Gem’s comment on my post Turning 23 > turning 13, in which I recalled some of the things I wanted most in the world 10 years ago, got me thinking.
“Perhaps it seems ridiculous because you now have a boy. Those are clearly desires of a single woman and ones that I held my entire life. Up until I got a boy. Then I scoffed at how ridiculous I used to be. Until I lost the boy. And then my desires went right back to my 13 year old desires….”
True, that’s one way to look at it. But for me, it really boiled down to general insecurity. All through my youth I wanted so desperately to be cool. It wasn’t impossible to be smart and popular but it certainly wasn’t easy and there was no way I would ever manage it. I didn’t have the looks, I didn’t have the personality, I didn’t have the money and I didn’t have the (parental) freedom.
I wanted the kind of charmed life depicted in Cleo and Dolly and the books I read. Summer romances. Lounging at the beach in bikinis, tossing my long, streaked curly hair, a bra I didn’t need to stuff, cute freckles instead of moles and sunspots. Friends who were as close as family, popping in for dinner, shopping together, sleepovers, doing each other’s nails. Instead I was stuck with glasses, my “weird” parents, unfashionable clothes (thank goodness for uniforms), pale skin that never tanned, and later on bad acne.
And of course, a lot of my angst also stemmed from unhappiness with how I looked. (Shock horror.) My body image issues weren’t about weight, but they certainly were about almost everything else. And I was just as concerned with female judgement, I think, as I was with my attractiveness to the opposite sex. I had this warped sense of reality, in hindsight. Thankfully, lot of the things I cared about then are no longer important to me. So I don’t have straight teeth. Perfect skin. Curly eyelashes. Ridiculous things I was at the time convinced would radically alter my life in their own right. Ah, adolescent delusions. Even if I was single, I now know they wouldn’t have. Even if I was single, the 23-year-old me is infinitely more comfortable in her own skin and far less concerned with fitting in. Nor do I have time to spend hours staring into a mirror and obsessing over my physical flaws. Bless you, real world. (And if I really believed my straight lashes were holding me back, I’d go out and buy mascara, but it’s far too much trouble for me to bother with whether it’s a glasses or contacts day.)
That said…it amazed me how getting a boyfriend actually changed everything. This is sad to say and sad to admit, but it was a good thing. I didn’t expect being in a relationship to boost my confidence so much, but it really proved to me once and for all that I really could be liked for me. That even in my ugly duckling youth I wasn’t completely repellent. And that was something I could carry with me forever, from then on.
So…while there are things that were great about adolescence, like our carefree camps out in the Lynfield bush, the rope swing over the edge of that cliff, $2 bus rides into town for an afternoon of mucking around, time to read as many books as I wanted…no way would I want to relive teenagehood and the microcosm of high school.