16 Going On 16 | Teen Ink

16 Going On 16

August 26, 2009
By Josephine Liu BRONZE, Walnut, California
Josephine Liu BRONZE, Walnut, California
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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.

Similar Articles


This article has 96 comments.

Nallerz BRONZE said...
on Aug. 23 2012 at 11:40 am
Nallerz BRONZE, Minneapolis, Minnesota
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
god is my ultimate power

i love your story and im in highschool now this inspires me so much in many different ways thank you very much and it was just great 

on Aug. 3 2012 at 4:38 am
kate12345me GOLD, Sydney, Other
11 articles 0 photos 69 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." - Thoreau
"Sometimes you're flush and sometimes you're bust, and when you're up, it's never as good as it seems, and when you're down, you never think you'll be up again, but life goes on."

Awww thanks! :)

on Aug. 1 2012 at 12:14 pm
CharlieSmoke GOLD, Lowell, Massachusetts
18 articles 0 photos 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Nature is a haunted house--but Art--is a house that tries to be haunted.”
- Emily Dickinson

'ello! i think you have a lot of talent and a passion which could make this story work. i like many of the phrasings and word choices you used, especially in the beginning. i do think your enthusiasm and the writing quality dropped towards the end, and that the end didnt really make sense. the story didnt seem to justify the conclusion you came to. good story josephine, keep writing!

on Aug. 1 2012 at 11:03 am
dwellingondreams138 PLATINUM, Albertson, New York
43 articles 8 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the lights.-HP

Wow, I love your comment almost as much as I love this piece because I feel just like you do. Thanks to the both of you for showing me that there are others like me and that there are decent people out there in the world.

on Jul. 10 2012 at 9:57 pm
rosebud4579 GOLD, Westfield, Wisconsin
11 articles 0 photos 7 comments
AMAZING!This is the true story of high school girls!

AugustusH20s said...
on Jun. 18 2012 at 8:26 pm
AugustusH20s, Thousand Oaks, California
0 articles 0 photos 25 comments
Wonderful. xBri

on May. 27 2012 at 10:03 am
LexiClare BRONZE, Allentown, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Carpe Diem: make your life extraordinary."
~"Dead Poets Society"

This article will most definitely hold dear to millions of girls' souls. Keep writing, stay exactly who you are, because it's the only thing we really have. Thank you for linking so many girls together; I'm sure every teenager in the world yearns to stay simply sixteen.

on May. 27 2012 at 6:05 am
kate12345me GOLD, Sydney, Other
11 articles 0 photos 69 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." - Thoreau
"Sometimes you're flush and sometimes you're bust, and when you're up, it's never as good as it seems, and when you're down, you never think you'll be up again, but life goes on."

WOW! I'm a girl, and to me this is inspiration. Do you know, I am confident and out-going and friends with most people. I'm not popular, super-pretty, I'm not obsessed with growing up. I'm 13 and I'm mature - I'm trying to hold on to these childhood days. I want to be happy in life, and though I say I am, I'm not. I have insecurities but when I talk to my friends and tell them they are amazing and I tell them I think I am amazing, I try to believe it. When they begin to believe they are beautiful, it makes me glow and I forget about my size (a stupid number), my coloured skin (a stupid label) and I realise I am gorgeous. But when I start to forget, it is people like you - even strangers, that make my faith in humanity spark again and acknowledge the desire to be unique. I am beautiful, and you are, too. Thank you for reminding me. You are my biggest inspiration, please do NOT ever change. If more chicks were like you, we'd all be a much more developed community. (Sorry for the L-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-N-G COMMENT). I couldn't help myself ;) I LOVE YOU!

on May. 5 2012 at 6:15 pm
lovetildeath GOLD, Virginia Beach, Virginia
10 articles 0 photos 34 comments

Favorite Quote:
I'm selfish, impatient, & a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, & at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.
- Marilyn Monroe

VERY well written.If only all girls could learn that instead of looking and acting ridicously only to wish  they hadn't grown up so fast.Good Job and keep writing!

on May. 5 2012 at 4:19 pm
CallMeAria PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
30 articles 27 photos 73 comments

Favorite Quote:

I'm normally really critical when it comes to short stories, since a lot don't grab me with the first words and I rarely read them through. Yours was completely different. I loved it, from the first word to the last. It was so relatable, since I always wanted to grow up too fast. I feel so inspired :)

hbrhr PLATINUM said...
on May. 5 2012 at 2:20 pm
hbrhr PLATINUM, Granville, Ohio
20 articles 0 photos 3 comments
I absolutely love this! This is everything i stand for! Great work!

pensive said...
on May. 5 2012 at 1:26 pm
pensive, Fcgbhjk, Maryland
0 articles 0 photos 25 comments
Very nice! I like how honest and relatable it is. 

on May. 5 2012 at 12:13 pm
Xpen7777 SILVER, Staten Island, New York
9 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
I never let my schooling interfere with my education

I found this extremely relatable and it was beautifully written!

on Apr. 13 2012 at 11:08 pm
Swims.M.V. GOLD, Albuquerque, New Mexico
11 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you're not practicing, somebody else is, somewhere, and he'll be ready to take your job."
-Brooks Robinson

I absolutly loved that so much you have inspired me to love me for me. beautiful work :D

on Apr. 13 2012 at 10:57 pm
IAmWhoIWantToBe PLATINUM, Manila, Other
41 articles 0 photos 650 comments

Favorite Quote:
‎"I’m learning how to drown out the constant noise that is such an inseparable part of my life. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I only have to follow my heart and concentrate on what I want to say to the world: I run my world." - Beyoncé

Hey, yo! I personally like this article and the real-ness of it. Great job and great writing!

on Apr. 13 2012 at 10:46 pm
i_am_so_very_large_and_towering SILVER, Mililani, Hawaii
5 articles 1 photo 114 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"

this is such an amazing piece - great message, well written. i can relate to this so well. thank you.

on Apr. 13 2012 at 9:49 pm
TheReaper27 BRONZE, Denver, Colorado
2 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
Youll never succeed unless you try

Awesome writing piece! This is such an interesting piece. I may be in middle school but people around here want to grow up so fast and are acting exactly as you described, but they judge you if you dont wear this or have these kind of shoes or this kind of make-up. its irritating and I'm thankful I am one of those girls that can live in the moment and become who I want to become. 

on Apr. 13 2012 at 4:44 am
livingparadox GOLD, Dhaka, Other
10 articles 0 photos 7 comments
This article caught my attention! What a wonderful piece it is! It's got everything and every line matches with my story (even though I'm 14). Teen life is something one can never compare with. It's indefinable, unique and of course, the best! If only, one could be herself. 

on Mar. 22 2012 at 10:59 pm
nikkigonefishin GOLD, Los Angeles, California
17 articles 1 photo 145 comments

Favorite Quote:
" A smile is worth a thousand words"
" The purpose of the writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself."- Albert Camus

I really enjoyed reading this. The title caught my attention. I like how it was written and the message it contains. Im glad you have learned to recognize how extraordinary you are.


AKwritten said...
on Mar. 19 2012 at 2:54 pm
AKwritten, Anchorage, Alaska
0 articles 0 photos 22 comments
Something every girl should read