So here’s the deal. I bloomed late. Remember in middle school when little boys and little girls first started asking each other out? Holding hands, exchanging numbers and kisses before the morning bell rang. I remember the boys daring each other to ask out the fat or ugly girl. I remember consoling friends in the bathroom, hands making lazy circles over their backs, telling them I couldn’t imagine why boys were that mean. I remember standing in front of the boy that I’d liked for years turning him down because I could see his friends snickering behind him. In that moment I knew all I was, was a joke to him because I was chubby and ugly, and why would anyone actually want to be with a girl like me?
In high school, I wasn’t some boy-crazy girl who had crushes on the guys around me. That time had been lost on me. I kept my head buried in a book. Perhaps it was because I knew none of them would go for someone who looked like me. Because I was in our film program, a lot of the classes I was in were mostly made up of boys. I felt at home there, as a girl who was just one of the guys. Every time someone acted as if they liked me, I assumed it was some kind of joke.
By senior year, I couldn’t hide it anymore; even in my baggie graphic tees, I was a cute girl. One of the guys from my video technology class tried to hold my hand, I laughed it off like it was a joke. Honestly, in hindsight, I think I might have hurt his feelings; “cool trick, dude” might not have been my best response ever. I missed out on the trial and error part of high school dating.
I blame my inexperience with men to be one of the reasons I entered into an abusive relationship in the year between high school and college. I thought I’d finally found someone who could actually love me. I remember thinking to myself maybe he’s not the kindest but he loves you. And when someone loves you for the first time, you’ll make a lot of excuses for them. I excused the blatantly racist comments he made about me, the dents he put in the walls, and the gaslighting. It took a lot for me to realize that was not what love was supposed to look like.
Now in college, I know what I bring to the table. I’m smart, funny, beautiful, and when I love someone I put my whole self into the endeavor. I have a brightness in me that frankly wasn’t there before. I’m the person that goes the extra mile for others even when there is no personal gain for myself. I have the kind of confidence that means I don’t ask others what they think of me, I simply exist, in the best way I know how. Blooming late wasn’t all bad, I was cultivating the person I would one day become. No one’s ideals influenced my own; I found my own hobbies and interests that would later fuel passions.
The same boys who shamed me and so many other girls now slide into my DMs, looking for me to give them the time of day. These guys from my hometown want to call me things like sexy and hot because they think I don’t remember them, but I do.