by: Mar Curran
Dear Future Currans,
Hello. It is I, your father, but in the past. Right now, I don’t know you, so forgive me if you read this and feel the need to roll your eyes and go, “Daaad, I knooow thaaaat!” (Also, I apologize if you never speak like that, but I think it’s a universal truth of children that we’ve all drawn out our words for exaggeration, and I imagine as my children you will have a penchant for that.)
I have always wanted to write you a letter to let you know what lessons you can learn from this time in my life, especially if something were to happen to me like all those Lifetime movies where a parent dies and leaves their child video messages with a magical task to accomplish. I don’t have a secret mission for you, or probably even any money for you to spend a la Richard Pryor, but I do know a few things about the word that might prove useful for you someday.
First, know that you are loved. I could lead a perfectly fine life without children, but I chose to share my life with you because I know we can make the world a better place, or at least we can try to make one another’s worlds better. Even in those moments you feel ugly, or when I’m mad at you, or, hell, even if you commit some heinous act against society, I will love you. Because if there’s one thing you probably know by now, it’s that I take the honor of being someone’s family very seriously. Once you’re a part of that, it’s harder to leave than a Bravo reality show. You’ll always be a part of me, even if we don’t share genetic ties. Some things are bigger than DNA.
Second, if you ever hear a creepy noise when you’re home alone, don’t fucking go investigate it. We have police for a reason. It may be a murderer or a rabid raccoon. I’m assuming I haven’t raised self-defense instructors or mercenaries, so just go get some help. Also, stay in fucking groups if you’re in the woods and some asshole is trying to kill a whole town. Or hide, but do a good job and don’t breathe like you’re having a goddamn asthma attack. Think with a level head and keep your shit together.
Third, don’t ever swear as much as I do. My father always told me his only goal for me was that I’d be better than him. That’s all I want for you too. I’m not going to vicariously live through you like he tried to do (I’m sure by now you’ve heard about all the basketball camps I was signed up for as a child and faked illness to get out of, making a few of your Grandad’s friends concerned that I was liable to die at any moment from what surely must have been cancer), but I do want you to not slip up with cussing in interviews like I sometimes do. So just trust me and do it.
Know that you can talk to me about things even if they’ll be uncomfortable or make me upset. By the time I adopt you lil’ nuggets, I’ll have mentally prepared myself for that kind of stuff. Worst case scenario, if you try talking to me about sex and I freak out, I will have the good sense to ask your other parent or Uncle Dietzler to talk to you while I wait in the other room and hyperventilate into a paper bag. I don’t want you to be deprived of knowledge, as it is the greatest gift I can give you. Feel free to ask for it whenever necessary.
Eat healthy. It took me 22 years to figure out how much better life is when you take care of your body. Don’t drink too much (and if I catch you drinking underage I will take away your holograms or whatever the hell you kids enjoy these days). Don’t even start smoking, because Uncle Dietzler is always right and you will HATE quitting even if you only smoked for a few months. Get enough sleep and take time to do self-care. Show your body and mind the love you deserve.
Don’t try to take care of people who don’t want you to or who want you to too much. They are both equally dangerous. In the former, you will be wasting your time on deaf ears. No one changes until they are ready. In the latter, you are handcuffing yourself to a dead horse (which is an analogy I made up just for you.) You want to have people in your life who can live without you just fine but choose every day to celebrate life with you because it’s a better deal.
On the other hand, it may take time to figure out how to tell if someone’s bad for you or not. And that’s okay. You’re learning and growing. But my two ways to tell are these: when you think of the worst times you’ve had with this person, when they’ve treated you like shit or you’ve seen them at their lowest, how did you feel about them? If you wanted to bail, you don’t love them. If you loved them more in those moments than you ever thought possible, you really love them. Or maybe not. I might still be figuring that out. But so far it hasn’t steered me wrong.
The other is, when someone talks about them to you, how do you react? Do you sigh and change the subject? Or do you beam? Because within five minutes of talking about certain people, strangers will either tell me, “Wow, they must’ve really done something to piss you off,” or, “So you two must be in love, right?” You project your feelings out into the world sometimes. Recognize that.
Take care of your skin. Clean it and moisturize it. Drink water. Don’t get tattoos from drunk people. Clean your injuries, even if people call you a pussy (infections can travel to your heart and kill you dead.)
Realize that I am dramatic and nervous and over-anxious about your safety (see the previous sentence) because I love you. It took me a long time to realize that about my mother, and so let me save you some time in therapy. I’ll try not to let it get out of hand, I promise. Just cut me some slack if you come home an hour after curfew when you said you were at the library but Stacy’s mom called and said you went to Trent’s party and I assumed you were kidnapped or murdered.
On that note, don’t you lie to me. I will find out. That is how I work. I know all the tricks, kids. Even if I do not let you know it, I know. I see all, like a giant eyeball looking for a ring in the Shire. And don’t try to pit your other parent against me or go behind my back to them. That’s low, and I raised you better than that. If you feel that strongly about something, make me a PowerPoint presentation (include videos, I like videos) and calmly lay out your case. This is how I use to have most of my arguments with your Grandad. In return I’ll be as upfront with you as I think is appropriate for a parent to be.
I know sometimes I will embarrass you by dancing weirdly or balking at something ridiculous one of your friends says. Sorry that I’m not sorry. Just like I will not make you hide your awesomeness, you cannot make me hide mine. And it’s okay if you don’t think I’m cool enough. I’m not here to be your friend. I’m here to do my best to raise you as a healthy functioning member of society. If I want friends I’ll learn to knit and join a bitch ‘n stitch. I just want to keep you from becoming a serial killer, rapist, asshole, chronic liar, abuser, or any of the other members of society I choose not to associate with.
Learn to cook. It’s such a useful skill. And if you’re going to have pets, get over any fears you have of vomit or poop or mucus. There’s going to be a lot of that. Learn how to do your own laundry, and don’t listen to your Uncle Tom when he tells you our old joke that you’re supposed to get a girlfriend in college to do your laundry for you.
Don’t feel entitled to anything in the world. I was given too much I didn’t earn, and maybe I will be a bit too hard on you for that without meaning to be. You just have to know that you only get what you work for. Recognize, though, that you have privilege that others do not. Own it and be an ally to everyone.
Be happy. Don’t live your life for me. At the end of the day you only have to answer to yourself. We only have one shot at life (theoretically) so make it a beautiful one. Because you are beautiful, and the world deserves to know it.
Mattis “Mar” Curran is a trans/queer rights activist and community organizer; he is on the boards of Video Action league, Advocate Loyola, the Queer intercollegiate Alliance, and works with GetEQUAL. As spoken word artist, he has read at each All The Writers I Know event. He studies Communications and Women’s Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Curran likes beer and cats.