When I was in the 7th grade, I fell head over heels in love with a boy. We would spend hours on the phone talking, laughing, and sometimes just breathing. I scribbled doodles of his name on my notebooks. And the feelings were mutual! It was magnificent.
But, I was in the 7th grade and under the never ending watch of my extremely strict mother. She began picking up the phone while my sweetie and I were talking. She would scream, literally SCREAM, for me to get off the phone. It started to get really difficult to have a conversation. Our conversations got shorter and farther in between. Until one day, when my Mom had screamed into our conversation one time too many, he said, and I will never forget it, ‘fuck this’. And he never called me again.
To say I was devastated was an understatement. I had lost the one person in my age group that I connected with on more than a superficial level. I mean, truly we had real conversations! At least the kind of conversations that 7th graders have. And because my town was so small, there was only one jr high school. So I saw him and shared classes with him every day. Awful.
Thankfully, the summer came but it did not bring any relief for my wounded feelings. I searched for him whenever I was allowed to leave the house. Hoping I would run into him in the store or he would walk past the field where I practiced with the high school marching band. I don’t remember if I ever saw him that summer. I probably did. But what I do remember was the following year in 8th grade, he and his friends started teasing me.
Apparently, as I was pining away at the memory of him, he was getting laid. He had a girlfriend, and she was a senior. And beautiful, with light skin and long hair…long WAVY hair. In class, his friends would tease me about how I was in love with him and he didn’t want me. And another comment I would never forget, ‘Look at you. You think he wants you over her?’ And he laughed.
They made fun of my hair, my clothes, my body, my color, my existence. He did not want me because I wasn’t good enough. I cried a lot and hung my head even more.
That’s some heavy stuff for a 13 year old to take in. It made me resent my Mom and hate myself. Magazines and TV shows made me feel even more ugly and fat, when I was neither.
I think it was around 9th grade when I got my own boyfriend and started taking up for myself with my ex-sweetie’s friends. I became the brash, funny girl. I made self-deprecating jokes and made fun of myself before anyone else did. I didn’t let things or other people bother me. And I kept that up for decades.
The truth is, I still questioned myself. I still wanted people to like me. I still wanted to be accepted, appreciated, beautiful.
I went through a lot of years comparing myself to others, wanting to be other people. I wanted to impress people, hoping that by them being impressed, I’d be accepted. I gave and gave and gave of myself to people that were unworthy, hoping to be appreciated. I just ended up used.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized the only person that needed to accept me, appreciate me, love me and think that I was beautiful…was ME.
Today is my 45th birthday. For the first time in my life, I took professional pictures, complete with makeup and a locale photoshoot.
I have decided that I am beautiful. Not when I lose weight. Not when I get married. Not when I have money. I am beautiful NOW. And I wanted to document the feeling.
In spite of the boys that decided that I wasn’t pretty enough,
Or the former friends that used my generosity for their advancement,
Despite society that tells me I will spend my life alone,
That I’m too Black, too nappy, too smart,
Regardless of the body that bears the evidence of my insecurities,
I have decided that I am accepted.
I am appreciated.
I am all together lovely.
I am beautiful.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
And THAT, finally, my soul knows very well.