Dear Teen Me from author Charles Benoit (YOU, COLD CALLS)

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Dear Teen Me,

I don’t know if it’s my age or the fact that it’s been so many years, but I’m kinda sketchy on some of the details of my life back when I was you, and I’m hoping you can help me out.

First, what happened to my collection of comic books and MAD magazines? I had them in that red box, right next to my makeshift drawing table. There weren’t a lot of comics—a few Fantastic Four, some Batman, way too many Conan the Barbarians, a couple Classics Illustrated I read instead of the books assigned in class—and they were all in rough shape and wouldn’t be worth their cover price today and I really don’t want them back. I just wonder where they went. The MAD magazines, on the other hand, are much missed. They shaped my sense of humor and taught me more about irony, alliteration, similes, metaphors, hyperbole and poetry than all of my English classes combined. Okay, maybe it’s because, unlike my text books, I actually read the MAD magazines, but they still deserve credit and a hallowed place on my bookshelf. They also taught me more about drawing than the one stinking art class I took. Mort Drucker, Dave Berg, Jack Davis and George Woodbridge never laughed at my efforts, unlike my art teacher who will go unnamed. Oh, and the Playboys that were in that red box? They were Rick’s.

How’d I lose my interest in Karate? I was obsessed with it and used to practice hours every day. And I got to be pretty darn good, too, earning my second degree brown belt before most of my friends. I thought I’d stick with it forever, then one day I was done. I’d like to think I stopped going to classes at the dojo because I finally realized that I wasn’t afraid of getting beat up on a regular basis anymore. But it probably had more to do with getting a car that ate up all my money.

Remind me again why I didn’t take a foreign language. Please don’t tell me it was so that I could take woodworking and carpentry classes because it was clear by the time I was a freshman that I wasn’t, shall we say, mechanically inclined. If that was the reason than I was a real idiot. I’ve traveled to lots of countries where knowing just a dozen words in French or Spanish or Italian would have helped me out a lot. If in my life I’ve nailed together twenty boards I’d be surprised, and more surprised that they were still together.

Did I tell my parents that I loved them? God knows I said it often enough to the girl I was dating, even though today we’d both agree I obviously didn’t know what that meant. I’d like to think that I told my parents how much I loved them and how much I appreciated everything they did for me, and that I didn’t say it to get something (or get out of something) and that I said it without prompting. I just got off the phone with Dad an hour ago and I made sure he heard me say how much I love him, so we’re cool. But please tell me I said all the right things to Mom back then. Because it’s too late for me to say it now.

There’s a bunch of other stuff I should remember but I don’t—doing homework, studying for a test, sleeping in, buying clothes, getting in trouble, winning a fight, riding my bike, any prom or school dance—and a lot of firsts that have slipped out of my memory—first time I shaved, first driving lesson, first road test (And the second. And the third), first detention, first hangover, first phone call from a girl, first paycheck. And yes, I remember that first…but I wish I didn’t.

So refresh my memory, teen me. Help me recall all that stuff that I thought was so important at the time but that evaporated when I stopped thinking about them. On second thought, forget it. There’s probably a good reason my brain flushed it all out and now, all these years later, it’s best to leave it that way.



Charles Benoit is a former high school teacher and the Edgar Award–nominated author of three adult mystery novels. YOU is his first book for young-adult readers. He lives in Rochester, New York.

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