When I was younger, my body consistently changed. I don’t think there was one year before 3rd grade where it ever looked the same, but why would it? I was a growing girl, and even though it didn’t add up in the height factor… it added in some other places. In third grade, I got my first bra and I hated it. It was a normal part of growing up, but I never paid attention to my chest before, and it felt weird to know something about me was changing. As people’s bodies prepare for their menstrual cycles, things obviously change, and for me, my chest got…bigger. I was short, so it was easy to overlook them, or at least that’s what everyone told me. The buttons on my shirt had these weird spaces between them even if I buttoned it up all the way, and all my shirts suddenly felt tighter, especially with the new bras. I remember crying because my mom made me size all my shirts up (which there’s nothing wrong with, but all my friends were size small and questioned my constant change in clothes which I didn’t understand either).
I wasn’t allowed to wear v-necks or two pieces because I was told: “It wasn’t appropriate.” But to this day I wonder, why wouldn’t it be appropriate for a 12-year-old to wear whatever they wanted? I began to grow into my body a little more, but that got me some unsolicited attention. My male friends who I had known for years began to squeeze me tighter in hugs and laughed when I walked away. The year I found out some people actually liked that part of a woman’s body, I began to try and view it in a positive light and attempted to wear things that highlighted them, but it was still a terrible mentality to have. People always looked down my shirt, but I was the one who got in trouble when I wore tighter things because they seemed “provocative” or “sexy” on me. Why would I want to seem sexy in 7th grade? That was the year I only wore hoodies, even when it was 80 degrees.
I think a final blow that happened two years ago was when Dress-up as the First Letter of Your Name parties were still trending. A good friend of mine at the time who also happened to share the letter “A” in her name told me her father had told her to dress up as me. I was delighted at the idea until she told laughed while explaining that her father had said she would just need to stuff two large balloons down her shirt. It could have been funny but the awkward silence from everyone who heard said enough. Even afterward, someone approached me and told me they were sorry for what she and her father had said. Imagine that? A grown man — and a father — making fun of someone else’s body.
Obviously, this isn’t meant to be a sob story or a rant. It’s to highlight some of the pressing issues that are happening now about sexualizing girls early. If I had to deal with that, imagine what today’s generation of women and girls will face. This is a call to understand not all bodies look the same, and that’s okay! There should be no reason to apply words like “sexy” to someone who is still wearing clothes from Justice or Children’s Place. We need to work to help younger girls feel comfortable wearing what they want and allow them to just be kids. I am still growing into my body as maybe you are into yours, and if you faced something similar growing up about your weight, height, skin color, or anything else that’s not easy to control, I’m so sorry. Society will always have different perspectives about what body is ideal in that day, month, or year, but what matters is how you feel about your body and that you’re happy with it. I am happier in mine than I was then, and I thank the beautiful women of Her Campus and UT Austin for being so supportive and diverse. The representation matters and so do you, so think before you speak and love yourself. You deserve to be happy!
Also, shout out to my friend Sophia and her article, “My Journey with Dresses” which inspired me to share my story!