A little while ago, I read a lovely post that Chassé wrote about her experience with love, from age fifteen to now. (It’s really beautifully written, please check it out!)
It spoke to me about the confusion of growing up, knowing everything at fifteen, and slowly realizing you don’t know everything, even about yourself.
When I was thirteen, I worked at a baseball stadium where a surprising majority of the employees were my age or a little older, and a lot of them were Jewish. Doesn’t seem like a necessary detail, but it is… because I felt really discriminated against. I was made fun of and felt ugly. They flirted and joked around with the pretty white girls who worked there, and despite my being friends with some of them, I was ignored. I was socially awkward, so among those girls too I felt isolated. It was probably one of the worst working environments I was ever in — I found myself wishing I was white, wishing I could be pretty like them.
When I was fifteen, I continued to place far too much value on what other people thought of me. I worried about being liked. I was one of the smart girls in my grade that nobody was interested in dating (at least, at the time, nobody let me know). The one guy who did ask me out wouldn’t admit he was seeing me to anyone else. Apparently it was embarrassing. I felt ugly. I’d been the ugly girl since day one at that school. I didn’t wear makeup, didn’t spend lots of time on my hair. It didn’t really matter… he was very interested in my best friend, and it was very clear not just to me, but to everyone in my grade. My other close friends tried to tell me how I deserved better, but I was blind to it and let myself get hurt.
When I was fifteen, I was learning that I was attracted to girls, but there were no girls to like. My school was full of boys and girls obsessed with each other to the point where it left little room to recognize sexualities beyond heterosexuality. One of my friends who wasn’t dating anyone was labeled lesbian just because she wasn’t dating, which was pretty stupid. It came off as negative. So I wasn’t attracted to girls.
We’ve all seen this before.
When I was fifteen, I allowed myself to be assaulted because I was missed feeling “loved.” I wasn’t even very attracted to this guy. I didn’t know how to escape. I remember going home and trying to wash out my mouth in the shower, scraping my skin as best as I could. Of course, as always, I blamed myself for leading this guy on. I was disgusted.
When I was sixteen, I found the one. I had never laughed so much, and the love in his eyes felt so real. The teasing wasn’t real, it was just for fun. I was finally gaining confidence. I felt pretty. But I noticed he seemed to like pretty white girls a lot. He never noticed pretty Asians or brown girls like myself. I started to feel I wasn’t good enough. I began to know it wouldn’t last, but I let myself fall into it, despite the condescension and the constant belittling, making me feel stupid.
At seventeen, I knew it was ending, but I hung on. I lost who I was, partially because of that second, bigger assault, and partially because staying with the inevitable end looming was mentally exhausting. I was a mess. I wasn’t me.
Finally, at eighteen, I didn’t want anything or anyone. I knew I would never love the same way again, but maybe one day I would love again. Maybe. But right now, no way. I was happier, but I was cynical and bitter. I only let that one high school crush in, and only for a short time. When I tried to open up about my sexuality, he tried to tell me that I wasn’t bi, just curious. There were times he would talk like he was smarter than me, like knew more than me. A lot of the time he did, but even if he didn’t mean to, he talked down to me. I knew it was summer fun, when I was eighteen, and that it wouldn’t last. But I let myself enjoy it.
And even he tried to tell me I was too committed, once we broke up. We had gone back to our separate schools, separate cities, and kept in touch. He told me he’d had opportunities to be with other girls, but he wasn’t ready yet because he missed me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had already moved on, so I let him think what he wanted when he called me and said it was time to really ending things — that he was breaking up with me, and that I’d been missing him all this time. Instead of the mutual end we had come to a month or so earlier, he wanted to feel in control.
So he bragged to mutual friends that he’d been with me.
I was mad, but nothing more. A little hurt, maybe, but nothing like what I’d seen before. I was done with it.
I moved on fast, and eventually forgave him. We’re still good friends. (He knows he was a jerk.)
There was simply no way anyone would be allowed in. No way was I going to be hurt again. Not even a little.
Still eighteen, I just wanted to have some fun.
And nobody seemed to want me. I was friendly, bright, active, and I loved to socialize. I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there, and was the most confident I have ever been, I think. But it was when I was eighteen that I got stood up, rejected repeatedly, and felt most lonely. (At least, the loneliest I’d been before my family thing.) I started to feel unattractive again. I felt like it was because I wasn’t your average pretty white girl. I don’t know how to explain, but if you are of colour, you know what I mean — you can tell when someone doesn’t like you because you are not white. Even just in everyday interactions.
Nobody likes brown girls, I felt.
Eventually, I just gave up. I stopped bothering and just did my thing. Screw everyone else. I didn’t need anyone.
I found happiness in being alone, finally.
And of course, it was right around then that G came along.
When I was nineteen, I saw his green eyes and his sharp jawline, nose in a book, and I thought, “He’s cute.”
But I didn’t say anything.
At nineteen, I was tired of putting myself out there. It was time to let someone come to me.
And he did.
But when I was nineteen, I was afraid. He was just so wonderful, I didn’t want to hurt him, and I didn’t want to use him. I broke up with him after a month, so that we could just enjoy our summers and see what might happen come September.
That lasted about a week.
When I was twenty, he helped me understand my sexuality and didn’t shame me for it.
At twenty-two, his green eyes are my favourite shade and his hair is soft in my hands.
At twenty-two, I can’t resist smiling when I see him, and when I do, I can see the smile in his eyes too.
At twenty-two, I don’t need to hide who I am anymore.
Turns out, no one’s opinion matters… except mine.
You just need to be happy alone first.
Have you found ways to stop feeling ugly? Please share your story in the comments below 🙂