to katie: about looks and attractiveness

Here’s the secret about the way you look: no matter what you look like, lots of people will be wildly attracted to you, and lots of people won’t be attracted to you at all.

Someone likes everything, someone dislikes everything
Attraction is exactly like food: Tons of people love kimchee and green tea and potato pancakes, but I can’t stand any of those things. And as much as I love guacamole and Hawaiian pizza and tiramisu, there are people out there who get ill at the thought of them. There’s a big huge world out there full of different people from different backgrounds who think different thoughts and like different things. All of those factors go into what someone finds attractive.

There are places in the world where the standard of a woman’s beauty is measured by how long her neck is (longer is better), or how small her feet are (smaller is better), or how crooked her teeth are (the snagglier the better), or how much fat she has (the more the better). And in those places, there are people who are insanely attracted to women with short necks, or large feet, or straight teeth, or low body fat. It just happens that some people go against what is considered normal – just like people who like exotic or super-spicy foods – there are always some people who do not like what everyone else around them likes.

So, in a culture like ours in America, where a “beautiful woman” is typically defined as someone with a big eyes, a small nose, high cheekbones, straight teeth, very little body fat, long legs, and an hourglass figure (large breasts, small waist, wide hips), there are tons of men who are immediately attracted to women who do not fit that description at all.

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to katie: you can do anything, not everything

Dear Katie: When you were a toddler, you loved Madeline. You listened to every story read a hundred times, you watched every show, and your third birthday party had a Madeline theme (just for fun, ask your Mom about the cake at that party and see if she punches anything – the frosting was deep deep blue, and there was looooooots of it). It’s easy to see why you loved her: your family has a deep personal connection with France, and Madeline rocks.

Also, when you were a toddler, you were good at almost everything you tried to do. You could learn songs quickly, pronounce words pretty well, and identify letters and numbers and shapes very easily. Plus, you loved to do new things, so you asked to do things a lot, which means you got to do a lot of stuff most little kids don’t get to do (my favorite being: take your first picture from the top of the Eiffel tower so you would remember where Madeline lived – it wasn’t why you went to Paris, but once you were there, it was a cool thing to ask).

Not everything came easily, though. Learning new things often takes practice, and you had very little patience with yourself for anything but perfection. I remember one spectacular meltdown because you couldn’t get the sheets on the bed to be perfectly straight by yourself (the secret was for you to get off the bed first, but you clearly thought we were all nuts for suggesting it).

Your mom and dad were starting to worry about you a little bit, because you expected so much of yourself, and you got so unhappy when you couldn’t do things by yourself on the first try. Madeline to the rescue! You saw a Madeline video where she said, “You can do anything, but some things take practice.”

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to katie: about doing the right thing

I’m a big fan of doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because you are afraid you are going to get caught doing the wrong thing.

Here’s my favorite story about doing the right thing. I heard it when I was about your age, and I think about it a lot.

Once upon a time, a company was interviewing people to be their new CEO (Chief Executive Officer, who is everyone’s boss – the top dog). The company flew in this guy for an all-day interview because the guy had great experience, great references, and a history of helping companies make a lot of money. Let’s call him Bob, the CEO candidate. And let’s say that the committee to make the decision was headed up by Ann, who got to show Bob around all day. Bob was their first choice for CEO, and all morning long, he impressed everyone.

Then at lunch, they went to the company’s cafeteria, and Ann was behind Bob in line, and she saw him take a butter packet out of the bowl marked “Butter 6 cents” and carefully slip the butter under the lip of his plate, so it would be hard for the cashier to see it, then hold the tray so his hand was covering the place where the butter could be seen. Ann and Bob were talking at the time, so Ann was pretty sure that Bob thought she had not seen it.

Sure enough, when they were checking out, the cashier said out loud everything that she was ringing up, and the butter was not included. Bob did not correct the mistake.

After lunch, Ann told the rest of the committee what she had seen, and they canceled the rest of the interviews and sent Bob home without the job. They all agreed that if Bob could not be trusted with a 6-cent slab of butter, he could not be trusted with their company.

What makes me sad for Bob in this story is not that he got caught (I’m glad he got caught – maybe it will help him think about he’s doing from now on), but what makes me sad is that Bob was a “get away with it if you can” kind of a person instead of a “do the right thing” kind of a person.

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to katie: about wisdom

I have been asked a lot of times, “How did you get so wise?” I really don’t know why I’ve been asked that. I don’t think I am particularly wise (I think I am opinionated, and pretty good at explaining my opinions, more than I think I am wise). But there are a things I do that might make me seem wise, so I figured I would share them with you.

After a few people asked me how I got wise, I thought about it, and figured out my answer:

When I was in junior high, one of my Sunday school teachers was talking about James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, … and it will be given to him.” My Sunday school teacher said that wisdom is the only thing the Bible guarantees that God will say “yes” when we ask. So every day for 3 years, I asked God for wisdom. If I have any, that’s probably why.

That’s a true story. Read the rest of this entry »

to katie: about teasing

At some point, most kids get teased about one thing or another. It seems like almost everyone gets teased in middle school eventually. Here is my idea about why that is: middle school is a good time to figure out what you like and don’t like about friends, clothes, music, all kinds of stuff. And sometimes, if you don’t know what you like and don’t like, one fast way to tell is to make fun of something and see if other people join in making fun of it, or if they say “Hey, I like that, don’t make fun of it.”

The problem is, everyone in middle school is figuring out what they like and don’t like, and sometimes people join in teasing because it’s easier than standing up to your friends, so kids sometimes end up making fun of things that they actually like later when they stop to think about it. It can certainly be confusing and upsetting.

I know, because there were two groups of kids who made fun of me in middle school. But the good news is that I made some great friends, people who are still my friends today, more than 20 years later. And I have some wonderful memories of my middle school years. But those stories are for another letter.

This letter is about my stories of getting teased in middle school. Names have been changed so I won’t accidentally embarrass their kids if they happen to read this someday.

Alex and the Grab

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to katie: about camp

Hey Katie! I hope you’re having a fabulous time already at camp!

One of the reasons I loved camp as a kid is because you get to “try out” different parts of yourself if you want to.

The people at camp do not all already know who you are – they do not already have expectations of how you will behave. So that means that you can try out being a little different than you usually are when you’re at camp, and find out if you like being that way!

Like for example, LEADERSHIP.

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to katie: about self-esteem and being special

When I was a kid, I got confused about “being special.”

I got confused because I noticed that everybody was told they were special. There were songs on the radio saying “you are special.” So every kid listening was being told they were special. And there were TV shows where people got tears in their eyes when they said, “Nobody ever told me I was special, so I never believed it, but now I do: I’m special!”

People told me I was special all the time. I was smart, like you are. I had a good singing voice like you do. I had a big heart like you do. I asked questions about the world and really listened to the answers like you do. And it seemed like every time I turned around, somebody was telling me I was special.

I thought that everybody got that message all the time, “You are special.” Turns out, some people have bad parents and bad teachers who never say that. It’s horrible to think about. I am glad you are not one of those people.

So anyway, here is how I got confused: if everybody is special, then it isn’t special to be special. And if something is true for everyone, then it is normal. So if everyone is special, then being special is just normal. Right?

Wrong. Very very very wrong.

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