Smile! You're Pretty.
The City. I am in seventh grade, Mr. Z's age now. I am flat as a board, wear an unpadded bra and big oversized tee-shirts from The Limited that says Forenza in cursive writing where the breast pocket would be if there was one. As I walk into the heart of the city from my dad's ratty duplex, the one with the telephone wires scrambled in a cage behind the driveway, my movement is nervous, I would hide my hands in my sleeves if it were cold enough to be wearing them. I am worried about my too pale skin. Look at me: on my face is Clinique foundation a shade darker than my real skin thinking, incorrectly, that it makes me look tan or at least healthy. I wear pink Clinique blush over this foundation and then--over this!--I wear red as apples gel rouge. Three layers of crap because I am scared of myself and of you and because I feel the need to hide. I think I ripped the rouge off of drugstore in the small downtown which doubles as the university's campus. I also wear light blue eyeshadow, purchased with babysitting monies and medium blue mascara that cakes. Though in my mind I have long, wavy blonde hair, it is dishwater colored with yellow highlights, it is cut in layers and hangs just above my shoulders. The curls are hardly sexy and say only: middle school eighties perm. I might weight ninety pounds at this point, but I am thinking it might've been closer to eighty. I remember feeling impressed with people who hit 100 on their weight in gym lass earlier in the month.
Over the summer, several months before I am walking to Rock Bottom Records to peruse the used 45 section and lust over the Duran Duran posters, I was at a musical with my grandmother in her boring little village at the Cape. She is my height, with a froggy face that is on the cusp of attractive cute. She has no ass, shapely legs from golfing, a permanent tan, and breasts larger than anyone I've met since,; my grandmother might not have mush, but she's got those double D's. She also has my eyes, or I should say, I have her's, turquoise blue and o matter what kind of bad hair day I am having or how concave my bony chest looks in comparison to other girls my age, they are remarked on, aften. People describe m by noting my blue eyes before anything else.
I am used to blending in. I am next to my gram and we a re in line for Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. My flowered Benetton Sweatshirt goes to my knees but it is tucked into my skinny white jeans in the front and is left hanging low in the back. I do not understand that I should be showing my butt off yet. All I know about are boobs, mostly because I do not have any to speak of. I am humming Jacob and Sons to myself, thinking fondly about the church we all went to before my parents separated and suddenly I realize that I am the center of the line. People from the front are looking, as are the people in back of us. I was humming so quietly; how cold they have heard me? I want to ask my grandmother, but she is staring, too. I must be so ugly to have them this entranced, right?
What I did not know is this: teenage girls are more beautiful than anything on the planet: brilliant, glistening stars punctuating an early blue sky, moss carpeting the labyrinth of trees in all each and every forest; the lonely, perfect sand dollar on a New England beach during the winter. Teenage girls, even if the are weird, acne coated, flat chested, and the large legged, are creatures unlike any other. And sadly, nobody whispered this truth in my ear. My grandmother was so clueless thinking only of acting herself out of her welfare background, worried more about my pronunciation of words than what was in my heart. My mother, tall and "handsome" had no experience with being tiny and adorable. She was playing mirror mirror every morning. She did not want to soften the blow of the world kicking me out of childhood, but wanted to steal any joy that could have been my own; it was my time. I deserved to feel pretty because I was. Teenage girls have always been, and will always be the most illuminated creatures on this earth.