I stood head and shoulders above everyone in my class, including the boys, and at 6th grade summer camp no one asked me to dance, so I stood on the sidelines with the other tall girls and watched the camp counselors discuss their favorite Motley Crue records.
I had a huge, enormous beak of a nose that stuck out at the center of my face. It announced I was arriving three seconds before the rest of me entered the room. I dreamed desperately for a “nose like a ski jump” as I described it, and I went so far as to take a pen and draw lines on the sides of my snout, carving out what I felt was a perky enough schnoz.
All the girls I knew permed their hair and curled their bangs, but I didn’t because I honestly thought perms looked ridiculous. I did try to curl my bangs, but it never worked because I didn’t like hair spray very much, so my hair just sort of flopped everywhere.
I had no sense of makeup technique. Despite going to Catholic school, I did have one good friend who was a public school kid (gasp!) named Julie, and I was in awe of her beauty supplies. Once, at a slumber party at her house, I tried to put cover up stick on my lips because I thought it was some sort of cool, nude-colored lipstick.
After observing my actions, one of Julie’s friends said to me in a withering voice, “Um, that’s like, cover stick? Like for your face?”
In girl-speak, this roughly translates to: “You are such a nerd I cannot believe your mother even allowed you to be born.”
I had no fashion technique either, and one day Julie had to teach me how to pinch roll my jean cuffs so they would be super tight around my ankles. Up until that point, I just rolled them up loosely around my feet, like some sort of spastic farm child. I have to say, to this day I remain really appreciative of Julie’s efforts to help me out. (I still remember going with her to buy Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth album. We thought we were soooo cool!)
Anyway, despite Julie’s help, I realized standard beauty was not to be mine, so I decided I would try really hard to be quirky. In a calculated move, I selected a pair of bright red wire-frame glasses. I know you can’t really tell from the picture, but I’m wearing them in the shot in this post. But instead of calling me quirky, everyone wanted to know why I was trying to look like Sally Jessy Raphael.
Still, even though I was not pretty, I remember being very, very happy at this time in my life – even if I was weird-looking and hated my nose. I had a lot of friends I genuinely liked, and I was a total spaz and happy with it. I loved school and being smart. I was super into books, and I forced Julie to act out scenes from Little House in the Prairie in the backyard. (I was Laura, natch.) I made shoebox dioramas for fun, colored elaborate pictures, wrote stories, took walks by myself, and in general loved getting up every day. I knew boys didn’t like me, but I didn’t really like them all that much yet, so it didn’t matter. It was a great time in my life.
Around 12 or 13, I started to get boobs, and my face finally caught up to my nose. I got contacts, too, and grew my hair out super, super long. Big bangs fell out of fashion, and I found a lipstick color I liked. By the time I was 16, I was pretty cute, I guess. But boys still didn’t like me much, and this time, I cared. I had a friend tell me not to answer so many questions in class because it turned guys off. I seethed with a rage I couldn’t identify. I was a cheerleader, but I spent most of my time worrying if everybody liked me or not. I felt completely uncomfortable in my own skin.
Being ugly was awesome.