When the “love of your life” is just the worst…

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mostly because he is an a**hole.

Everything was changing.  It was like my body was a stranger that I had to awkwardly face every day.  When did I get boobs?  They seemingly grew overnight from an A cup to a C.  My thighs went from stick thin to curvy; I had to abandon my favorite pair of jeans after that.  The only thing that seemed to stick was the pudginess around my stomach that my Mom lovingly called “baby fat.”  She would constantly remind me that I would be stuck with that fat for a while.  It was part of a “Thomas Women” curse.   Apparently all of my changes were similar to my mother’s side.  “We are just built that way,” my mother pointed out. It seemed so unfair that some girls were lucky enough to have those boyish thin figures while my body couldn’t decide what it had.  I wasn’t classically curvy, not plus size, but not thin. I was completely average and at the time I thought it was the worst thing I could be.

 By the time I reached eighth grade I had gotten used to my chest size, my thighs, and my “baby fat.”  At that point, being invisible had its perks.  There was a still a small part of me that wanted every boy to notice me like they did Denise Dalton*.  The queen bee, who at one point a long time ago (We’re talking 5th grade), was my best friend.   Puberty had done her way too many favors, which apparently left the rest of the girls in my grade with nothing. There were girls who were even more awkward then I was (which is saying a hell of a lot.) Their bodies had betrayed them way worse than mine ever could. These girls would get noticed by boys too, but were ridiculed for their “imperfections.” I thought myself lucky, that I was practically invisible to that kind of public shaming.

 It was almost Spring of my eighth grade year and I was in a good place.  I had stop being so boy crazy due to recent events that proved that I was not equipped to handle a boyfriend.  Sure, I still had crushes.  My hormones proved to be stronger then my brain in these cases. Jack* had, of course, broken up with my good friend Jenny* and had moved on to several other girls.  His latest victim was Janet*, a newer classmate who had become an acquaintance to my small group of friends.  He had broken her heart and she was less than thrilled with it.

 Over their two-week courtship, Jack had done a lot of talking.  Spilling secrets to her about his previous girlfriends.  Janet in an act of revenge, held nothing back, telling every girl how Jack felt about her.  How April*, his first girlfriend, was a stuck up prude.  Or even how much Breanna Morris* wasn’t. They were all reasons why he eventually broke up with them.  Sometimes even for ridiculous reasons like, Kayla’s (the curvy seventh grader) hairy man arms.  The insults didn’t stop at just his girlfriends. He even went into reasons why he didn’t date certain girls.  Starting with his number one fan, me.

 It was bad news, when Janet came strolling by my table at lunch.  The look of concern had taken over her usual smile, like she was going to tell me that my dog had died. She sat down, unraveling a story that would change me forever.  She started with the fact that she thought I was one of prettiest and nicest girls at this school.  (I was one of the first to talk to her when she moved mid school year.) One day she had asked Jack why he had never went out with me, she of course, hearing the rumor that I was deeply in love with him. He replied with,  “I guess she is pretty, but she kind of has a beer belly.” It took a second for my brain to comprehend what was said.  A beer belly?  A BEER BELLY?  I knew what it meant, even though, at the ripe age of thirteen, my “baby fat” did not come from having one too many.

 After hearing those words, I was crushed.  My best friend Anna* went into a full rage. She knew how much I pictured Jack as a perfect specimen.  How, even though he had crushed by heart repeatedly, I had never given up on him. I had to practically pin her down from going over and clawing out his eyes in the middle of the lunchroom.  Janet hugged me and apologized, saying he was dead wrong about me.  She quickly left the table, continuing her campaign to killing Jack’s reputation.

 The rest of the day, I obsessed over those words.  I went from blaming him to even blaming myself for being so imperfect. Being comfortable with my body was no longer an option.  I knew that it was only a matter of time before the whole school saw me as “beer belly girl.”  After that I spent a good year and half trying my best to lose weight. Jack’s words echoing in my head with every sit-up I attempted.  During class, I would wrap a sweater around my stomach hoping that it would make it seem smaller.  I was still invisible, but no longer content with what I saw in the mirror.

 Those words festered into my mind and I still haven’t been able to completely wipe them out. They sometimes return to taunt me whenever I eat something unhealthy or if my jeans have become a bit too tight.  Even after so much time, the whole situation changed how I looked at my body.  It confirmed the bad things I thought about myself, because I knew I wasn’t the only one who noticed them.  I think back and see this moment as the day that created my low-self esteem and it is hard to get rid of.  I spent half my life striving to be perfect, only to realize that I have wasted a lot of time caring about what others thought.

 It shouldn’t be a surprise that I finally gave up on Jack.  I thought I loved him, but he continually crushed my heart. Now as a grown woman, I look back and have learned a valuable lesson.  I shouldn’t let anyone make me feel like I am not good enough.  I shouldn’t waste my time on a “dream guy” who doesn’t think of me as his “dream girl”.  A guy who doesn’t even care about the consequences of his actions. Who doesn’t care about hurting the only girl who thought he was perfect.

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*Names have been changed because the real names don’t matter.

A HORROR-ible night to remember, Part Two

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I was thirteen, so my only real knowledge about how to win a boy’s heart was from endlessly watching high school romantic comedies and reading Tigerbeat.

My plan went as follows:

  1. Look H-O-T-T! (required spelling in my journal)
  2. Dance with Jack.
  3. Sit back and watch Jack fall madly in love with me.
  4. Enjoy the rest of the night as Jack’s new girlfriend.

Best plan ever.

A few of us arrived at Sara*’s house a couple of hours early to help decorate her garage for the party. Pretty much everyone in the eighth-grade class was going to be there. I grew up in a small town, so my entire class consisted of about seventy kids. It was going to the best night of my life.

STEP ONE: Look H-O-T-T! like a dead, hot person?

After we placed the finishing touches on the impressively large garage we all went into costume mode. I had chosen to go as a saloon girl because it was the only thing left that was pretty and in my size. The girls Jack usually went out with had only two things in common. They were all thin and pretty. Most days I didn’t feel like I was either of those, but I determined to not let that change anything. This night was going to be different because I was going to look like a babe.

If you haven’t already guessed, I was a very anxious and shy person. While changing into my costumes, I started to think about the flaws in my plan. What if I get all dolled up and never even get noticed? At the same time, I didn’t want to be the center of attention. My plan practically required that a large group of thirteen year olds would stare at only me as I entered the party. The more I thought about it, the more I was freaked out.

No, I couldn’t go through with it. I just wanted to blend in, hide. So using some crappy Halloween makeup that one of my friends had brought for their costume, I covered up. Declaring to all my friends that I decided to become a scary version of my costume. I wasn’t ready to be the center of attention.

My friends Sara and Anna* promised to help me with my ultra brilliant plan. Part of me believes they were just sick of seeing me pine over Jack. I trusted that they would find a way to help.

Sara’s garage quickly filled up with the majority of my eighth-grade class.  We were all enjoying the large amount of junk food and dancing to awesome hits from early Destiny’s Child to Britney Spears. Eventually, a slow song hit and kids started to self-consciously pair up. Waiting for a boy to ask you to dance has all the same uneasiness as waiting to get picked for a team in P.E. I hated both situations equally. I was trying my best not to look like I cared by pretending to tie my shoe when I saw a pair of feet appear next to mine.

“Wanna dance?” Jack asked, his pure blue eyes focused on mine.

I smiled and shook my head, dumbfounded and unable to form words. I was back in business.

STEP TWO: Dance with Jack.

I placed my hands on his shoulders; he placed his lightly on my waist. My eyes darted back and forth from his face to my friend’s faces. They were all looking at me with gleaming mischievous smiles. I honestly started having a tiny panic attack, trying to awake from this obvious dream. No, this was real, really awkward. We were spaced too far apart unnaturally swaying to the beat of the song. Then I started to think of all the things my friends probably did to do to get Jack to dance with me. What if they had to like, pay him or something? Eventually, the worry swept away as we started to swing in unison. I relaxed a bit and starting to enjoy myself.   After the song, Jack wrapped his arms and patted me on the back.

“Thanks,” he said and walked away. I’ll take it! I thought to myself.

STEP THREE: Sit back and watch Jack fall madly in love with me someone else.

Sara and Anna* among my other friends dragged me upstairs into the kitchen for a recap. I replayed everything, leaving out little tidbits, like how he smelled of soap mixed with a splash of Brut’s cologne. We stayed up in the kitchen for awhile, discussing who had the best and worst costumes of the night. Breanna Morris* was trying to get attention as a “sexy” pirate. We had a debate on what Madison Miller* was even supposed to be.

Eventually, we went back down to the garage. Seal’s “Kissed by a Rose” (a junior high dance classic) was playing. I looked around the party for Jack, hoping maybe he would be waiting to ask me to dance, or better yet to be his girlfriend.

Everything was moving in slow motion when I saw them together. It was as if they were swaying under a big bright spotlight with a sign with the words “HEARTBREAK! BETRAYAL!” illuminating above them. It was Jack and Breanna. They were intertwined slowly rocking to the music. His hands were resting on her…BUTT!

I could feel it coming. First it was the stinging of the nose then heaviness filled my chest. My eyes were filling up and there was no way to stop it. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in all my thirteen years. I hid on the top of the garage steps trying not to think about what I just saw. It felt like my whole world, my whole dream world, was demolished. My friends tried to tell me he wasn’t worth it or that Breanna was not even pretty. All the usual lies that good friends tell you to make you feel better.

STEP FOUR: Enjoy the rest of the night as Jack’s girlfriend ALONE.

I couldn’t help but stare at them. They looked so happy. It should have been me, I kept telling myself. Word got around fast that Breanna was the one who asked him out. Of course she had a plan too.  It was something that I would have never been able to do. She probably knew that.  We had history.

The night went by, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the party, except me. My friends did their best to cheer me up. I even danced with a couple of boys who I had crushes on before Jack. It wasn’t enough; I was still too devastated.

The sight of my Dad’s gold Pontiac was a welcome relief. I told him about everything on the way home. My dad’s advice was that Breanna was probably a “rebound” from his breakup with April. I looked at my dad with curious eyes.

“What’s a rebound?” I asked. My dad just shook his head and laughed as we continued home.

*Names have been changed because I like looking at baby name websites.