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August 26, 2009
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I bought my first tube of lipstick at six, with a picture of Barbie wrapped around it, but nevertheless, bright, red, and shiny, which was the epitome of lipstick for me.

I started reading my mother’s Vogue when I was ten. I couldn’t pronounce half the words I read, but it was enough to stare at the glossy pages filled with larger-than-life women who led glamourous lives and wore beautiful Hermes scarves (which I pronounced her-mees) and carried around Gucci bags (gus-sy) that cost more than all my clothes combined.

At twelve, I subscribed to Seventeen magazine behind my mother’s back, who took the title literally and said that I should be at least seventeen to read it, and waited impatiently every first week of the month by the mailbox to receive the next issue that seemed to hold all the answers about boys, hair care and the latest trends, which together combined the meaning of life for the middle-school me.

All my life, all I ever wanted to do was grow up. I wanted to be extraordinary and mature beyond my years. I couldn’t wait for the day that I could wear six inch heels, shop at forbidden stores like Bebe and Guess, and cake my eyes with eyeliner. My dad of course freaked out when he realized that suddenly boys were calling and my boobs were growing and put restrictions on everything, and when I mean everything, I mean everything. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with boys, even if they were just friends, unless he was present. Every morning, he would examine every inch of my body to make sure not even a shadow of cleavage was showing and my shorts went past my fingers before I left for school. I wasn’t allowed to have my ears pierced until I was thirteen, wear nail polish until I was fifteen, or wear makeup until I was sixteen. But of course, me being me, I rebelled. Starting from sixth grade, I would layer hoodies (very acceptable) over my low-cut tops from Express (go to your room and change) and take off the hoodies once I got dropped off at school. I would sneak makeup in my backpack and put it on in the school bathroom right before the bell rang and wash it off before I got picked up. I said yes to the first guy who asked me out in seventh grade just to say that I could, and “broke up” with him two weeks later when I realized I didn’t even like him that much.

But like everything else in life, it came with a price. The boys I liked never respected me, and the boys that did like me, I could never respect, because they weren’t the “men” that I read about so many times in Seventeen. I had ridiculously high expectations for my boyfriends, because the magazine had taught me to expect them to take me out on romantic dates and treat me like a princess, which they never did of course (we were only in eighth grade). I had my first kiss with a guy who was moving across the country the next week, because I thought it would be the perfect way to say goodbye. It wasn’t. It was wet, and gross, and sloppy, and it definitely lacked the fireworks that the movies always portray. And now it’s one of my biggest regrets that i didn’t save my first kiss for someone I am in love with.

With time, everyone else caught up with me. By high school, every other girl was wearing makeup and curling their hair and wearing high heels. And suddenly, being grown up wasn’t so great anymore. With adolescence came superficiality, and the rat race to be popular, to be beautiful, to be desired. I poured into the magazines for answers and my passion for fashion became a true addiction. Seventeen expanded to Teen Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, Fitness Magazine, none of which had enough solutions to make me happy. I was always on some diet and subconsciously squeezing the fat around my stomach that would never go away no matter how many crunches I did. And after years of looking at supermodels and celebrities, what I saw in the mirror wasn’t good enough. I could never be skinny enough, pretty enough, anything enough to be extraordinary, and I became what I always feared: just another high school girl. And with my decrease in self-esteem came an increase in heartbreaks from guys who could never respect me if I didn’t respect myself. And with that sad conclusion, the makeup came off, along with the heels and the short skirts, until I became a girl who just wore t-shirts, jeans and flats to school.

But all that I have shed are the layers on the outside, and the same insecurities on the inside remain. I still have the unquenchable desire to be different and to understand what the meaning of life is. And at the same time, I want to go back to the days when people didn’t judge you on what you wore or how you looked. I wish I could still be that little girl who dreamed that being grown up would make her extraordinary and thought that she could find all the answers in the pages of a magazine. I’m still trying to find the middle ground between being six and twenty-six. Just sixteen. My five magazines have dwindled to two, and when they run out, I won’t be renewing them, even with the promise of a free handbag with a two year subscription. I go to the gym regularly, but ever since I started, my little belly hasn’t gotten any smaller, and I’m okay with that because I’m healthy enough to be what I like to call “well-fed.” (move over phat with a p-h). I still have days when I need to slip on a little eyeliner to feel beautiful, but for the most part, I’ve learned to live my life one step at a time and that I’m extraordinary, just because I’m me.

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This article has 93 comments. Post your own now!

Liozay123 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm
This is really good. I love it!
inheavenshands This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 3:34 pm
Mikki-bug<3 said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 8:14 am
This is a great account of what I think most girls go through. I'm still in eighth grade and it's the worst so far with it's cliques and popular groups. But I'm lucky enough to say that even though sometimes I don't feel skinny enough or beautiful, I love myself anyway. Thanks for posting this! (:
Sparkleallie said...
Mar. 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm
i LOVE this. such a great job. i can totally relate. :)
delilahsky This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 12, 2010 at 7:05 pm
You are a very talented writer...and I can relate to the sneaking of makeup to school and changing in the bathroom. This piece really portrays the truth well. :-)
Peter B. said...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm
omg this was so amazing i loved it so much. I thought it was so true that evryone wants so do this and i just loved it so much ugh i cant put into woeds what i wwanna say but its was so amazing
cavyheart This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm
This is really inspirational! It brought tears to my eyes... I love it! This seriously just changed my entire perspective on life in, like, three minutes.
Beautifully written and a great story about finding yourself!
scarletP said...
Nov. 25, 2009 at 3:29 pm
aleelee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 2, 2009 at 5:29 pm
that was really good!! thanks for sharing!
kerrin said...
Sept. 18, 2009 at 10:11 am
this was an amazing memoir i like it cuz i can see myself in some parts of this story and i like when i can put mysel fin a story
aspiring.author.09 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 10, 2009 at 5:58 pm
We have similar opinions, and I also write about things like this. It was great to hear from your perspective on this topic, and it was very well organized and well written. Congrats!
Lindsay said...
Sept. 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm
I love this article so much, you don't even know. It really makes me feel like what I'm going through right now. I feel like I'm never good enough or pretty enough. I see my gorgeous friends and people on TV, and feel like I'm never going to look like them. I'm not ugly, but I can't help but always feel like it, and like I could look so much better than I actually do.
penguin35 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 9, 2009 at 5:50 pm
Good job. This is a great piece about self-discovery. And I like it because the journey hasn't ended yet. You still have more things to find out about who you are.
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