Here’s the second installment of my ‘Letter to redlipstickgirl’ series (you can read the first letter here) which is me talking to my younger self. A tad indulgent, I know but so much fun to revisit my childhood memories. This post was triggered by my daughter, P.
P has a bag for her ‘stuff’. Her stuff is things she takes everywhere and preciously keeps away from her thief brothers. She puts her bag by her bed when she goes to sleep, hangs it on the bathroom’s door knob when when she goes for a pee, or hides it under the stroller when out and about. I do empathize with her pathological need to have her very own possessions. You get like this when you have close in age siblings. I myself still get irrationally territorial with things like hair and shoes. I don’t like it when my sisters cut their hair short because it is my thing; I am the one with the short crop and with the sole right to look like a Thai ladyboy when not wearing any makeup. And I don’t like to lend my shoes; my bras, panties, jeans are all green lighted items but my shoes are a NO-NO. Luckily for me I have big feet for my height which not only allows me to keep my balance when tipsy but also prevents sisters who shop in the children shoe section from borrowing my leather boots.
Anyway, the contents of P’s bag vary with some regulars like lip balms. But mainly her stuff according to her is divided into things she needs now and things she keeps for when she is older (‘pour quand je serai grande’). I do oversee what is in her ‘Older P’ bag partly because I am worried about what message I convey to her about women and partly because I don’t trust her to wait to consume… I thus said yes to candies and perfume but said No to red lipstick and chewing gums. I wonder whether I have the right attitude about all this and should instead let her construct her own views of her adult self. One thing I know is that I would like to say less often things like ‘You’ll have this or be allowed to do that when you grow up’. The more I have been saying it and the less this actually makes sense. I am still pondering about why it feels off and will resume this train of thoughts in a later post.
Meanwhile P’s bag inspired me to write this letter about the things I cherished.
you got very upset last Christmas when a mistake in the Christmas catalogue order landed you with not a Chrystal Barbie doll but a pink bathtub. You are pissed off that your parents would not buy a doll to make up for their mistake. They say that you have used up your Christmas gift allowance. You are embarrassed when the school organizes ‘bring your Christmas gift’ play sessions. Your classmates all ‘mate with each other’ through their brand new Kens and Barbies. And you are standing there like an idiot with your stupid pink bathtub and no doll wants to take a bath. At least you have something to show off unlike your classmate S. who doesn’t have shit because her folks did not celebrate Christmas. You then get mad at your teacher; this post Christmas play session is such a moronic idea.
Well, young lady, let me tell you that the bathtub story will make many people laugh to tears during dinner parties in your adulthood. You will keep laughing about it, in fact. I have forgotten all the dolls I ever had but never forgot the bathtub that I have kept for many years to come. Because eventually Barbies do need a bath. Always. Besides you will use one day the metaphor of the bathtub to define yourself and write: ‘Like a Mattel bathtub, I am not the shiniest toy in town but I am reliable, sturdy and I matter’. Hope this can be a consolation to you.
Another thing that you are treasuring but will keep it a secret is your illustrated dictionary for children. You often have it by your side. Your dad is proud; he tells everyone that you are a smart one and that the only things that interest you are books. You do like words but I know the main reason you like your dictionary is how polyvalent it is. It can be a bed, a minivan, a screen for your Barbie doll (that you will end up having the year after the bathtub fiasco) to change clothes etc. The pages illustrating different landscapes or rooms in a house are limitless decor sets for your Barbie. It only costs $3 and can be easily stored on your desk.
You have no idea how your dictionary is inspiring to me these days when I start wondering if I should buy any toys for my kids. See, I almost never buy them anything because they get pretty spoiled by other people. Sometimes I feel a tad guilty about it but remembering you play pretend to fry eggs in front of page 54 (aka the page on the kitchen appliances and utensils) helps me hold a firm stance on this.
There is also this other thing that you stole from a mall during your ‘I am such a rebel little thing’ period: a box of colored plastic elastic bands. You don’t even know why you stole it: for the trill, because you liked the colors, because it was so unneeded that you really had to have it. Not sure but it became your the reminder that you could be a badass delinquent from La Banlieue but chose not to. The truth is that a month after your elastic bands theft, you will get caught by security guards trying to steal oversized bras and baby socks… This episode will cure your kleptomania for life. Yep, the security guards will hardly have the time to scold you because they will have to reanimate your mom with salts. She will faint and drop on the floor like a dead fly. She will not believe her own eyes that her goody two-shoes girl is a thief…Yep treasure your cheap elastic bands because they are the last thing you will ever steal.
NB: you will actually steal something else in your 20s: beer glasses from English pubs. Not very classy. If you can try to control yourself, it would be nice. They are really a pain in the ass to pack and move from a city to another.
P and her bag
Come on girls
Do you believe in love?
‘Cause I got something to say about it
And it goes something like this
A fun and moving letter by Jhanis to her 7 year old self and this beautiful response from Stephen Fry to a letter 16 year-old Stephen wrote to his future self inspired me. I decided to write to a certain young, naïve and angry redlipstickgirl. I was not sure at which age I’d like to talk to her and thought, why not do a series? In this first installment, I am writing to teenage redlipstickgirl (14-16 year old). I put these years together because a lot of shit was going through my head then. It is a scary exercise but I promised, when redlipstickmama was born, that I was always going to push my own boundaries in my search for my new self and nothing and no one may be spared. So here it goes.
You are spending a lot of time, way too much time, in your bedroom. It is covered with ugly wallpaper with windmills print. This ugliness is too much to bear and you are staring at glossy posters of Madonna and Norwegian boy band A-ha, dreaming of a country far away and wishing to flee the boredom of la Banlieue Parisienne where nothing, absolutely nothing, happens. You fucking hate la Banlieue. Surely, there has been some major cosmic fuck up because you cannot belong here. You think about how Madonna supposedly left her home and arrived in Times Square with $35 in her pockets to become..well, Madonna. You think, can it be that during her pre-fame stay in Paris, she had a fling with some Asian dancer dude and I am her long lost child? Breathe deep, girlfriend. Madonna is really not your mother but you will live in a far away country one day and you will give a go at your own American dream. It is going to happen so for now perhaps you could open that window of yours to enjoy the sun and listen to your neighbors mow their lawn even though you hate it. By the way, in twenty years, you’ll still hate that sound; it will still put you in a weird spleen. Something even weirder, in your mid-twenties you will start to proudly boast that you are from La Banlieue in the middle of snotty cocktail evenings where people talk about social justice but never suffered from exclusion themselves. Also, there is this very cool moviemaker Matthieu Kassovitz who will shed some light on La Banlieue in the movie, La Haine. It’ll make you feel sad and angry and you will then realize that perhaps you grew up there and survived it just to tell others.
No one chooses their family. And one day, you will actually accept yours. One day, your mom will stop gambling your family home playing Black Jack and your dad will stop threatening her to use a Samurai sword if she does not give it up. One day, in about 15 years, you will look at their vacation photos in Laos and you will be shocked to see them very much in love and holding hands. Surreal? It is true though, it will happen. One day, you will not think that your dad is a tyrant but a sweet old man who will help you hobble out of the maternity ward after you delivered your younger son. One day, you will tell your little brother that you love him on his wedding day so stop acting like a crazy bitch and stop chasing him around the dining table with a kitchen knife. This image will haunt you for the rest of your life. Trust me.
Talking about being a crazy bitch, I know you are about to barge into a neighbor’s house in the middle of the night to interrupt a cards game and rip your mom’s gambling partners apart. You will say something like that: ‘You selfish bastards, why did you drag her all the way here to play? You know she is an addict. You know she has a 3 months old baby at home who is crying, a husband who needs to go to work at 5 am and 3 other kids who want their mama home. You should be ashamed of yourself, losers!’ Well girl, kudos, kudos. Do not feel embarrassed; do not let their uncomfortable chuckles unsettle you and just rip them apart. Because it will be one of the proudest moments of your life. Because sometimes when I feel weak now, I remember your courage and it inspires me… Also, if you have not done it yet, please take a container full of padek (stinky fermented fish that Lao people adore) and splash their faces with it. Also do know that some of these gamblers, when old, will redeem themselves in the eyes of their own families. Funnily enough, some will continue to fear you as an adult because you will always be in their eyes the demented girl in her pajamas who barked at them and told them their sad truth with all the anger and conviction of her youth.
On the topic of your body and how you look like…You have cried, not often, perhaps twice (and it’s already twice too many), because some stupid boys daily heckle you using a moron moniker ‘moustache’ or offer you a razor as a secret Santa gift. All this because you have facial hair. You spend nights cursing them and swear to get your revenge once you take over the world. Well, it is not going to happen sweetheart (sigh) but soon you will be able to afford wax and most importantly you will meet a guy who in the first 15 years of your relationship will never see your upper lip hair because he is totally short-sighted. Plus you will not even remember those losers’ names and faces. You also recently decided that you did not want to look like a tomboy anymore and started to wear very skanky outfits and stash your bras with tissues. I understand where you are coming from, and why you feel you have to do this. What bothers me if that you don’t actually feel great about it, you feel cheap, you don’t even like the way older creeps start looking at you on the street. Well, stay firm on your ground. There is no rush, my little tomboy. The curves will come eventually (and you will wish they had not), and with them a classier fashion sense too. Keep the red lipstick though, that’s a good style statement 🙂
There are other couple of things that really bother you at the moment: you still don’t have your periods and you are still a virgin. On the first point, your periods will come, then go for a while and then come back from time to time. You are never going to be one of these women who have their menstruations on the clock. It’s OK, periods are overrated so stop pretending you have them by putting some pads in your underwear, silly girl! As for your virginity, you think you need to have sex by age 17, just to get over it. It’s not a big deal and others have lost it before you and seem OK. I am not sure what to tell you: should you treasure your virginity more? Should you make this a bigger deal? I don’t know… but you have great instincts and you are going to choose your ‘first’ well: a sweet guy. That choice has helped me develop fairly healthy relations with men, I am sure of it, so thank you little redlipstickgirl.
You are also very upset because your best buddy got called ‘pede, tapette, trans-‘ (French for faggot, fannie, transsexual) by some high school classmates. You have never heard of the word ‘gay’ so you naively defend him and tell the bullies that ‘no, he is not a fag, he likes hot girls‘. Well, he still does but not in the way you mean 🙂 The fact that you are so clueless is kind of sweet and kind of sad too. I wish adults would tell you more so you could engage with all these guys at school you think are a little weird but you cannot figure what their problem is. When you are older, a lot of your closest friends will be gay. You’ll know that men can love other men, rejoice that some can even marry and you will bite off the heads of anyone who dares to say they should not be allowed to. Strange, huh?
Finally, be proud of the little diary that I know you are keeping. You feel absolutely stupid writing all your dreams, pains, infatuations, and secrets. You should not, this diary is helping you more than you think. Unfortunately, I know that someone will find it, you will feel mortified and you will trash it. It is a shame because I really wish I could read this now so we could compare notes…
Redlipstickmama aka you in 20 year or so and with an additional 30lbs.