After Steubenville: notes to my Elsie Jane

March 22, 2013

photo (33)

(glasses store with brother. you wanted to try some on for funsies.)

Dear Future Elsie Jane (or, if you’re reading this now it’s the future and so HI),

When I was pregnant with you, I wrote a post called PLEASE: notes to my children. Many people that read it mentioned that they wanted to know what I’d say to a girl. What they didn’t know was that I did have you in mind, you and your brothers, when I wrote that post.

Since then I’ve thought about what I want to say to just you, but I didn’t know. Most of what I want to say is in that PLEASE post. I could say so many other things about the (potential) parts of your life as a female that scare me most: the partying, drinking, drugs, sex, etc., but maybe it won’t even really matter because no offense, the teenage brain has some pretty big walls in it. They can so often only be knocked down by learning the hard way. There is a defiant kickback mechanism in there that shouts that it already knows everything and that nothing is a risk, at least not for you.

Those things only happen to other people.

Sorry. But we’re still going to talk with you a lot about these things, despite how uncomfortable it might make you. And just so you know, you are allowed only five eye rolls per week, so use them wisely.

Anyway, my point: In that PLEASE post, I didn’t say much about drinking or sex. It felt at the time like all there was to say about it beyond what I said was too obvious. Um…don’t drink! Be careful with boys!

But no. No! There’s so much more to it. I wish I knew exactly the very best and right way to say it to you but I don’t. You see, this thing happened in Ohio recently (which isn’t recently to you now that you’re reading this in the future but it is still very important) and I can’t stop thinking about how wrong it is. It is begging me to process what I want you to know, and for that, I’m grateful. What happened in Ohio should never have happened, and now a lot of people are focused more on the boys who raped the girl than on the girl, who was raped after drinking so much that she passed out.

My heart breaks for her and how this will follow her all her days. So consider this letter to you an act of love in honor of the victim of the Steubenville rape…

EJ, can you do just one small thing for me? Not some grand sweeping task or overbearing rule…just this one thing that can apply to a lot of things? Can you picture with me, a ginormous PAUSE button. I think we should envision it on your heart. (Bear with me.)


When you find you’re not sure about a situation or a person, can you think of this pause button? You don’t have to decide right then absolutely this or absolutely that about whatever choice is in front of you…just breathe in for two seconds and see if your gut is screaming anything, or even if it’s just gently whispering any kind of questions. Don’t ignore it. If in that short pause, before he kisses you or before you go into that room with him or before you say yes to a party at that guy’s house or in that hotel…just PAUSE. Just long enough to remember to trust yourself. Maybe this will help you to not fall into a pattern of going into auto-pilot, ignoring yourself while doing what other people want you to do.

The girl in Steubenville is not at fault no matter what, that’s the truth. Even if she chose to drink enough to pass out, she’s not at fault. But please let her story remind you what can happen when alcohol kicks your ass–it can leave you way too vulnerable, unaware and alone, abused and unable to protect yourself from people who disregard how precious you are.

By now we’ve talked a lot about drinking, what with my recovery and all, and so you know–drinking might not be the same for you as it is for other people. Please don’t forget. (You’re welcome. I’m sure you knew that was coming. Again.)

Your gut has the ability to give  you the idea that you need to get the hell out sometimes. I think it’s God that speaks there because He loves you so much and wants safety and peace for you life. Me too.

When I was younger, I ignored my gut a lot. This is how I know a lot of what I know to tell you. So please hear me…you might not think so right now, but I’m sort of kind of maybe a little smart about this stuff. Just because I’ve been here a while. I’m uncool and weird to you, I’m sure. But trust me. You always know you can trust me:

The thing about the boys/guys in your life. Well, it’s not that it’s your job or mine to “find you a nice guy”. I mean, they say you have to “find a nice guy”, but I believe he will find you. He will be drawn to you because of your tenacity, your voice, your sincere love for everything that lives and breathes. I think he’ll see how smart you are and want to know all the things you know. I think he’ll cross your path and he’ll like you because he likes to do the same things as you like you to do.  He will love your laugh and what kind of friend you are.

If a guy is drawn to you knowing absolutely nothing about you other than that he likes how you look, especially if there’s drinking involved, he’s probably not this guy.

There is absolutely nothing to be missed while waiting for a guy you know you can trust, please believe me. I mean, you’ll have to get to know a few that come along and seem promising at first and turn out to not be what you need or want. We go through that, but you’ll learn to recognize what this person is really after, usually right away if only you trust yourself.

You will come to known that you can spot a player simply by the way he walks and the gravel-y voice he tries using on you. It’s this slow and syrupy kind of lower voice and it has a bit of a throaty touch. It’s a voice that’s trying too hard. You can also see what he wants in the way he looks at you, with one side of his mouth up in a trying-to-be-hot smirk or grin kind of a thing. He won’t seem nervous. His eyes will tell you that he’s physically attracted to you, and while that’s flattering, there’s not much more to him.

He only wants to eat you for dinner and then spit you out. If not that, he simply does not know what he wants, so he keeps playing games and games are exhausting. They pull you because you know there’s more to him but again, it’s not your job to wait it out or to convince this guy you’re good enough for him.

This should be terribly obvious to him, because you are you.

This other boy, the one who likes whatever weird music you like and who talks nervously about his favorite movies. The one who hesitates to look directly at your eyes because his heart might explode? He is not strange or inept or uncool. Maybe he’s humble and maybe you’ll get to be the one to watch his confidence grow as you talk his ear off and reach for his hand.

This is a person who doesn’t want games or to take advantage of you because that would mean he’s wrong, and that he risks losing you. He can’t lose you, because you are the coolest girl he’s ever met.

I hope you feel the way about yourself that he feels about you. I hope you see what he sees. If you do, you’ll know to not run away from love–love isn’t devouring or any part of any game. It is a constant friendship that seeks refuge and grows with time even if the fire is sometimes just embers. It respects and honors and hangs out on a Thursday night watching season 3 of the original 90210 just because. And at the end of the night, love hesitantly tilts your chin and plants just the right kiss to tell you that you’re cherished, not just another hurdle in a long race.

And then before he walks away he hands you a mixed tape….

(Well, a mother can dream.) (I suppose this is when you’ll ask me what a “tape” is.)

Elsie Jane, please read PLEASE over and over and over. Please know that I pray all of those things for you as I read through them. Please know that there will never be another Elsie Jane just exactly like you ever again and there never has been one before. So don’t glorify the boy that thinks he’s a gift to you. Instead, it might be a really good idea to steer clear of the places he spends time.

Treasure the boy that knows you’re a gift to have found.

You see, girls that don’t do this end up getting hurt a lot, until their sense of worth is but a grain of sand or a speck of dirt. They are used up and spit out and they look to other girls to blame. They glorify that boy with I want you in his eyes and then they protect him to feel the drama and the spark, the things that fade and waste you away.  These girls will pay any price to stay wanted, to appear important to the right crowd, to fight the truth that none of it is going to stay this way because in grown up life, in the long run, we all need to be loved, not taken for granted.

(By now you’re probably a really good writer with great grammar skills. Please ignore that really long run-on sentence.)

I love you always and no matter what you do. You always belong, here with us. Don’t ever forget. I want you to know these things and as I write them, I’m choking back tears because so much of the time we have to learn the hard way. That’s okay too, even though it’s not. I mean, we just don’t really get it until we do. I’ll be there for you no matter how you learn.

You are asleep in the next room. You have a fever today. You are two months away from being two years old. You will read this when you are much older and that day will be here too soon for your mama.


(photo credit for yellow pause button)


Related posts:

On the Steubenville Boys and My Boys
Fierce and Weak: on fighting like a girl
Please: notes to my children


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny Proctor March 22, 2013 at 10:02 am

Heather, these are beautiful thoughts for your daughter. This (even though you say it is a really long run on sentence :)) is my most favorite part:

“You see, girls that don’t do this end up getting hurt a lot, until their sense of worth is but a grain of sand or a speck of dirt. They are used up and spit out and they look to other girls to blame. They glorify that boy with I want you in his eyes and then they protect him to feel the drama and the spark, the things that fade and waste you away. These girls will pay any price to stay wanted, to appear important to the right crowd, to fight the truth that none of it is going to stay this way because in grown up life, in the long run, we all need to be loved, not taken for granted.”
Jenny Proctor recently posted..Dear Young Women of the World: Your modesty isn’t about THEM


Heather March 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

That part was a direct response to the girls that tweeted threats to the one who was raped. They defended the boys. That baffles me.

Your post is so good, Jenny.


Thekitchwitch March 22, 2013 at 11:19 am

You are stunning.
Thekitchwitch recently posted..Guest Post: Judy Blume Project


Heather March 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

You are.



Kir March 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

I can’t stop crying and nodding.
I ws that girl..that young woman who just wanted to please and be liked…I wish she could have read this 2 decades ago.

so thank you, thank you for writing it for your daughter so she can read it over and over (BTW my mom tried very hard for me to listen to what she was saying about self worth, I didn’t listen..I don’t know why, but I didn’t)

Kir recently posted..Can You Hear That? {The Sydney Sessions} (Studio 30+)


Heather March 22, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Me too. I really did and sometimes still do, need to learn the hard way. I hope HOPE so much that Elsie isn’t that same way, but we really only can do what we can do. I didn’t get it either though. I just couldn’t believe that I was worthy, no matter what anyone said.

Please, Elsie. Believe me.


Jennifer March 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm

OMG, Heather. I just read your post about the values you are instilling in your boys and now THIS amazing letter. I want to memorize it to read it to my daughter one day. You speak what is in your heart and you are a shameless truth-teller and that is why I love you.

Thank you.
Jennifer recently posted..Ten Reasons I’m Thankful I Went to Wild Mountain


Heather March 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm


Thank you. and all the love right back to you.



Jen @Martymom's Musings March 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Oh Heather, you are writing to EJ but you are showing us all too…mentoring us.

Bless you.

Jen @Martymom’s Musings recently posted..Just Write: This and That


Kelly V March 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm

“It respects and honors and hangs out on a Thursday night watching season 3 of the original 90210 just because.”

Words to live by.

Seriously, a great letter of advice Heather. I can relate on way too many levels!
I love your wisdom.


Wendy March 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm


Thanks for this letter. I am trying to decide when it will be ok to show this to my daughters. They are 10 and 7 but I already see the self worth struggles happening. I want them to be confident and able to make the right choices in life. They are independent but so sensitive to the world around them. I hope we are building a solid foundation for them the grow on. Your writing is an inspiration. I always want to write after I read your posts.



Misty April 3, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Beautifully said!
Misty recently posted..Easter Carrot Cake


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