Category Archives: Open Letters

What we talk about when we talk about adult acne

Photo credit: Genista

Photo credit: Genista

It gets better, they said. Just wait. Soon it will all make sense. Soon your hips will stop widening, your jaw and nose will grow in equal pace, you’ll understand bra sizes and stop being embarrassed when you buy tampons.

Soon you’ll understand how wonderful it is to be an adult, to choose your own breakfast and buy your own poptarts, if that’s what you want.

Chase your dreams, they said. Soon you’ll be achieving them. Follow your heart. Soon you’ll be making great decisions all the time and relationships will be easier and it will all make sense. Everything will make sense, even the fact that we live on one of 200 billion planets in our galaxy and that the universe is infinite, truly infinite.

And acne – soon the acne will stop. You won’t have to spend 121 hours every year scrutinizing your pores, determining which ones deserve to be squeezed and which ones must ripen.  You won’t be jealous of the girls in the Clean & Clear commercials or spend significant amounts of time imagining where you would send all the pus in your body if you could choose to just have one perpetual pimple.

And I won’t say I was lied to. I won’t say that I was deceived by those people 18+ in my life who knew exactly what was coming to me. I won’t say I was deliberately led to believe in a fantasy no more real than sea monkeys or the first moon landing.

I believed what I wanted to believe – I pieced together the various messages of my childhood and adolescence and came to believe that once I turned 22 or 23, I would have it all figured out. I – and everyone else – would be living our dreams, wearing clothes that fit and laughing together while eating pasta at a restaurant. And our skin would be clear. It would be completely clear, with not a zit, pimple, blackhead, whitehead, subterranean or squirter to have blemished it in many many years.

Photo credit: Garrette

Photo credit: Garrette

So when we talk about adult acne, we talk about the cruel reality of adulthood, the fact that we still don’t have the answers and know we may never have them. We talk about the fact that relationships are still confusing. We talk about how social media and technology has let us down in some unnamable way, and the despair, apathy, or vague outrage that we feel when we read about politics and the NSA and privacy and drones and the daily body count in Syria. We talk about wanting more in our lives, wanting clear skin, wanting a clear vision.

They told us to follow our dreams but never said that almost everything would be put in the way of that. They told us to make

a difference, but they didn’t say that society often villainizes or kills those who try. They promised clear skin, and still I have blemishes, and now I pay for my own face wash.

They didn’t tell us, but that’s okay. They probably didn’t know what they were doing. Now that we know more of the truth, we can move on, complain together about our acne, and get ish done.

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Dear High School Crush

Not our actual high school. No romance was here.

I hope you’re doing well. We haven’t talked in a couple of years, except for that random facebook message you sent me semi-recently which I responded to coldly just to let you know that whatever kind of crazy non-romance we had between us is definitely over. Thanks for the chance to reminisce.

We could have ruled the school, you and I, you with your skinny arms and me with my daring sweatshirt/dangly earring combo. I thought the two went together because the white bangles in my earrings matched the white letters on my sweatshirt. Years later, part of me still wants to believe that they do.

A couple of months before we parted forever, we had a little spat regarding a certain writing instrument. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the details. As a result of this disagreement, I believe I posted an angry message on your wall, which you deleted.

In return, I erased all of the facebook messages you had sent me in which you asked for advice in another romantic relationship. I’m not sure this had the desired effect on you that I wished it to, but it does keep me from reminiscing too deeply and rereading all of them. Perhaps I should be thankful.

On that recent trip down memory lane, however, I saw that I had called one of the teachers at our school a “skanky ho betch” in the last message I sent you. For that, I’m truly sorry. I assure you that I have grown personally and that my derisive names are much more sophisticated now, dummy.

For a while after graduation I would stalk you on facebook. And then one time we ran into each other at the University of Oklahoma’s freshman orientation, when I was visiting a real friend. That was the last time I talked to you, besides the facebook message. You didn’t confess your like for me then, and I’ll admit I was disappointed.

You and I both know what happened between us, the tale of unspoken like, how I would look forward to my classes with you, how I practiced your signature and watched for you at your car. Okay, maybe you didn’t know, and that’s probably for the best. At any rate, I wish you all good things in life, and I’m doing just fine myself. I only cried three times in the last week, stress-ate 6 bowls of ice cream, and compulsively cleaned once. And I read a book.

We’re both going to make it, I hope. Maybe we could even be friends. That is, if you’re as cool as you were as a junior in high school.



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An Open Letter to My Reba McEntire and Brooks and Dunn T-Shirt

The real heroes.

We’ve come a long way haven’t we? I remember when you were all trussed up in wrapping paper beneath our tree. You were a Christmas gift from my big brother, and you were from a thrift store and a handful of sizes too big. When I ripped the paper off of you that sunny morning in December and saw those three pairs of eyes twinkling from the breast of the shirt, I knew I’d found a couple of buddies that would stick with me for a long while.

Oh Reba, oh Brooks and Dunn, we’ve had a lot of good times. You came with me up to Boston and we showed those people what real Americans are like. I wore you underneath a duck-patterned prairie dress to a formal party and we danced the night away, worrying only about when the music would stop, and not caring about pit stains. Life’s too short to worry about pit stains.

Now we’re here in San Francisco, another city on the bay. And I’ll be honest with you Reba, Brooks, and Dunn: I’m tired. My computer woke me up this morning at 6:30 because it was whirring so loudly, panting like a butcher on the 4th of July. A couple of hours later I went into “the city,” which is what the folks up here call “San Francisco,” and had an interview at 10 o’clock for a job that I’m not sure I even want. While on the way to the train station a young British hippy asked me if I wanted to buy an apple. He had two tiny apples in his hand and I said no and he said thanks for smiling and nice hoodie.

I wish you could have seen him. More strangers talk to me up here than most anywhere else I’ve been, but it’s not too bad. What would you do, Reba? Would you sing them a song and lift their spirits? How did you know what you wanted to do, and when you figured it out, how did you get it? Can you really have it all?

One day I’m going to have it all too, but right now I’m tired. I’m going to finish my coffee while staring at you three, your eyes sparkling back at me and then maybe I’ll get the big idea and we’ll all have to admit my brother is the genius we always knew he was.

You’re the real heroes, you the t-shirt dwellers, the silent inspirers. How many have you cheered on to victory with your never-ending mirth? No matter what the Californians say to you up here, no matter what they think of you or what kind of names they call you because you’re not from somewhere that has a San in front of it or some other liberal name, just remember that to me you are special. I love this t-shirt and am going to wear it more often so people around here can get some freaking cultural education.

I came not a moment too soon.

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Dear Blog, I’ll Always Love You

Faces blurred to protect identity. Photo credit: Jen Dillender

Hey blog,

How’s it going? Did you hear my sister finally got married?! The wedding was stereotypically beautiful and all that crap. I should have stolen her wedding presents while I had the chance. Now I’m going to Colorado and then San Francisco and who knows when I’ll be back to use her new ice cream maker and name-brand kitchen ware.

I got blood on my bridesmaid dress. I’m pretty sure it was my own. It’s okay because I sucked it out—turns out saliva works pretty well on fresh blood stains. I’ll tell you how it happened later.

My stress-ear cleaning needs to stop. I gave myself another ear infection, but this time it’s on the other side. I sure hope these pills I found help. Do you crave human blood too?

Sorry I haven’t had time for you lately and won’t be around for the next week. It’s not because I don’t love you. I really do, but you see, sometimes I have to go places and hang out with family and be outdoors. You know I’d rather be spending that time with you in a cave, but other people just don’t understand me the way you do.

I’ll always be yours, and you”ll always be mine.



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Open Letter to the Brown Upright Piano in Our Living Room that I Played for Eleven Years and then Abruptly Abandoned Upon Graduating from High School

an actual photo of a piano drowning in heartbreak

Hey you. It’s been a while hasn’t it? How have you been? You look good– I noticed your new picture frames; they go really well with the Bach bust and the fake plant, and I’m not just saying that. I mean it. I would never lie to you.

Well I guess there’s no point in avoiding the subject, so I’ll just come out and say it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry that after the thousands of hours we spent together over the years I just left you like you meant nothing to me, like you were something I was ashamed of and wanted to forget. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for those wonderful years we had, only to have our relationship ripped away from you without warning. All those days we spent frolicking in the sun, meandering through hidden forests filled with magical creatures, exploring alien planets, visiting ages long past. While the rest of my family was tortured with the endless repetition that is piano practice, we were somewhere else entirely, floating above imaginary canyons colored fuchsia and turquoise, never scared when we were together. You have to know I’m telling the truth.

And I’m sorry for all of those holidays I spent at home while visiting from college, when I would avoid looking you in the eye. I’m sorry about the way I would whisper of what we once had and act embarrassed when anyone brought it up. I’m sorry. I didn’t know how to deal with all of it, with the way my life was changing and the way it seemed you would no longer have a part in it.

At some point we have to admit these things to ourselves. You knew I wasn’t a brilliant pianist. Don’t try to deny the truth. Sure I practiced a lot, and sure I was “advanced” and perhaps my teacher’s best student, but I didn’t have the shimmering gold talent it takes to be a real concert pianist. More importantly, I didn’t have the passion. I tried to tell myself I loved playing, and I think I believed it. Sometimes it felt so real, as we were tramping through the villages of Eastern Europe in a mythical spring, stars falling around us as we twirled upward into the night.

But at the end of the day, it was a ruse, a lie I was telling myself.  I didn’t have the passion it took to be excellent, and the love I had for playing came from a love of being the best. I know all this now, but at what cost! Oh my dear piano, you have to know it wasn’t your fault. There’s nothing you could have done. But know this: we still had everything, for a time, those beautiful early mornings in winter, the world dark and frozen outside but us warming ourselves with the glow of quarter notes, the quiet afternoons when I was alone at home and could play as loud as I wanted in front of the only audience that truly mattered: you and me.

I will always remember you, even if I forget how to play entirely, even if my parents sell you to a lady named Fern without telling me. I will always remember you and me, a girl and her piano, and how life seemed better together. I can’t forget something that’s a part of me.

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