Thursday, October 4, 2012


me, age seventeen

I thought I was ugly. A teenage girl with misbehaved hair and thick eyebrows straight from her father's face. I thought I was strange-looking and cried about it out of frustration and envy. I flipped through magazines and seethed at perfect teeth. I felt awkward around the popular girls and envied the straight hair, expensive wardrobes, tiny mouths and upturned noses. That strange american standard of what is beautiful and accepted. For years I dodged cameras. If I did see a photo of myself I would often be horrified. When we received our school pictures, I flipped mine upside down on my desk immediately. I did not look at them until I was alone or at home so that I could inspect them in peace.

Among friends these things were not discussed. I was confused about my appearance to others vs. my appearance in pictures vs. my appearance of myself. I could not connect them, and so they remained separate for a while. I do not know where such a strange thing begins, that loathing of the self. As a kid, it was a lie to dive into. In retrospect AND reality it simply wasn't the truth.

senior picture. thrift store shirt, hemp necklace, sun-in.

I dated and maintained A's and lived & died for sports. I didn't act like a lump on a log, didn't scurry about with nervous hands in front of my face. I was simultaneously scared and intrigued by my reflection. There was a disconnect, a long distance string between the me staring back and the me I was in, the body running piles of miles every week for cross country, owner of a hand that flickers with joy across paper.

Why write this? Why share such a personal, kind of embarrassing thing? I don't know...why not? Because the other day I was looking through pictures(from long ago, ones I keep in a box, can hold with my hands). Those images surprise me in a different way now. I can look at an image of myself and remember how awful I felt, how certain I was when it was snapped that I would look like a monster. I look at it now and recall that disconnect. I look and see youth, I look and see before. There is no monster. How did I see a monster? Are we really so cruel to ourselves, even in strange times like high school? The mind is a peculiar and convincing thing. "...Thinking makes it so." Even in thought there is routine, and in routine there is habit. Habit becomes comfort, and that's where we are poured into the looking glass.

I cannot go back and rewrite it--I doubt I would if I could anyway. I graduated, grew up, left town. Victories and mistakes. Reassurance came from not disappearing, from survival. Basic things made me feel beautiful, and feeling beautiful meant that I was inspired. A pair of hands holding my face, a poem released, reading in bed. I learned to connect. I learned to tug in that long distance string and cross stitch self to self. I learned to not fear my reflection. And to that me back then I say you did your best. I say I'm in your corner. I say you are inspired. And that, dear self, is stunning.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I remember that senior photo!
    I wonder if its the curse of all young people to hate themselves sometimes. I surely know I did as well.

    I still sometimes look at recent pictures of myself, or worse - hear myself on my own voicemail or recording and think: "My god - That is what I look like/sound like?!"

    Sometimes I wonder if I saw myself walking down the street if I would even recognize me.