Suddenly some subtle entity
Some cosmic energy, brushed her like shadows. – Chris Stein, “Shayla”
When I was a child, I was definitely not one of the cool kids; I was a weird little know-it-all who saw things that the adults said weren’t there, told strange stories, and preferred to read rather than do anything else. I was chubby, homely, had frizzy hair and a terrible overbite, didn’t have a lot of friends and was relentlessly teased by both boys and girls, including some of the ones who claimed to be my friends when the more popular kids weren’t around. All in all, I was probably one of the last of my classmates one would’ve picked out as a future sex symbol. An author? Sure. A public intellectual? Maybe that too. But a stunning beauty, respected activist and all around cool kid? Anybody who would’ve predicted that would’ve been laughed out of the conversation.
I guess things started to change in my freshman year of high school. I remember a picture my mother took of me with the girl across the street (who was the same age as me) on our 8th grade graduation night, and the difference was striking. But a few weeks after that I got my braces, and by the time they were off about 16 months later my fat had vanished, my facial contours had changed completely and puberty had done some indefinable something to my self-confidence. I was still fairly plain, but by my 14th birthday my figure (with the exception of my tits) was almost exactly the same as it is today: 5’5″ tall, 125#, 25″ waist, 36″ hips. I could still fit into the clothes I wore then if I still had them (assuming they could stretch over my enhanced bosom). By the time I was 15 some people of both sexes clearly seemed to find me attractive, and by the time I reached UNO a few months before my 17th birthday I could count on frequent passes from both guys and girls. And yet, nobody ever referred to me as a beauty; I heard “cute” very often, and even “hot” or “sexy”. But something deep inside me just couldn’t accept that, or maybe I thought it was because I was willing to put out; I jumped at the first marriage proposal I got at the ripe old age of 20, and paid for that bad decision for the next seven and a half years.
And though my self-esteem had taken a severe beating during my time with Jack, when I emerged on the other side and moved into my thirties, I noticed that something had changed. My confidence, though above average in my late teens, had now become palpable. People were now describing me with word like “striking” and “stunning” instead of “pretty” or “hot”. And though I had been able to demand money for sex before, now I could depend on that for a living. The effect snowballed, and though my confidence in my writing and speaking abilities trailed that in my looks by a number of years, that eventually built up as well. But while people who’ve always been attractive and popular are very often not the nicest of folks, there’s a part of me that still believes I’m a homely weirdo that nobody would ever actually want, and she’s still enchanted and flattered and delighted by compliments and attention. She tries to be kind and gentle to everyone who is nice to her, because she still clearly remembers what it was like when people were rough and unkind to her. And though she’s still not quite sure how she got to be one of the cool kids, she’s absolutely determined never to use the perks of that status to hurt others.