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To Be Petite Me
As of today I am about 5 foot even. I am 17. I always remember having to look up to people, like giants soaring high above me. It never made me feel like a skyscraper or worthy of playing the game. To me, everyone around me was superior. I’ve never had the satisfaction of being tall.
Elementary school were the points in my life that it was alright and I was comfortable with such a miniature body. As kids, we all just wanted to have fun and enjoy the company of others and physical appearance wasn’t considered as a daily concern. Nobody paid attention to things like that anyway. Maybe some did, but it would never be made public because a guaranteed taunting would be in line for the poor soul. Looking back though, maybe more noticed and I was too simple to see it myself. Regardless of what it was, at that point in my life the girls were no taller than any of the boys. Everyone was the same.
However, I did learn a small difference between me and the other girls. I would always be picked to play the games. I was faster than the others, stronger than the others, and more athletic. The boys used to talk to me about the games that were played. My ears were wide open. By the time I was well into grade school, I had been playing basketball four going on five years. So the guys always asked me how to improve their game. I would tell them. I thought I was special because I was the girl that the boys could always count on when the game was on the line. I was the girl that they talked to about the Nuggets basketball game the night before. I was the petite little girl that the boys came to looking for something.
Again, I never noticed the height of the people around me. It never occurred to ME that the young ladies around me were maybe a slight taller. Everyone’s hair was always styled and pretty. Our clothes were nothing fancy and our shoes were just something for us to get by in. In my mind, equality was the way things were. So with that perspective there was no way I noticed anything changing about my peers, at first.
By middle school, my life became more complicated. My self-esteem was gunned down and taken hostage. I didn’t have the money to get in back from the thieves. I was eleven going on to twelve and I realized the boys did see the other girls, whose legs stretched and thickened, as well as their hips, whose voices gave in to their discontinued youth, whose arms reached for the sky, and whose minds followed close behind their bodies. They were skyscrapers. Tall. Slender. Perfect. I couldn’t compete anymore. I was still petite Zelle who hadn’t grown much over the years. I had become the outcast. Of course I would still be called to perform miracles during the games but I felt the hurt of being unnoticed. I wasn’t short and praised anymore. I was just short.
Some didn’t have a problem with telling me I was short. Boys would dog me height and make jokes. Throwing them out like a 7 foot 2 center, playing defense directly under the rim. They thought I wasn’t going to take offense. I mean I never did before, matter of fact I used to throw some back at them. It was just a game in action, but it raised the ransom on my self-esteem each time. I couldn't bring my pride and tell them how much it aggrivated and bruised me. I was a good player, and every good player knew when to fake it when necessary.
During those middle school years I watched as boys got tall and they asked those tall girls to play too. It was never I game they wanted to play with me. I was too small. I watched as the guy I admired for his ability, his strength, his leadership, and yes, his height, race for another girl. Height so unmatchable. Who am I think a guy like that would want to run a game with a pipsqueak like me. I slowly started to convince myself that these skyscraping guys weren’t for me to race with. I wasn’t a preference or an option.
Thus by the time I could call myself a freshman I couldn’t look into the mirror without spotting the defect of my body. It was just so small and I thought if I noticed it everyone would too.
From time to time a streak of hope would flood through me and I would say to myself, “Hey you ain’t that short. You look alright.” With that slight hope I would pay the ransom just a small bit, but it was enough that I could walk around with my head high like I was resting my chin on the crown of a superstructure. I began to imagine that I could be a part of team I had never made the cut for . My confidence was rising. My life began to change in my mind. I daydreamed about playing the game with the awesome boy in my class. I would love it and him for his experience and skills. It would be all good. Then it hit me like a bulldozer. It crushed my ribs and shortened my breath. My being filled with water and began to drown me. As I had finally jumped into a world of self-assurance and beauty, I would witness that boy, who was suppose too run a game with ME, play that game with yet another girl. In that second, my body had seemed the most petite it ever had in my whole life. Never had I felt so low to the ground. The ransom on my confidence tripled.
I feel in and out of short scenes just like this over the course of the year. I think it was most upsetting, when I was overlooked and eyes set upon my close friends. I was filled with jealousy. I cut some relationships off, not simply because of the fact that I was jealous, but my pride was ashamed that I felt that way toward a friend. A friend that didn’t actually do anything to hurt me. That summer, however, my life took a turn and I still believe that the effect still lurks around me until this day. I was finally picked to play on the team I wanted. We didn’t just talk about statistics. It was the only time in my short life that I honestly felt tall. Signals were sent every day. He made me feel like a champion, a winner, like the world's greatest. I was never jealous of anyone anymore. I had fallen in love with this boys game, his skills, his leadership, and his tall persona. I paid the total ransom by the end of the summer and mentally told those thieves “Yeah, I ain’t short! I’m fun sized!"
My team mate had me completely devoted to that team. The games we played were awesome. Then school started. The signals were secret. The conversations in person were all statistical yet again. Sometimes there was no talk at all. The boys on his other team never came to talk to me about him, probably because our game was never made public. It was a good game so I couldn’t grasp why he wouldn’t want to.
At one point over the phone, the only way in which we communicated, he asked me if I wanted to play basketball and afterward we would play "make it out". I was completely excited, nervous, thrilled, anixous for the chance to have his presence. Little, short, petite Zelle was standing on skyscrapers that day. I worked on my skills all the way to the day of our meeting. I was there first. I shot around at the baskets for a while and then got tired and waited. And waited. And waited. I was there for two hours until I finally went home. What was wrong with me? How could I fall for such an obvious plot? I lied to my parents, saying I had basketball practice, to meet him. I left my home in Montbello, used MY money to travel all the way to Commerce City. I reminded myself over and over again of how absolutely stupid I was. Two days later, I received a call from my AWOL team mate. He apologized for his absence, but I had some pride left, so I gave him a hard time about it. He pleaded for forgiveness and my I fell weak to his words which sounded like gold to me. I felt he could make me do anything for him. Absolutely anything.
Then he wanted to get going on a another game. I thought it was just a meet at the courts. But it was something new, something long, dirty, sweaty, and wicked. Something that in the end should be blissful and unregreted. Something I wasn't familiar with playing. I have never backed down to anything in my life, why would I do it then? Yet, I was still scared of the unknown and my inexperience with that type of race. “Maybe, I can stall and he will forget about it,” I said to myself. My team mate was persistent though. Each day I was pressured and pushed to run this game. He made me feel small in a way I couldn’t describe. Foolish? Anixous? I know now it was a feeling of being uncomfortable.
In the end, it was something, I realized, that I couldn’t do. I didn’t go through with it. I had let him down. I wasn’t the person the boy could depend on anymore. He kicked me off the team after that. A week later, I saw him playing the game with this girl I had seen around the school.
I slumped over from a sheer heaviness. A shadow infected me and irritated my brain cells. I did every single drill without complaining, went to every single practice even if he didn’t show up, and let him change my mental game to be the perfect fit for the team. How could he just kick me off when I showed nothing but dedication to it? My mind was bleak and naïve. I was done wrong. It was evident. Yet, I couldn’t help but think of what it was I did wrong. I couldn’t help but think of my insecurities and how much they had shown I considered how small I was and found that the agony was so great, I couldn’t explain it. I thought how much I wish I could change that and if I could then maybe he would adore my game the way I did his. So one can say, it’s clear that it would take some time to ease the pain from this encounter. Afterwards, not necessarily days, weeks, or months after, I was tell myself that I didn’t need anyone to shoot around with. No one at all.
I kept myself away from the game for a while. But what is a girl to do when someone beautifully strong catches your eye, making you want to do nothing but join his team? Well, she tries to join the team. However, being short, or at least thinking of how short I was, put me at the disadvantaged every time. I also learned to be more careful with those tall guys. My self-esteem would pull me out of the situation before I could actually try anyway. Instead I would watch lustful for the game of one. Daydreaming and pretending, but never actually making a move. So I’ve never had an official team.
I realize that as an adolescent girl, things are hard growing up. My parents always told me that it was cool to be short. They loved it and I should too. But think I can speak for all girls when I say that the love and approval from your family isn’t exactly enough. I wanted to join the team that everyone got to experience and in the end it didn’t fulfill all my insecurities; if anything they made it worst. Even so, I do believe that all girls need to experience that lust for a game before they can find themselves; and until one finds themselves they will have no hope in finding a good team mate. Us teenage girls also have to realize that when people say that “we have our whole life ahead us” it is so true. One thing my dad always tells me is: “The first one hundred motherf*ers you think is cool, ain’t even s***.” It taking a while but I’m starting to see that’s really not an exaggeration! I also think that girls need to see all the things that we have that others don’t, as we did when we were younger. Every person is unique so see the unique in ourselves. Although, I believe in all this, it is extremely hard to apply it to my life, especially when my emotions get too strong.
Those thieves took my self-esteem. The thief was little ol’ me. It is called “self” esteem right? I looked at my reflection only to see the fault in being small. Even though I still wish to play the game from time to time I see that maybe I don’t need to. I still haven’t reached that total satisfaction of feeling tall. I haven’t felt any growth that was genuinely significant either. Maybe I never will. But until that time comes and I receive probably the biggest change in my life, I will continue to be Zelle Marie Moore. Petite me.