From the Desk of Matilda Darling

An Open Letter to Jenelle Evans

Dear Ms. Evans,

It has recently come to my attention that you exist. I first learned of one Miss Jenelle Evans via an article concerning your person in the pages of a certain unnamed gossip magazine which I recently made the mistake of perusing. Though I have attempted to bleach my mind of every offending particle of memory related to the dark hour in which I digested the base contents of the magazine in question, your visage has for some appalling reason remained with me, and has, one could almost say, haunted me. Again and again in the intervening weeks, in any moment of relative mental repose, whether shouldering my way past the puffy-painted patchwork backpacks, tilted caps, and dreadful pastiche of neon, linoleum, sneaker-squeaks and idiocy that fill the hallowed hallways of academia here at Van Buren Middle School, or while walking the dog around the block alongside my father in the cricket-filled green-smelling evening hours of the lately unfolding Albany spring, your image floats before my mind. It appears unbidden, floating across the windshield of my consciousness like the monarch butterflies currently making their way from Baja to Prince Edward Island and stopping for a brief repast on the spiky milkweed that bunches along the chain link fence bordering the barren airstrip of apocalyptic dust known as the playing fields behind Van Buren. Your persistent presence in my mind is akin to a Jerusalem street urchin weaseling his way into the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple and must be parsed out.

The single photo of you placed alongside the article (which detailed your continued commitment to hallucinogenic drug use) shows you walking hand-in-hand with a taller, troublesome-looking fellow, both of you bedecked in hooded zip-up sweatshirts and mischievous, slightly besotted grins (whether besotted with true love or an influx of narcotics, one knows not). You, Jenelle, are wearing a sheerish sort of top that has the words LOVE PINK emblazoned across its front in block lettering and behind which one can see intimations of your brassiere. Who knew that the simple t-shirt could seem so prurient? (As an aside, I could and ought to write a letter to Limited Brands, parent company of Victoria’s Secret, the profane mall store which sells these t-shirts and yoga pants and giant tote bags [as well as heaping, steaming piles of shame] all emblazoned with the word PINK, and which are gobbled up by prepubescent girls to such a degree that all one sees round every corner, for miles of hallway, is the word PINK, PINK, everywhere PINK, as if, as girls, all we are and all we do is centered around our excitement about our stereotypically presumed favorite color PINK.) But there was something in your face, Jenelle, something beyond the artificial platinum straw-flanks of your hair, the heavily kohled lids of your eyes, the thin willful set of your mouth, your upturned elfin nose (of which I must admit I am envious; my nose being neither elfin nor upturned, but rather more like that of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets); something beyond your slightly anachronistic black spectacles, beyond even your hideous upper lip piercing, a sparkling stud of—one must assume—cubic zirconium placed in the approximate location of a classy movie star beauty mark, but which results in the general impression that you are neither classy nor beautiful (though you are, in your own sort of low-rent way, quite pretty): there was something beyond all this that definitively intrigued. I recall reading the article, flipping to the next page, and then flipping back to take a second look at your picture, wishing, but not knowing why I wished, to study you a bit more.

What was it about this ephemeral paparazzi photo, fuzzily printed on cheap pulp paper, that kept returning to me? I could not pinpoint the source of the something beyond, this je ne sais quois which seemed to gather about you like the clouds of marijuana smoke and sugary vanilla drugstore perfume which no doubt do gather about you in reality, although I paused to consider I might be harboring some latent lesbian urges or tendency towards a classist voyeurism I had heretofore been unwilling to acknowledge in myself. So, I did what I always do when something is ruffling in the normally placid and rational surface of my mind: I turned to research. And perhaps it was merely the allure of the unknown: in truth I knew not who you were when I first read of you, though you purport to be a minor celebrity. After some cursory online research (much of which was hindered by the parental controls my mother has set on our home computer’s internet browser; one wonders that you, until recently yourself a minor, could appear on so many websites evidently unfit for consumption by minors), I realized you starred on MTV’s hit reality show Teen Mom, which has permanent residence on the “absolutely not under no circumstances not even when we are on vacation and it comes on the hotel cable” end of my father’s spectrum of things I am not allowed to watch. This realization tasted of the distinct pang of bitterness: my awareness of this show stems not only from my father’s Iron Curtain television rules but also from the endless so-called “water cooler chatter” I must endure at school the day after any new episode airs. I am unable to watch, and in any case unwilling to do so, yet it is a mote isolating, I must confess, to be uninvited to these school-time roundtable debates of pop culture events, however moronic one may find the subject being debated. I find myself hovering, in a hangdog sort of way, over my backpack at the end of class, under the pretense of fishing around for my bulky T9 calculator or my latest volume of Anne of Green Gables, but really only lingering in an effort to listen to what Madison Lauren has to say about you or your cohorts on the show, even though, as I stated, I am fully ignorant of its participants or plot. Wherefore my pleasure in such a shameful act? It would be as if Madison Lauren were lingering in the hallway outside the orchestra room, hoping to catch a snatch of my argument with Laurence DuPlessus over which of the two orchestral suites from Bizet’s L’Arlesienne is the superior.

Further research into your personage led me to your Twitter feed, which is actually the worst thing I have ever read. Every peak must have its base camp, every gymnast her low bar, every drunk his rock bottom, and so it is with the English language, for which your tweets are the nadir. For example, you recently tweeted the following to one of your ex-boyfriends:

Pbandjenelley_1: @confidence117k: I wish u would of died in the car crash.

I am still undecided as to whether the content or the crafting of this sentence is more offensive. If these tweets are your literary offspring, they should most certainly be put under the custody of Child Protective Services. Who, it begs asking, who on God’s green earth could have possibly taught you to read, to write, to spell? And who chose to employ this person as an instructor at an accredited institution of learning? Or perhaps you are a sort of Harry Potter figure (albeit without the magic, charm, or sense of decency), kept locked in a closet under the stairs for most of your formative years, waiting for someone to come along and teach you to diagram a sentence, properly punctuate, shine a light on your mind. But, even if one gives you the benefit of the doubt and presumes you are the victim of a highly flawed educational system or neglectful childhood, you remain a public figure. And as a public figure, no matter how poor an example you’re determined to make of yourself, as long as you are “on screen” in some fashion, there will always be swarms of impressionable American youth rabidly, if unconsciously, attempting to imitate you. I admittedly found myself falling down a sort of Twitter “rabbit hole,” and clicked through a number of “conversations” (if one can call a Holocaust of functional linguistics a conversation) you have recently engaged in with your fans and detractors. It quickly became apparent that perhaps this letter to you is too late; already the literary bile you have vomited forth into the crowded Shinjuku Station that is the internet infects one fourteen-year-old girl, then another, the another, until your misspellings and curse words and emoticons become a kind of viral mutation of the PINK t-shirt: first contaminating closets, then destroying minds and corroding souls.

In the end, after considerable meditation—which was certainly a waste of intellectual resources, but which is perhaps all part of the journey of self-discovery that my health textbook describes as one of the travails of adolescence—I decided that it was in fact the allure of the unknown that kept drawing me to you, like one of so many mouth-breathing brace-faced teenaged girls to the ten-foot-high supermodel photos in the display windows of a Victoria’s Secret. You are unknown to me not merely because I do not deign to watch the cultural debasement that is the proto-reality of your television program, but because you are so decidedly unlike myself in actual reality. You are wild, you are free, you are uninhibited in ways that I never have been and likely never shall be: the path to MIT will not, I daresay, be littered with whip-it cartridges and condom wrappers. (Although, come to think of it, condoms clearly did not feature largely in your high school years, either; one does not make it onto a show called Teen Mom by practicing safe sex.) You are the id to my super ego, the Hyde to my Jekyll, the Lydia to my Lizzy Bennet, “untamed, wild, unabashed, noisy and fearless,” and there is something ineffably, if embarrassingly, alluring about your lifestyle to those of us trodding the straight and narrow. Your very existence is a walking advertisement for the pleasures, however transitory or damaging, of irresponsibility. You may have already attended drug and alcohol rehabilitations, but you have also been rewarded for your transgressions with a television show.

One wonders if indeed you are not so unlike the monarch butterflies to which I have earlier drawn a comparison. Such creatures seem to float hither and thither, their gaudy wings blowsily tossed about on the most insignificant of transatlantic breezes, drifting they know not where during their brief allotment of time on this crust of earth until they suddenly if not wholly unexpectedly—and perhaps I am stretching the metaphor a bit gothically here—meet their maker in the form of a windshield or pernicious feral cat. The truth, however, of the monarch butterfly (we just completed a unit on them in biology) is that indeed it does know where it is going, regardless of how aimless it may appear to the untrained eye. Each butterfly spends the calendar year sojourning towards its wintering ground in Mexico and back again, to northern climes, yet each butterfly’s life spans mere months. This long migration becomes a sort of annus mirabilis when one considers it is stitched together by multiple generations of monarchs, each sprung from his chrysalis with a miraculous sense of direction and purpose, engendered to him through some evolutionary miracle of inborn instinct or circadian rhythm or ability to divine the earth’s magnetic fields through its quivering gossamer antennae. And this, Jenelle, is where your similarity to the monarch ends (although you undoubtedly have a butterfly tattoo quilled on or around your nether regions): you do not appear to drift so much as you in fact do drift, utterly lacking in an internal compass or purpose and merely bobbing along on the vagarious currents of life, not unlike your new breast implants on the chlorinated surface of the Lazy River in a Myrtle Beach water park.

How do you solve a problem like Jenelle? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? You don’t. You simply ask it to stop tweeting.

Float on, butterfly,
Matilda Darling

Liz lives and writes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.