If You Could Give One Piece of Advice to Your Teenage Self, What Would it Be?

When last month we ran a Minor Cogitation begging that you ask us anything, a handful of you freaky geniuses had great questions. I really enjoyed one that came chased with a disclaimer. “I know it’s the oldest one in the book,” she wrote, “but, if you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?”

I must live under that rock people are always talking about where news doesn’t filter through to the masses because no one has ever asked me that and as far as I can trace the history of the inquiries I’ve bestowed on others, I’ve never asked it either. So I gave the question some real thought and came up with three things which became four when Charlotte found the above photo from an issue of Vogue Italia, ca 1994, to illustrate this story.

The one contingent on her findings is this: Christy Turlington did not look like that when she was a teenager. Don’t get down about your curly hair and the fact that you don’t look like the subject of a Vogue Italia shoot when you wear knee highs. In fact, don’t wear knee highs at all. It’s unbecoming of a sprouting woman, Leandra. That’s what you are, you know? A sprouting woman.

Glad that’s out of the way, now:

Stop yelling at your mother — nobody will root for you the way she does, will care for you the way she has or love you as much as she does. Not even yourself. Especially not yourself. And when she tries to help you comb your hair — she’s not being contentious or trying to mock your Jewish mane. She’s just being a good mom.

Calm the fuck down about being single and enjoy your freedom to watch Friends while you doze off at 2am after a night “out” (meaning, diner-hopping through the Upper East Side). You’re a kid. Literally. Still kind of an embryo in the grand scheme of where you life will take you. Just spend quality time with your friends Arielle and Jaime because you are so lucky they like you (also, don’t worry about those other assholes, they will become irrelevant so much quicker than your mind is letting them) and stop picking your damn eyebrows while updating Facebook to see if HEEEEE has recently changed his status. He doesn’t do status updates. You know that.

And finally, drink less alcohol. You will become a champion of substance abuse by the time you hit 23 so it’s best that you maintain a strong liver for now.

The beauty of this exercise, you see, is that just because I’m not a teenager anymore, does not mean that I can’t still take my own advice to heart and change the trajectory henceforth. YOUR TURN!

  • Brook

    I’m 19 but I would tell my younger teenage self that the cream rises to the top. (And then I would explain what that actually means.)
    It’s not really advice, but reassurance would have been just as helpful when I was in my awkward stage 🙂

  • CDJ

    Stop taking adderall, even though you have ADD and are prescribed, it makes you a miserable bitch… especially towards your mother.

    Go to the college (3 of them, actually) that basically gave you a free ride instead of the one that will drown you in debt forever and ever. UGHHHHHH SUCH AN IDIOT.

    The amount of raspberry Smirnoff you drink now will forever ruin the raspberry flavor for you.

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    Do not waste 8 yrs of your existence on that selfish, dysfunctional, charming, gorgeous, jerk, S–,who will never add anything positive to your life and will continue this relentless emotional roller coaster for as long as you let him near you. He is NOT worth it, there is someone so much better for you, who will genuinely care about YOU and put you first.The sooner you cut ties with S– the happier life will be. Obsession does not equal love.TRUST ME.

  • Rebeka Osborne

    Wear all the bikinis and don’t be self conscious about it, because you are thinner now then you’re ever going to be, high school Rebeka. Also, even younger Rebeka, blue eye shadow is not appropriate, just stop it.

    • I want to go back in time and slap the glitter lip gloss right out of my hand – I’m pretty sure my esophagus still sparkles a little bit from all of it I inadvertently ate in my teen years!

      I’m with you on the bikinis, too – I had sick abs back then. Sigh…and I did no work to get them!

  • cashtea

    The best is yet to come. Be patient: you have no idea how awesome your life is going to be

  • Amelia Diamond
    • Ouch, it looks like I went and copied yours … I didn’t. I just agreed afterwards 🙂

  • carrotsandcandysticks

    Don’t believe the stupid jock who wears lacoste sneakers when he tells you you are not funny after a particularly dull game of apples to apples one Friday night sometime in 2008. Don’t believe him for the rest of high school and therefore never share your writing or crack jokes publicly until you get to college when you realize lacoste sneakers boy is an idiot and wouldn’t know humor if he were choking on it.

  • Katharina

    don’t get that tattoo …

  • maria

    I would say: “Don’t touch your eyebrows”.

    • Leandra Medine

      Oh, me too, actually

      • CDJ


        • Jill S

          Oh geez, me too. I think I stopped before they were unsalvageable but it was touch and go for a while.

  • I would tell my teenage self… “Bread is devil, do your crunches.”


  • seb2108

    I’m 33 and just had a baby girl, so this hits home on all sides. I agree with you, Leandra. I’d tell myself to be nicer to my mother – she’s your number one fan, no matter what you do, no matter how you f*ck up, no matter who you date. Oh yeah, enjoy being single. You’ll end up being married for longer than you were single (maybe), so enjoy being responsible to no one other than yourself while you can.


  • I would say to not take yourself/myself too seriously. Act on your passions, BE RESOURCEFUL (reach out to your idols and ask questions, that’s the best way to use the internet) and be serious about your trajectory, but always remember that we’re all just out here tryin’ to survive.

    Also, keep the massiveness of the planet and its people in perspective.

    I’m 17 so I would assume that my advice would be consider rather naive, but all of the above ARE working for me right now, and if anything, I am trying to let myself take things one at a time.

    (please excuse my run-on sentences)

  • Stop worrying. Just stop it! Live! (I guess it is obvious why I looked older at 18 than at 38)

  • Jill S

    LOL….so many things I would say, but my teen self wouldn’t have listened to most of them! What she *might* have appreciated:

    1. Don’t despair. It will take longer than you think, it will take much perseverance, and there are hard times ahead, but it WILL, eventually, get better. In fact, sometimes it will better than you could have imagined. Don’t give up.

    2. Take more fashion risks while you have the awesome youthful body to wear almost anything!

    3. At some point you will overcome the shitty parenting, the difficult mother, the emotionally distant family. They won’t like it, but you’ll be the better for it.

  • Stefanie

    I’d tell myself to stop making decisions based on whether or not they make my parents happy because they’re not the ones who have to live with the consequences! Actually, I still need to tell myself that… sheesh

  • It’s so fun to read through all of this because I’m still a teenager, so it’s also really helpful to get all this wise advice. 😀

  • sp1315

    I have been thinking about this for a long time. Serendipitously I saw the post and I already have an answer. I would go back to my teenage self and tell her that she is going to turn out ok and needs to stop worrying and start focusing. I would tell her that there is a masterplan and she is a part of it… she will go far, cross an ocean and make a life in the place she only ever dreamed of. She won’t suffer the bullying and grief of people who would eventually turn out complete failures. She will become the person she is meant to be and no one will ever make her feel like a loser. Also that she is way prettier than she thinks and people call her “undateable” only because she is driven and smarter than the average Southern Italian bimbo. Also to stop plucking her eyebrows now because Linda Evangelista doesn’t look so good anymore and Cara is much more natural anyway

  • Charis

    do what you love and the rest will follow.


  • Ariel

    Sometimes it’s ok to judges book by it’s cover. Don’t date a guy named Martini.

    • Ariel

      Note to self: Proof read asshole. Judge a book*

      • alejandra

        keep calm.

  • Nicola

    I would tell my listen to listen to my mother, she is always right

  • Oh man, I have quite the list for myself:

    1. You have acne because you’re allergic to milk. Don’t wait until you’re almost 30 to find that out – just stop drinking milk and eating ice cream, and it’ll be fine. I know, you LOVE ice cream, but trust me – you like not having to wear piles of concealer more.

    2. Date that guy you meet when you are 17. He’s going to break your heart in ways you didn’t know were possible. But from the ashes, you will become a stronger, more mature woman. Besides, I’m pretty sure he’s a creepy, balding middle school teacher now. Dodged that bullet…you’re welcome.

    3. You also have acid reflux. Stop drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Drink vodka tonics instead. Trust me, you love them more than life itself – you just don’t know it yet.

    4. Never underestimate yourself so much. And that blog you start in 2007? Keep at it, and it might just be the start of something big. Don’t get rid of it because your fiance thinks blogging is stupid, or that you believe you don’t have time because of grad school, or because you can’t take a good photo with your crappy camera. Tell everyone in your real life to go f**k themselves and go do it anyway.

    5. Just because you’re not skinny doesn’t mean you won’t look amazing in skinny jeans. Bite the bullet and go buy some…you know, if you can find any all the way back in 1996. 😉

  • Hudson Berry

    You guys are my favorite friends I’ve never met

  • Laura

    Take more selfies. It’s okay.

  • Penny Lane

    Listen to your mother. Especially when she tells you not to get that tattoo.

  • As I cross the unknown border this year between teenager and young Gen Y “woman” I definitely feel pressure to be more grown up. But, I’m still determined to embrace my youth!
    xo Tia | http://www.bigcitytyro.com

  • Harling

    I would inform myself about the benefits of zit concealer, thus ideally preventing the real-life-yes-it-happened scenario in which I, age 11, consumed an entire tartine at Le Pain Quotidien with my plagued chin/mouth region buried inside a snood.

  • Older but not wiser

    Be kind to yourself. It’s not worth the physical and emotional pain of both yourself and others. Cherish life; do not throw away years of your life through a pattern of self-abuse, because you are worth so much more. You don’t need to justify your existence via external means, because you are good enough. Stop hurting yourself. Don’t waste what could be the best years of your life in and out of hospital. Start living… and send that package to Christi before the Dairy Milk goes stale.

    … yet to take this advice, and may have missed the boat on the last one.

  • Stop getting ahead of yourself and overthinking it & Love yourself a little more.


  • Liking Maths and French does not mean that your world is crumbling apart and there are bigger problems in the world than wearing that ugly raincoat that your mother keeps forcing you to wear. Everything actually IS on your side and it will all pay off once you lose the pimples and school tie.


  • Kathleen

    Wear your retainer and embrace your curls. You are a unique beauty.


  • Morgan

    wrinkle cream. start now.

  • d

    Big boobs are cool

  • Dy

    kiss him..

  • Callie

    If could tell my teenage self some things #1 would be :
    My Mom was by my side through all my awkward phases and temper tantrums. Moms, what would we do without them. They are the witnesses of our life! They know our true selves and still love us. Be kind to your Mom. Someday you will miss her terribly.
    #2He doesn’t love you if he doesn’t tell you he does. Sex and the City said it so well. It would have saved me so much heartache.
    #3and lastly no bangs!!!!

  • Aslyn

    Awesome post.

  • LilyP

    don’t listen to your parents. they are insane. run away. emancipate yourself.

  • Rachel Janfaza

    This was written three and a half years ago, when I was right in the peak of my teenage years, and this advice helped me realize that everything was going to be ok. After all, someone else (or a whole community of people) had already been through the stage of anxiety and the period of contentious fights with my mother that I was going through at the time. Now, I am 20 (and freakishly not a teenager anymore) and still find myself re-reading this whenever I need a boost of confidence or a reminder that it’s all temporary!