I was a young girl once. When I was very very young I knew that I was smart. My grades and people told me that. I also knew that I was pretty. People told me that too. I was happy to be both. I didn’t understand the gravity of either and to me they carried equal weight.
It was Summer. It was the last weekend of the summer before the 7th grade. I was at The skating rink where the kids hung out together, a safe place for us to act a little more grown up than we actually were. Something had changed about me in the two months since that previous 6th grade Spring. I knew it when I was met with approval and validation by one of the older boys. I felt a new surge of power. I did not understand how to use that power but I knew that it was recognized by me in that validation.
Fall. 7th grade. I was at a football game. I was walking down the bleachers. A cluster of boys sat on the bleachers that I walked away from. They let out noises of strong approval of the sight of my body walking away from them. I felt my power. I turned to face them. They collectively recoiled in horror at the sight of my face. They retracted their approval. Something shattered in me. I had been told that I was beautiful since the day I was born. But I was ugly. Something was terribly wrong with my face. I questioned what it was. Based on evidence of the following 25 years I must have concluded that the ugliness lie in my big teeth and also in my freckles, in the gross unevenness of my skin tone. Swim parties and sleepovers and developed photographs of me without make up became anxiety riddled exposures of my secret ugliness. My worth was in my beauty and I was terrified of being found out.
Winter. I was a 9th grade cheerleader. I had a couple years experience with my budding sexuality at this point. But only a couple of years. There was a man in my life. He was an important man because he held an automatic authority over me. He had already many many years of experience with his sexual power. In a brief but private moment in the car in the driveway in front of the house I shared with my mom, this man winked at me knowingly and told me that he knew that I liked being a cheerleader because I liked wearing my short cheerleading skirt for the boys.
I felt ashamed. I felt so very ashamed. I felt so very very very ashamed of myself.