Sept. 22 2014 04:48 PM

Don't be like Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Dwight Howard and Art Garfunkel

sordid 9-24-14

Friends, I have unsettling news: As we speak, a trend gathers momentum—a trend so insidious, it could very well result in the collapse of society. I'm talking about the increasing number of people who like to send letters to their younger selves.

I don't know how long it's been going on, but I caught wind of it in May when a video called "Love Advice to my Younger Self" wormed its way onto my Facebook page. Now it seems that everywhere I turn, another one of these abominations rears its abominable head, abominably.

Just Google "letter to my younger self" (LTMYS), and it'll return about a gazillion hits. Some are celebrity letters. Other letters are from regular Joes. There are tons of YouTube messages, magazine features and several books. Brad Paisley wrote a (gag) song to his younger self. ESPN.com published a feature called "Dear Me" in which 12 athletes wrote letters to their younger selves. Then there are the websites such as LettersToMyYoungerself.com, where you can enroll in workshops that focus on writing LTMYSs, register for a LTMYS retreat or just browse the "Tips for Writing a Letter to your Younger Self."

"When writing your letter," says website founder, author and speaker Ellyn "Of Course Her First Name is Spelled with a Y" Spragins, "pretend you are holding your younger self by the shoulders and speaking to her or him."

While there are many different types of LTMYS, what most of them have in common is that they're nauseatingly self-involved, self-pitying, hyper-melodramatic essays from people attempting to commend themselves, hoping it won't be recognized as self-praise.

Take Oprah's ghastly letter to her younger self: "Dear beautiful brown-skinned girl [gag], I look into your eyes and see the light and hope of myself [because you are yourself, you narcissistic twit]. In this photo you are [almost 20] posing outside the television station where you were recently hired as a reporter. You're proud of yourself for getting the job, but uncertain you'll be able to manage all your college classes..." Translation: See how hard I worked to get where I am?

Then there's Tyler Perry's emotionally riveting (and by "riveting" I mean "hammering a handful of metal pins into the base of my brain") video message on CBS: "Dear Child of God," Perry says as you try to not throw up from your eyeballs, "I know that you are having it really hard right now... As I search your young face for some sign of myself, believe it or not I am able to smile. Because just behind all of that darkness, I see hope...  And when you get older, you will use it in your work to uplift and encourage and inspire millions of people...  I'm so proud of you." Translation: See how rough my childhood was? Yet here I am. I rule.

"Here are some things that I know," Art Garfunkel says in his video letter (et tu, Garfunkel?). "Singing brings joy [gag]. If you can embrace the differentness of another, tightly fused in beautiful dissonance, you give power to music, to the musicianship, to the partner [retch]... I met many beautiful women through the focus of fame... I took flight into the open ended artist's realm." That all translates to: I liked singing. It got me laid. I also may have been gay for Paul Simon.

As gaggeriffic as Oprah's, Tyler's and Art's letters are, however, the most annoying thing is when the present self cracks wise with the younger self, which typically comes off like an old man with a minor case of dementia muttering to himself in a sitting room, such as the Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard's letter to his younger self. "Dear Little Dwight, That's what they call you now. I know that because I'm Big Dwight, 27, and I'm writing to you from the future. Weird, right?"

My point exactly, Dwight. It is weird. The whole endeavor—effing weird!

On DearYoungMe.com, where regular Joes send tweet-sized LTMYSs, they often try to advise their young selves against bad consumption choices, such as, "Dear Young Thin Me, Don't eat that third slice," or "Dear Young Healthy Sober Me, Don't ever start drinking..." 

I guess if I were to reach out to my younger self, it'd also be to advise on his / my poor consumption choices: "Dear Young Ed, while rocking out to Led Zeppelin's Presence in your friend Dave's basement bedroom, he will pull out a little baggy containing a magic white powder. It's at this moment that you must remember these two, all-important warnings. First—and I say this as loud as the siren atop every police car that has pulled you over since then—you do that cocaine, boy! You snort that powder deep into the back of your brain. You snort it up, then you lean back on the couch and rock out to the great, glorious sounds of Led Zeppelin. Secondly, resist the urge to go out the next day and buy Presence. Cocaine lies. That album is for shit."

Of course, I won't be sending any letters to my younger self. OK, maybe if such a thing were possible, I would. But my message would say, "Dear Young Ed, please whack Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Dwight Howard." Or, better yet, I'd have my younger self write a letter to my present self.

"Dear Present-Day Ed, please don't send any maudlin letters about how things will get better, or to never give up, or to avoid the same mistakes you made. Sending messages to your younger self will only make you look like a narcissistic, sappy twit, and I need my future reputation intact so I can get laid, OK? Sincerely, Young Ed."

Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.

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