Monday, May 25, 2009
When I was 15, I realized, to my surprise and delight that I had grown out of my awkward ugly ducking phase.
The braces were gone, and although I was still experimenting with my eyebrows, they at least no longer made me look like the sister of Bert (of Bert and Ernie fame).
Sure I still had excessive sweating to try and keep under control, but I had solved most of the more embarrassing issues surrounding my hyperhidrosis by wearing tops made of as little black fabric as I could get away with wearing to school.
Midriff baring v-necks with a push-up bra, red lipstick, high heeled platforms and skintight black velour lace-up fly pants ensured that by the time my sweet 16 rolled around, I usually looked anything but. My parents did their best to discourage all this, but I was a teenage girl on a mission. Sure, I didn't know where exactly I was headed, but I knew one thing, I was sure as hell NOT going to put a sweater over my tube top, and yes I am aware that it's winter, thank you very much.
For a while I was completely addicted to the little thrill I got every time some guy tried out his best pick-up line on me. I felt powerful. A smile would get me a free slurpee, or free candy. Older guys wanted to date me. Friends recognized me by my strut from blocks away.
Objectification, smectification, I was finally one of those all powerful "hot girls" we were all supposed to aspire to be, and loving it. I wanted to be 20, independent and grown up, and I guess, in my mind, that meant clothes that only fit the workplace dresscode of a pussycat doll.
Eventually, due in no small part, I'm sure, to my mom wishing on every star, rainbow, eyelash and turkey bone in the vicinity, the novelty of superficial attention wore off and I grew out of this phase. Now, i cringe at the memory of how much energy I spent looking for attention from people who just wanted to ogle a teenage girl. Of how I hid my insecurities by working hard at being over the top, in your face sexy. It was exhausting.
This weekend I went out to meet this girl for a delicious Indian feast in the city followed by a glamourous evening of staring at her ceiling fan and groaning about how much we ate.
I had gotten a little dressed up for our date, mascara, heels, an actual attempt to brush my hair, but nothing over the top. However, apparently I looked worthy of notice to some, because as I walked to the streetcar, a group of guys started catcalling, making kissing sounds, and barking -yes, I said barking- from the top floor of a townhouse I was passing.
As I walked by, pulling my sweater/wrap thing securely over my chest and doing my best to pretend I was deaf, I thought about how much my attitude has changed. There was no little thrill. Only irritation and indignance. I mean, that's so gross. "Ugh, really? barking? REALLY? Is that supposed to be a compliment? Who the hell taught you guys it was ok to harass women on the street? Don't you have mothers or sisters?" I felt suddenly naked and uncomfortable in the clothes I'd been perfectly pleased with a moment before.
While there's no way I'd go back to being 15 or 16 for anything, for a second there was a part of me that wished for that delusional superficial confidence that would have seen me swing my hips a little more, grin and toss my hair as I breezed on by.
But only for a second.