TLD’s Note: This may not be entirely Fitness related, but I think it is important in my quest for balance to give a glimpse into my past and the life experiences that has shifted my perspective on Health and Fitness from “abs” to strong. I still beat myself up about not seeing ab definition or being incredibly lean or having stepped on a stage. When I became serious about Fitness in 2013, I wanted to be pretty. I thought losing weight could fix all of my body image and self-esteem issues. Everyday I realize there is so much more to my Fitness journey than just “pretty.” Lifting weights and working out helps me see I am so much more than who I am on the outside. So, without further ado:
2nd Note: I first published this post on a previous Writing blog in 2012.
“You’re Prettier When You Blow Me”
15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12. **
I was sitting in the back of a darkened auditorium, surrounded by nearly 100-150 professional women, when the statistic slapped me across the face. Not even an hour before I had shown Katie Makkai’s “Pretty,” alongside a couple of other spoken word poems on culture, gender and race to a group of 15-16-year-old girls who laid out on the table all of the times they had felt ugly or fat or worthless because of–not surprisingly–images in the media. Even less surprising was their retelling of times when their mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles had told them they were ugly, fat or worthless because their hair frizzed due to a morning’s dew or their thighs failed to squeeze into precious size 2s. In multiple conversations with young girls and older women alike I find that our closets are full of moments when we felt being worth something amounted to the lack of food on our plate or the array of colors splayed across our faces. Thinking back I can’t even remember a time when losing 50 pounds wasn’t one of my New Year’s Resolutions, or having curly hair has made me feel beautiful and edgy and worth it. And in that moment I think, can I be a positive female role model when I still falter to see the beauty that everyone else sees?
At age 12 I was still new to sex in the sense that I was a virgin, and would be for another 7 years thereafter. I had though, to my brother’s horror I’m sure, stumbled upon what was then simply deemed “channel 35.” There were nights when, as my grandmother shook the entire apartment complex with her snore, my cousin and I watched as our young eyes were assaulted with shaved vaginas and extremely veiny penises for countless hours of the night. After my brother caught me sex became mysterious, wrong and dirty. In a way, it became alluring because it was something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. Looking around at the kids in my class, I begun to understand that good girls–smart, studious, virgins–were not desirable. If good girls were anything like me then they were chubby, with frizzy hair and really bad clothing (because their mothers were still making the fashion choices). I was Ugly before anyone even knew of Betty.
But I had crushes. And I always crushed from afar because in 3rd grade I got the message very clearly that I was not anything to be looked at when the only Valentine I got was from my mother. I could not be me and expect boys to like me. So when at the age of 12 my crush gave me the opportunity to be anything but me, I ran with it. I had been chewing on a pen in Art class that afternoon when I glanced up and saw my crush looking at me from across the hall. Chewing on my pen wasn’t exactly a highlight in my day so I shrugged it off until my crush circled me after school with a group of his friends. The story went that by chewing on my pen I had been offering to blow my crush. Stunned that he had even noticed me I didn’t do much to clear up the story. He was finally interested in me, ME!, that ugly little 7th grade duckling with the acne scars and dominating mole right smack on the side of her face. But I wasn’t ready the next day after school when all four of them coaxed me to their building lobby, and after 15-20 minutes of saying “No, I will not go upstairs with you” I said okay because one of the boys had taken my book bag and I feared my mother would yell her head off if she found I had not only gotten to the bus stop where she normally picked me up on foot but with no book bag.
I used to wake up in sweats, ashamed and in tears remembering that naive day before I finally confided in a high school friend. Every time I closed my eyes I would think about walking into that apartment with those 4 boys, and having at least 1 boy sit in the living room with me–watching me, to make sure I didn’t try to leave. I sat in a corner, unaware of the fact that this would be a defining moment for me and my childhood and my relationship to sex. I sat in that corner, scared that I’d still have to go home without a book bag. Scared that my father would want an explanation as to how it happened and I would have none to give. I wasn’t aware of the minutes going by as I sat in that corner. All I was aware of was that I had no book bag and I could not go home without one. As I sat in the corner of one of the couches the boys would sit next to me, pleading with me to give them head. Channel 35 had not prepared me for this. Let me explain that I did not even understand what a blow job was until Sophomore year of high school, so at the age of 12 I was lost as to what these boys were asking me to do. One of them had no qualms about giving me an explanation, despite the fact that I had not asked for one. Rather than ask, he simply laid his penis out on top of his jeans and grabbing me by the back of the head, tried to introduce me. He even tried pressing it against my lips as if maybe I just needed to be even closer to his pale flaccid self for him to be pleasured. I didn’t let any of the boys sit on the same couch as me or near me after that.
My book bag was returned to me only after I was shoved into the closet because keys could be heard wrestling in the lock. When I was questioned by the police I would hear that one of the boy’s sisters–who had found me in the closet where my book bag was being held hostage– had found them masturbating and watching porn in the bedroom. When I reached the outside I was swarmed by a group of 8th graders, shouting “Whore” and “Cock sucker” and “Wipe the cum off your face!” I wanted the entire thing to be over. I lied to the police on my case about what happened because I couldn’t handle having the principal of my junior high school tell me I was asking for it or not being allowed to go out for lunch or being continually heckled and physically shoved by an 8th grade bully every day after school. My crush and his 3 friends didn’t speak to me or look my way afterward. If I wanted any ounce of attention I had to spread my legs and at the age of 19, after years of crying myself to sleep because no boy found me pretty, I did. I pushed my breasts up and out, I cut 4″ off my skirt and heavily made up my face to erase all of my ugly. Forget pretty, I wanted sexy. I wanted boys to see me walk down a hall and want to fuck me. If they fuck me, I thought, they’ll like me. And they did. They fucked me. And every time I would think “Finally, someone who likes me. Someone who’ll wake up in the morning and say have lunch with me. Someone who will fall for me.” They all fell–prey to my advances but not head over heels.
So I cut my hair. Because short hair was not pretty, and after discovering “pretty” and being made to feel like a cheap blow up doll the last thing I wanted to be was pretty. I cut my hair. Maybe this way I can get someone to see me. But boys still wanted to fuck me, and just fuck me so I gave up and decided if that’s all I was to be then at least it would be on my own terms. I could forget love and being wanted and not worry if a guy asked me to lunch the next day. In the midst of forgetting about pretty, I became confident and bold and even carefree. When I stopped worrying about pretty, boys began to like me but in the back of my head pretty still amounted to sex and I didn’t want to be just another hole for a guy to place his penis in. I no longer wanted to be pretty because I didn’t want to just be discarded after a night in bed the same way a vegetarian passes up on a chicken leg. So when my boyfriend tells me that I’m pretty or that he prefers me without endless amounts of layers on my face or when he’s perfectly content watching a movie than rolling around in bed with me I can’t help but in the back of my mind think that he’s lying or that he’s bound to find a girl worth spending time with. Despite the fact that he doesn’t flinch at the blaring 12 on my jeans or kisses me when my hair is all types of frizz and curls I still feel the need to be society’s ideal of pretty–lined eyes, long legs and all. Even with a boy by my side I still think that pretty meets at the v between my legs, and anything less is only temporary.