13 going on 31

Lately, I’ve been wondering what my younger self would think of my life now. Would 13-year-old Meg approve of herself at 31?

Instead of thinking about this abstractly and then moving on to a new thought, like a normal person would, I’ve been doing this thing where I pretend I’m my 13-year-old self in my 31-year-old body. Like 13 Going On 30, starring Jennifer Garner (a vastly underrated rom com), I imagine my teen self being swept into the future and experiencing my day to day life, and I try my best to decide whether or not she would approve.

Here are some of the conclusions I’ve come to:

1. My clothes are awful. Why the high-waisted jeans? Why turtlenecks? This always gives teen Meg a flashback to the early ’90s, when I was at the mercy of whatever clothes my mom bought for me, so I would find myself at recess in leggings and an oversized white turtleneck with green horizontal stripes, feeling self-conscious and unstylish.

Please, adult Meg — put on some low rise boot cuts, a long-sleeve jersey top, and Converse All-Stars. Teen Meg is very concerned.

2. I have a good dog. I always wanted a dog growing up, and even though I had a dog at 13 — a sweet Jack Russell mix named Pippin — I am glad to see that my adult self has continued in this tradition of dog motherhood.

3. I’m alone. There is no boyfriend or husband — only me. This is the realization that I’m still not sure I know how to wrap my head around. Is teen Meg impressed by this? Is she disappointed? Sympathetic? Disgusted? As an adult, I take pride in my independence. I love the freedom of being single.

But as a teen, I daydreamed constantly about who I would end up dating, loving, and eventually marrying. Like any straight white girl who watched Jane Austen movies obsessively, I believed in The One and true love forever. I’m not sure if I would approve of myself at 31; but then again, 13-year-olds are basically babies, and their opinions are dumb.

4. Los Angeles? Really? Teen Meg doesn’t know what to make of this, as I used to be one with nature and hated big cities as a kid. Above, you’ll see me in my natural teen habitat — a mountain chalet in Glacier Park, a day’s hike away from civilization, as close as I could get to a world inhabited by tree nymphs and hidden kingdoms and dragons.

Cities scared me, just like most things in the world scared me at that age. I like to think that my young self is inspired by my life in Los Angeles, but sometimes I think she must be sad to see me stuck in traffic all the time. Same, teen Meg. Same.

5. I’m high maintenance now? There’s just so much makeup and hair styling going on at 31. At 13, I brushed my teeth in the morning and I was done. I’m not even sure I tweezed my brows (I use the plural of brow generously, as teen Meg had been cultivating a unibrow since puberty).

Now, I spend 30 minutes every morning getting ready to go out — and that’s if I’m rushing. I like to imagine that my teen self would be in awe of me now, but truthfully, I think she’d be giving me the stink eye. “You look fine, asshole, we’re gonna be late.”

Teen Meg was wonderful, and perfect, and I wouldn’t change her, but we are very different people in so many ways. I’m not sure what I’m accomplishing by doing this exercise, but I find that it’s an interesting way to analyze my life now, and to look back on the ways I’ve changed and grown over the years.

Maybe, in some small ways, I’ll try to emulate teen Meg in my day-to-day life. What can I learn from my younger self? Where have I gone astray in the 18 years between us? What can she teach me that I’ve forgotten?

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