only reason for this sudden acceptance was because I had lost all that baby-fat people love to talk about. Why do people do that? Talk about baby-fat like it is something they can have a comment on like the weather. Is it anyone’s business? Really? Well, I noticed as I turned 12 that is became everyone’s business. People loved to talk about how I was losing it, the baby-fat, with a mixture of sadness and relief in their voices. They all noticed, even my well-meaning year 7 teacher.

What they didn’t notice was that I was losing more than the baby-fat. I hadn’t realised that losing baby-fat is just something that is meant to happen, that is just a part of growing up; nope, I thought it had all started because one day at school I skipped lunch. Now, I’m not dumb Abby (I was reading George Orwell right alongside Sweet Valley High) but that is how anorexia made its way into my brain and took up residence for awhile. So, I kept skipping lunch and eating as little as I could when I was being watched. It was stupid and it made me feel horrible inside. I wasn’t spitting on a metaphoric fan; I was spitting on myself. That is just as bad and even weirder, right?

But, I was 12 and I thought that being really, really skinny would mean the popular girls would accept me and I would be happy. But it felt funny inside. It wasn’t right. I wasn’t happy or healthy. But I didn’t stop it. I was part of the group.

So much of what I was doing when I was 12 was about impressing other people and not about impressing myself. If I could go back and be 12 again I hope that I would be able to be more myself and stand up for the people getting metaphorically spat upon on by the metaphoric Justin Biebers of the school.

When the leader of the popular girls decided we should write a very awful letter to our delightful music teacher I said ‘no’ and I finally left the little in-crowd. They were pretty spiteful but I managed. I discovered that the term ‘popular’ is very misleading in this context Abby. The ‘popular’ crowd tend to be the least popular, they are cliquey and cruel and not many people really like them all that much. Why should they like them? They were bullies. And I was a bully if I stayed with them.

I would like to say that that was that – from that moment I was on my own path and didn’t care what people thought … Of course I cared. I cared when they all started laughing at me and my shoe-laces (which were once considered very cool) and my skinny arms and my inability to play netball. But it gets better. It really, honestly, truly gets better.

I feel like it all begins when you are 12; that idea of going along with the majority, not wanting to cause a fuss, not listening to that little voice inside you that knows that you shouldn’t be laughing at / picking on / gossiping about someone, wanting desperately to ‘fit in’ (whatever the hell that means) …

Abby, please don’t fit in.

Don’t be one of the crowd. The crowd, particularly the ‘popular crowd’ are boring. They really are. Be yourself. Don’t change who you are, what you stand for or what you look like for anyone. You are not boring. Listen to that wonderful Abigail who is inside you and trust her no matter what. If something isn’t right call it, speak up, make it right. Don’t be scared to be different; be proud to be different.

Start your own popular group and actually be popular – inclusive and interesting and different.

And don’t, ever, spit on your fans.

You are a wonderful human being Abby. You are. Enjoy being 12 and enjoy being you.

Happy (belated) birthday. Now, let me know when that card finally arrives.

Missing you and sending lots of love,

Katy

xxx

***

An open letter to my 12-year old niece, and all 12-year old nieces, for the Daily Prompt Weekly Writing Challenge – Dear Abby

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An Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

Please do not step down.

I’m not sure if you read the newspapers any more; I wouldn’t if I were in your position. Recently I stopped reading The Age on-line because they seemed more interested in Kim Kardashian and My Kitchen Rules than, well, news. Today, however, I had the displeasure of reading The Age’s editorial. This piece along with other editorials and opinion pieces from the Australian media might have you feeling as if the whole nation is against you. They are not.

I’m not.

I know many, many people who are not.

I don’t know who they actually poll in the Nielsen Poll but it is never me.

I don’t know who Andrew Holden thinks he is writing for in today’s editorial but it is not me.

So, please do not step down.

I am no political expert. I merely have an interest in politics; I was overly excited to enrol to vote, I read widely about Australian politics, I often write to my local member of parliament and I like to be up to date on policy. That’s it though. I am no expert, nor do I pretend to be, so who am I to tell you what to do?  But then again, what right has Andrew Holden or Mike Carlton or Alan Stokes to tell you what to do either?

As someone who takes her right to vote very seriously I am asking you to please not step down or aside or out. As childish as this may sound (and I sincerely hope it does not) if you step down it means they have won. Who are they? The shock-jocks and misogynists and the right-wingers and even the mainstream media. They have all won. From where I am if you step down it looks as if you have been bullied and harassed until there is no other option but to stand aside for a patronising, condescending man whom we had all lost faith in long ago. The bullies should not win. We all know that you, Ms Gillard, are stronger than that.

There are not enough role-models in Australian politics. Now, I am not saying that I agree with you or support you on everything. I do not agree with your stance on asylum seekers or gay marriage rights to name but two areas. I do agree with your Carbon Tax but wish it had been handled better. I don’t usually even vote ALP and I certainly do not vote for the Liberal Party. Those points aside, you are a role-model to so many women, including myself. Your role as Prime Minister means more than you could ever imagine. For young women to see a woman leading a nation means we can, indeed, do anything and that we are, indeed, equal; for young men it helps instil a respect for women, and highlights the fact that we are all equal and should be treated as such.

I spoke with my 11-year-old niece the other day. She is very bright and has just won a scholarship to a great school. When I asked her about the way you have been treated she said; “Yeah, well, it’s like that for girls”. She went on to say she’d like to be Prime Minister one day but she believed that you, Ms Gillard, were getting treated poorly because “girls have to put up with more of that stuff”. What a terrible indictment on our society. We have girls believing they just have to put up with poor treatment, with misogyny, with disrespect, with bullying because that’s the way it is – deal with it.

In my eyes, stepping down is a way of “dealing with it”.

It is the way women are supposed to “deal with it”: don’t make a scene, be graceful, be humble …

Ms Gillard, you nor any human being should have to “deal with it”. If only the media, the Liberal Party, some of your own backbenchers and all those others who hound you, if only they knew the damage they were causing in the hearts and minds of young women across the nation; young women who could potentially be incredible leaders for this country. But maybe that’s their goal – to humiliate, embarrass and scare women away from important leadership roles and keep us in our traditional places.

I do not believe these wild exclamations that this has nothing to do with gender; it has a lot to do with gender. I have never witnessed the same level of disrespect for a Prime Minister as I have seen thrown at you. Your leadership of this nation has been treated like the scandals that fill gossip magazines – the leadership “battle”, your glasses, your empty fruit-bowl, menu-gate, your martial status

Prime Minister, you are not the reason for a lack of, as Holden writes, “policy-driven democratic debate”. Of course that debate occurs. The mainstream media just chooses to write, talk and focus about this so-called “leadership battle” as if it were the latest Hollywood break-up. We are not being given the news we want or the news we deserve. We are being fed rubbish to distract us from what is really happening in this country.

Please do not step down; please show my niece, her friends, young people across the country and future generations that bullies cannot win. You have already shown us that women need not “put up” with the outdated, misogynistic attitudes you face daily.  Please show us that Australian politics can be decent, can lead the way, can be full of good policy and without character-assassination, especially that which is based on gender. Please do not step down– for if you do I fear my niece, her friends, young women of future generations may never feel they have the opportunity to be a leader.

Yours truly,

Katy Warner

An open letter to the neighbour I have not met

Dear girl who lives in the apartment below,

I haven’t met you yet but I feel over these past four months or so I’ve really gotten to know you. Weird huh?

You and I aren’t so different – I hope one day we may be friends as we really seem to have a lot in common:

I laugh a lot. You laugh a lot. Yours is really loud laugh but I think that’s a good thing in a laugh.  Mine can be loud sometimes too, I’m sure of it. Your laugh, however, arrives at unusual times –like 3am on a Tuesday morning. I suppose that’s good in a laugh; being spontaneous and unexpected. I like unexpected laughs. You know sometimes I laugh when I’m not really listening properly to someone. You ever done that? Like you’re not listening at all, you’re just sort of watching their face and listening to the rhythm and melody of their voice and then there’s a pause and you think that’s your cue for a laugh, so you do but as your overly loud laugh escapes you suddenly realise … NO – this is not where I was meant to laugh! But it’s too late now and they get all upset because they were talking about their divorce / the cat they ran over / how they lost their job / cancer / palm oil and now you look like some sort of sadist – kinda like how you come across when you burst into really, really loud laughter for a really, really long time at 3am on a Tuesday morning.

I am clumsy. You are clumsy. Sometimes I think my clumsiness is endearing in that romantic comedy Meg-Ryan-Goldie-Hawn-esque way … I walk into things and trip over things and fall up stairs. It is sometimes hilarious, often embarrassing, but it just is. And I hear that you, too, have the same issue. I can hear you falling over and tripping over and dropping stuff … Usually at 3am in the morning. Which is another major difference I suppose. I mean, I have fallen over at 3am but that had nothing to do with clumsiness and was not really endearing at all …

I like sex. You like sex. And I am happy that you are getting such GREAT sex – as you tell us, very loudly, at 3am. I understand this. Absolutely. I’m all for self-expression. But I do wonder if the aforementioned ‘self-expression’ has to sound like a hippopotamus with a loud-speaker? And if it does, which is fine if that works for you guys, does the hippo have to have a frickin loud-speaker at 3am?

I like to talk. You like to talk. I can get loud when I talk. Like, I get on my high-horse and just GO and no-one can get a word in and … well, I’m sure you get it. Your vocal projection, however, is something else! I wonder if you are even conversing with someone in the same apartment / building / suburb. That kind of vocal endurance is impressive – maybe you’re an actor too? That’d be something else in common huh?

I like to slam doors to make a point. So do you.

I like to listen to music. So do you.

I like to sing. So do you.

I like to jump and run. So do you. (I do prefer to that outside but whatever)

I like to sleep. So …

Nope, there it is – the deal-breaker. “But why?” you ask, really, extremely, unnecessarily loudly …

Why?

Because as much as I  like late nights and staying out and drinking and having fun and so do you … When I get back to my place, my APARTMENT, in a BLOCK OF APARTMENTS, all in VERY CLOSE PROXIMITY, I like to be aware that there are people living REALLY CLOSE-BY, like REALLY, REALLY CLOSE-BY.

Because I do not like your

laugh

clumsy antics

dance-moves

sexual encounters

arguments

hippopotamus impersonations

loud voiced, one-way conversations

running

jumping

falling over

door slamming

bad singing

big stomping

I do not like anything except sleep at 3am on Tuesday morning…

Please be more considerate.

Kind regards,

The girl who lives upstairs

FYI: