You know that cute guy in history class?
Dear Myself, Circa 1998,
I know what you were doing twelve years ago, the night of March 5 — at least, I have a pretty good guess. After all, Thursday was when Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was on: the new episode that night, according to the Internet, was "Change of Heart," in which Lieutenants Worf and Dax get stranded on a boring alien planet. So after an afternoon of procrastinating and web browsing, you probably watched the new episode, then retreated to your bedroom to finally begin working on your abandoned homework. Perhaps you'd already figured out what you could put off until the next day, and had retreated to bed, curled up around an old Kurt Vonnegut novel and half-asleep in the dim lamplight.
But in 2008, March 5 was a Wednesday, and what I was doing that night was, oddly, thinking about you. Because I was also in my room — this time, my bedroom in my Los Angeles apartment. And Jonathan H. had just come all over my new Target bedspread.
Yeah, you heard me right. Jonathan H., that guy from honors English and History. That guy who never talks to you and plays four sports (despite our high school only having three sports seasons) and is way more popular than you think you'll ever be. I don't remember you ever finding him very attractive — as I recall, you're currently pretty obsessed with that guy Louie, hoping against any basic grasp of reality that one day he'll notice you. So all you and Jonathan H. have in common in 1998 is that you're both sub-par honors students — you because of the procrastinating and TV, he because, well, he doesn't seem very bright. Just smart enough to tread water and — spoiler alert, 1998 Me — go to a second-tier Ivy League school, one that values well rounded extracurriculars more than high test scores.
You've probably assumed that you'll never hear from Jonathan H. again after graduation, but 1998 Me, that's not how this story goes. Because you know that thing called the internet? Which already kind of sort of consumes your life? Well, in ten years you're going to work on it full-time, which means being on every social-networking site and literally sharing a bed with your laptop. It's a fun gig — you're going to like it — especially because of the interesting bits of the past it turns up.
Like, for example, Jonathan H. finding my profile on Facebook, and getting in touch. Because Jonathan H., circa 2008, worked in sales for an Internet start-up, while aspiring to be a screenwriter. And when Jonathan H. saw that I had a degree in film, that I now also worked part-time for at least one entertainment publication, and that after the application of some hardcore cleansers, my skin had finally cleared up… well, Jonathan H. was impressed, I suppose.
1998 Me, trust me. Of all the shit that's going to happen to you between here and there — getting a tattoo, couch-surfing your way across the country, making coffee for sitcom stars — this is by far the weirdest.
Jonathan H. and I spent about two months in early 2008 trading messages via Facebook, a bland correspondence about movies — he was much more up-to-date than I was on the latest releases, but I didn't care too much either way. It was that same indifference that led me to think nothing of Jonathan H., in town for business, asking me out for a drink. And that led to March 5th, and the post-jock bulk of Jonathan H.'s naked body spreadeagled on my bed. And me thinking of you.
I wasn't feeling at all attractive that night — I hadn't showered, I was on my period, it was the midpoint of a long hard week. For the sake of appearances, I might have been wearing a skirt, but I really just wanted to down one martini, hear gossip about people I stopped caring about the day after graduation, and curl up in bed with my TiVo remote. (Um, I don't have time to explain TiVo to you right now, but it's going to be like the second or third best thing that ever happens to you.) Just understand that I started off that night not taking it very seriously.
Why? Because I knew what Jonathan H. must have remembered about you, 1998 Me — the awful clothes, the baby fat, the encyclopedic knowledge of X-Files trivia. I mean, in 1998 you immediately rejected him as a potential True Love just so he wouldn't be able to reject you first. No way in fuck this guy was actually interested in you then, so why would he have been interested in you ten years later — that is to say, why would he have been interested in me? The drinks invitation was just a case of a guy desperate to kill some of his free time while visiting a city where he knew no one.
But that night, after the first martini came the second, and the gossip actually proved to be kind of interesting — your friend Emily? Christian, with five kids! Felix? A pot dealer and reality-show contestant! I found myself not checking the time, not in any hurry to leave. We left the first bar in search of a second bar, just for variety's sake. We switched to vodka tonics. I started telling my funnier, more embarrassing stories, including the fact that I had been an interview subject for a documentary about the San Diego Comic-Con. "I want to see it," he said about the doc. And this seemed like a fine idea to me.
As we walked back to my apartment, I asked him how he remembered me from my high-school days. "You were just a girl in my classes," is all he said, or all I remember him saying. I pushed him a little, demanding the truth, but he shrugged it off. And I let him.
In the years since I stopped being you and slowly became me, I've gotten a little savvier to guys' moves — I now know what it means when someone asks to walk you to your car or invites you over to watch a movie. I know how to read statements geared towards getting a girl alone. But for some reason, this night with Jonathan H., my radar was completely jammed. Because the truth is, 1998 Me, that no matter how far I've come since being you, you're still always a part of me.
That's why he caught me off guard with the first kiss. But by the second, the third, I felt somewhat on top of things. On top of him. The whole time, though, I couldn't stop thinking about you, lurking in my past, the back of my brain. And I wanted to reach out, take your hand, tell you this was really happening. That sometime between then and now, you become pretty and sexy and desired. Desirable enough, at least, for even this four-sport jock to take notice. That one day, you become the sort of person who can actually do this crazy thing. And not even be particularly proud of it.
Because once we're done, 1998 Me, you get up, clean up, kiss him goodbye, and send him back to his hotel via taxi. You keep in touch, a bit, but there are other men, other experiences, and not a lot of time for the old — because here's the thing: you are no longer afraid of the new.
Dude, so many things are going to shock you about the future. Your hatred of physical exercise will be transformed into a passion for two-mile runs. You'll finally master the Agent Scully hair style, but you'll mock the new X-Files movie. And you'll find that it really is true, that even the latest bloomer does indeed blossom. So remember that, and above all else don't let this one fact blow your mind too much: in a few years, you won't have changed much at all, but you'll still manage to be a little bit cool.
All my love to long ago,
The You You'll One Day Be