Sunday, May 4, 2014

I wasn't always the sex symbol of my generation: Confessions of a chubby pre-teen

I was never an especially beautiful little girl, even though my grandmother might tell you otherwise.  I was a chubby, only child who grew up in a house with a single dad, and occasionally visited with a sometimes-mom who thought putting on a leather jacket and running gel through her hair was "dressing up".  Because of this, my feminine influences were limited.  Luckily, when I was a little kid I didn’t really know the difference.  Plaid shirts and jeans worked well enough for playing in the backyard, and that was pretty much the extent of it until I reached middle school.

Yes I am wearing a unitard, and apparently I also think I'm John Lennon reincarnate.

My father worked his ass off to juggle a career and take care of me.  He could barely make it to my after school program on time to pick me up, let alone assuage every childhood insecurity of mine.  My mother was always in the middle of some financial or relationship crisis of her own design, so she certainly wasn't going to be the guiding light that would help me navigate through the dicey waters of puberty either.  I entered middle school as an awkward, chubby, blond tomboy, blissfully unaware of what obstacles lay waiting for me on the horizon. 

   I wasn't completely hideous, but I wasn't a looker by any stretch of the imagination either.  Despite not looking like a Disney star, I was clever, quirky, and liked to have a good laugh.  The freedom of childhood allowed those better qualities to flourish, and as a result I luckily made some good friends, played sports, and did well enough socially.  Thankfully, I would be spared the turmoil of being a complete social reject, but being somewhere near the top of the middle, or the bottom of the top had its own unique pitfalls.  As I reached 7th and 8th grade, boys, crushes, and the faint blushes of sexuality began to flourish around me.  Boys & girls began to flirt, kiss, and even"date"; sometimes for weeks at a time.  Despite my desires to join in, I was more of a yearning spectator then an active participant.
Yes, that's me in a cat shirt. I blame my father.

I remember obsessing over the same boys everyone else did, and being friends with the girls they liked - who always seemed so perfect, and also so boring.  I remember heartbreaking little scenes, like the time I went to a Halloween party in 7th grade.  I had decided I would be a diner waitress, and my dad and I spent the entire day driving around trying to find the perfect costume for the girl/boy party I would be attending later that night.  Matt was going to be there and I had been hopelessly, utterly in love with him ever since the 5th grade.  When I wasn’t busy drawing pictures of him & I running off into the sunset in my notebook, I was gazing endlessly at the back of his perfectly gelled head from the desk behind him in math class.

In my mind this Saturday night Halloween party might as well have been the Met Gala.  My dad went so far as to drive me to a factory where they made & sold uniforms so we could make it look authentic.  I ended up in a mint green button up diner dress, with an apron, fully equipped with fake kitchen equipment.  I brushed my hair back into a pony tail and looked myself over in my new dress (something I had barely ever worn before) and I think I remember feeling a little bit pretty.  One thing I definitely was, was very, very excited.  Maybe this was the outfit that would finally get Matt to notice me, and who knows, maybe we'd even play 7 minutes in Heaven; a girl could dream.

                I arrived at the party, a pretty big to do in my 7th grade world.  Unfortunately, nothing went as I had planned it in my built-up, little imagination.  Matt didn’t look at me 'like that', although he may have laughed at a couple of my jokes.  He did however notice Nicole; probably without her even trying.  Nicole was pretty and had mastered the quiet giggle accompanied by an adorable side glance long before I had even realized there was a complex and subtle art to femininity.  An art which conveniently, no one had remembered to tell me about.  I remember when I told my dad I wanted to start shaving my legs, he had to ask a lady at work what kind of razor to buy me and how often I would need to change the blade. Looking back now, I never stood a chance.  I spent the whole evening watching him flirt with her. A broken-hearted preteen rage grew inside me.  I remember looking down at the stupid fake knife, in my stupid fake apron, and wishing it was real so I could take it out and stab stupid fake Nicole for stealing my stupid fake boyfriend.  Teenage hormones were so fun, weren’t they?

                Another time, I went to a birthday pool party at a girl named Kristen's house, who was of course effortlessly pretty & popular.  I was worthy enough to get the invite, but my bikini wouldn’t be earning me any suitors this day either.  I remember watching all the hot, popular boys chase the girl’s around the pool and “jump-start” them.  Jump-starting was when a boy would run up behind a girl and grab her hips a couple of times to surprise her, otherwise known as “I would totally bang you, but my balls haven't dropped yet.”  Other girls would laugh about how annoying it was, but I was always about 3 seconds away from stapling a sign to my ass that read “Jump-starts are cool by me, seriously GO FOR IT.”  

"Leave me alone, I'm an angsty teen girl."
                   Anyway, I was meandering aimlessly around the pool when I noticed a group of boys sitting down in lawn chairs.  They were laughing like pre-pubescent hyenas.  I listened in to hear what all the commotion was about, and I slowly realized they were calling all the cute girls over in their little bathing suits, and then asking them to bend over and get them a soda from the nearby cooler, while they gazed at their asses with the same smug grin that would probably later get them into the fraternity of their choice. 
                   Desperately, I yearned for Dan to call me over and exploit my happily willing ass to his chairmates (imagine a 12 year old lumberjack with a dangerously sexual glimmer in his eye; at least that’s how I saw him).  All of the sudden I heard my name being called “Hey Krissy, come over here for a second!”  Could it be, was it finally, really happening to me? I waited for a second until they called me again, just so I could make sure it was real.  “Krissy, get over here!”  I eagerly sauntered over with the calm demeanor of a dog in heat, “Yeah, Dan?” I replied coolly (in my mind).  “Could you go over to that cooler there & grab me a soda?” he pointed, gesturing to a cheap red Coleman, which held the contents of my sexual destiny. "HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT," I suppressed myself from screaming out loud, but my excitement would be short lived, because in the very next breath, Dan looked back over at me.  I saw his eyes look me up and down with the exaggeration of a Charlie Chaplin film, then he turned his head slightly back towards his cronies and slyly said “You know what?...Never mind, I think I'm all set.” as they all erupted in a cacophony of laughter.  I walked away holding back tears of humiliation.  I didn't have the tools yet to stand up for myself, but I did learn how to hate myself & my body image in a brand new way.

                   In retrospect, Dan was a little douche-bag unworthy of my attention, but he probably didn't know any better.  I imagine he had some beer drinking, misogynist of a father who modeled that behavior for him all too well, and to be fair it probably was kind of funny from the literal & figurative place he sat during that time in his life, but it sucked for 12 year old me.

                    When I graduated high school some years later, I had gone through puberty, grown some boobs, boys had noticed, and I had figured my shit out a little.  I remember sitting in the Senior Courtyard and seeing Dan and his annoyingly similar, sexy, brutish friend Jon stick their heads out the window and yell down something to the effect that I should come up and see them for some implied sexy time, except this time they weren't joking.  I wasn't the chubby, androgynous, little 12 year old I used to be, but some weird part of her was still in there seeking their validation.  I won't lie, it felt good to know they finally saw me that way, but it was more empowering that I no longer saw them the same way I used to; as the gate keepers to my self-esteem.  

 I didn't end up meeting them in the hall to bang in case you were wondering.  I talked my 12 year old self off that cliff pretty quickly, and let the more self-assured 17 year old version of me reply with something witty and go on with the rest of her day.  It would take me many years, and many more incidents of a similar nature (good, and bad) to learn how to find myself inwardly instead of through the viewpoint of others, and to be honest it's still a work in progress. Now as I sit here at 25, having been the chubby girl, the funny girl, the sexy girl, the popular girl, the snarky girl, the broken-hearted girl, and everything in between, I reflect back on the childhood version of myself who saw things with a unique sense of humor, who liked to write and be creative, who cared about others, who laughed without abandon, and I'm trying to give her the acceptance and nurturing I didn't know how to then, because that 12 year old girl kicked serious ass.

"Being weird's the new cool."

"Stop making that face 12 yr old me, J/K play on playa."

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Very truthful and funny

    Keep doing that!