On The Cover of Vogue

November 6, 2008
By Alexandra Cravens, Geneseo, IL

No matter how old you are or how mature you become, you still have those times when you feel like that same insecure teenager you were when you were younger. I'm still a teenager, but those insecurities are coming less and less often. I hit the height of my insecurity during my seventh and eighth grade years. When all the other girls were going on shopping sprees, getting perms, and having boyfriends, I was sitting in my hand-me-down too-big shorts, my hair cut childishly just below my chin, too shy to even talk to boys.

My seventh grade year I joined the track team, continued playing soccer, stayed in band and choir, and juggled school work, too. If you talk to me now, I'll tell you that I like a busy, fast-paced lifestyle, but I snapped that year. I could have quit any one of those activities at any time, but I felt like I had no power over anything. With my lack of control and my desire to fit in, I focused on what seemed to be on most girls' minds: my appearance. With my short hair and my inability to use a mascara wand without taking out an eye, I was limited to my body. I knew the model look wouldn't work for me with my 5'0" height, but I was pretty sure I could pull off petite. So many girls had already gotten their curves, but my flat-chested, hipless body couldn't measure up. Compared to my friends, I was heavy. That's right, heavy. I knew I weighed more, but that hadn't concerned me until then. What would it hurt to lose just twenty pounds? I'd be just like them. They seemed so in control, so self-assured, like those models in magazines without a care in the world. I thought to myself, "If I simply looked like them, I would feel like them, too--in control, care-free, and confident."

At track I ran four to five miles a day then went straight to soccer to run another three to four miles. For breakfast, I would cautiously eat three Mini-Wheats. For lunch I would make excuses to my friends that I felt sick, and for supper I would sob to my parents, blubbering that, "I'm just not hungry. Why are you forcing me to eat? I'm just tired!" They eventually gave up and I ran into my room, until I was out of their earshot, crying on about how they didn't understand and life's not fair. I continued on like that for weeks. "How did you have the energy for all that running?" you may ask. Looking back now, after reading a book about an anorexic girl who ran more than seventeen miles a day, I can see that I was delusional. Delusional? I'm not delusional. Crazy people are delusional. I didn't admit that to myself then, but I can see it now. I wasn't crazy, but it was like my mind refused to listen to the constant yearnings from my body, 'Food, energy, we can't keep up without anything to keep us going.' The hunger that I used to feel and the soreness in my body that I should have had was numbed. My mind was no longer in touch with my body.

"Weren't your friends concerned?" you might inquire. One day, after grabbing a tray of food and simply swirling it around on my plate, a friend did notice. "I know you're not sick," she said, "Why aren't you eating?" The others threatened not to talk to me unless I ate, but they never actually did. "What about your family?" My mom was the one who finally pressed the issue. At the time, I had been taking pills because of a food allergy, and she threatened to take me to the doctor because she thought the pills were affecting my hunger. I knew she didn't know the truth, and I wanted to keep it that way. If we went to the doctor, she'd see the drastic amount of weight I'd lost and discover that the pills don't influence hunger. Then we'd have a family discussion, and she'd stuff me with food until I puked. So I told her, "Okay, I'll try to eat." That's when I started lying. Lying about how much I ate, if I ate, or when I ate. I'd play around with my words, "Yes, mom I ate," when I was referring to two days ago. "What did you have?" she would ask me. "Carrots with peanut butter," I answered, when I really only had about a one centimeter thick sliver of a carrot. I'd lie in bed at night, smiling when my stomach growled. I'd see how much space there was between the line my pajama pants made, from hip bone to hip bone, and my stomach. I came to a point where I could literally fit my hand in that space without touching anything, neither pants nor stomach.

But then track ended, and family dinners resumed. My dad noticed now, and he was furious. When my dad gets angry, he gets really angry. After all those skipped meals, supposed sicknesses that only occured at meals, and crying away to avoid meals, he finally made sure that I was really eating.

Now I know my situation was not nearly as bad as others, but it was my situation. What felt like a time that dragged on forever was really only a few months. It was an immense turning point in my life. When I finally got out of that circumstance, I realized how much of my life I had neglected because of how much I had focused on myself. There's a lot more to life than that. Now, I'm thankful that my mom detests shopping, and I don't receive an allowance. It makes all the clothes I am given that much more special and the money I obtain well-earned. I recognize that my hair isn't all that bad and I don't need a perm. And until I find a boyfriend, my friends are more than exceptional.

Sure, it took all of eighth grade to recover. Sure, I'm still pretty insecure sometimes, but I know that there's more to life than trying to be or do what doesn't even matter, and I'm gradually figuring out what that is. All I had ever really wanted was to be content and confident with who I am. I thought that the happy, positive me would be the same as everyone else, but everybody's different. Once I stopped trying to be someone else, I actually ended up enjoying myself. I'm still not that self-assured, in control, carefree model on the cover of Vogue, but I know who I am, and I'm all right with her.

The author's comments:
My article was given to me as an assignment to write a personality essay. I looked back, and I remebered the point in my life that I had tried so hard to forget, and I thought 'That's me. I couldn't write anything more personal than this.' So I poured my heart out into this essay. I had my mom look it over, and I spent some extra time with my teacher, Ms. Bott, before I turned it in. My teacher loved it. When my friends heard her read it aloud to the class they cried. They remembered it, too, and like I, had tried to block it out of their memory.

The first time I told my story it was just a letter to my cousin, Jess. I read it to her in the car. I looked up at my dad, who was driving, and I said, "I want you to hear this, too." That was the first time I spilled, and it felt so good.

After I wrote this essay, I realized I couldn't completely wipe it out of my life, because it was a part of me, whether I liked it or not. Maybe my situation wasn't all bad. Maybe it taught me something I could only learn by going through that situation. All I know is that I'm glad I had my family and friends right there by my side the whole time.

I hope that other girls who have been in, or are currently in, a situation like mine will tell someone, too, and get on with their life.

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This article has 1 comment.

on Mar. 19 2010 at 5:01 pm
morgie7<3 PLATINUM, Tremont, Illinois
34 articles 0 photos 93 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
~Michael Jordan

this was so moving. i really admire you for spilling something so personal and sharing it with people like me that you don't even know. I think every teenage girl needs to read this. Keep writing and God bless,,

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