Every now and then I think of something I did in my youth and cringe. There are all kinds of cringe-worthy memories in my databanks; I’m sure you have plenty of your own. Like the time when I was 10 and a boy I liked was coming over (my parents’ friend’s son) and I waited until he was opening the front door, then turned on my tape of Janet Jackson singing “Black Cat” at full blast. Because this was the coolest song I owned and I wanted him to think I was the kind of person who would hang around listening to cool music really loud. In retrospect I understand that walls do not necessarily block sound, and it would have been painfully obvious that I’d turned on the music for his benefit. Standing on the front porch, no music. Opening front door, suddenly music. But at the time I felt it was a pretty clever ploy.
Also, once when we were going to visit his family, I asked my mom to buy me an electric blue spandex jumpsuit — one that went all the way to my wrists and ankles, we’re talking a full-body deal — so I could wear it on the visit. I had never seen one of these and I have no idea where I came up with this idea or why I thought it would be just the thing to fetch the fellas. Thankfully my mom was baffled as to how to obtain such a costume so I wound up wearing normal clothes.
Anyway, the other day something brought the Janet Jackson incident to mind and I cringed, as usual. And then suddenly my perspective shifted and I realized that I am absolutely not allowed to do that anymore.
Because if you think about it, that 10 year old made her mistakes so that I don’t have to. It was a sacrifice. She did dopey things; she did mean things; once in a while she did dangerous things. And she was duly embarrassed, and she lost friends, and she fell down and skinned her knees. And then she died, and an 11 year old showed up, and thanks to the 10 year old, this new 11 year old knew better than to do that stuff (mostly). So she made her own mistakes. And on and on, until finally here I am, 32, and I don’t have to suffer the consequences of those actions ever again because I know better than to do that stuff. My past selves took the fall on that.
We trust our future selves. They know more than we do and we trust them to look back at our ignorance and not judge us too harshly. We trust them to live better lives than we do in order to justify the sacrifices we make for them — all the skinned knees and misunderstandings; all the embarrassing posturing and electric blue jumpsuits. We trust them to forgive us for being idiots and to remember us as fondly as they can.
And right now we are the guardians of all our past selves, and we have a responsibility to forgive them and to like them. So from now on, I’m doing my part: whenever I remember my 10 year old self, I’m going to dress her in an electric blue jumpsuit. And she’s going to love it. And I’m going to to my best not to cringe.
You, too, can rock this jumpsuit, to the shame or admiration of your future selves.