In the junior high cafeteria, I sat alone every lunch period. I knew no one and no one seemed interested in getting to know me. I had braces, no fashion sense, and a body that was all out of proportion. I ate my lunch as fast as I could without making eye contact, then stuck my face in a book. A few weeks later I learned we could go to the library during our lunch periods and after I ate, I’d get out of that cafeteria as fast as I could. The next semester when the guidance counselor asked if I’d mind not having a lunch period so I could take the classes I had to take, I said that was no problem at all. Inside, I jumped for joy.
Fast forward twenty three years. As I walked up Merrimon Avenue yesterday, a man at a stop light leaned out his window and said, “Girl, you’re looking good today!” I smiled. “Thank you.” There was a time I didn’t appreciate men yelling anything to me in public. Actually, if it was complimentary I assumed they must not be talking to me anyway. It’s still not my preferred method of receiving compliments, but at least now I can appreciate some kind words – even if they are tossed out from a car window. As I continued my walk, I smiled thinking back to those teenage years when I wouldn’t have dreamed anyone would ever tell me I looked good.
High school wasn’t much better than junior high – but at least I had people to sit with at lunch. My fashion sense may have improved a little (thanks to secretly “borrowing” my little sister Liz’s clothes), but I still had braces all four years and a body I hated.
Now the braces are gone. I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for this body I’ve been blessed with – it did, after all, get me through a 500 mile walk across Spain. My fashion sense: well, I know what looks good on me. That doesn’t stop me from showing up to holiday family gatherings, looking around, and thinking I should hire my three sisters to redo my wardrobe.
I walked into a bar a few weeks ago to meet a friend. He flooded me with compliments on my appearance and over the course of the conversation said some more wonderful things about me to some of the friends to whom he introduced me. The next day, in a conversation with another friend, I said how this has happened quite a few times since I’ve moved here – men here seem to be pretty good at giving compliments. (I am still learning how to be good at receiving them.) “Is it Asheville?” I asked him, wondering if men were just more forthcoming with compliments here. “Well, you are smoking hot,” he said. He continued on, but I didn’t hear anything after that. Smoking hot? What? I know I’m not the timid, body-conscious kid I was in junior high. But “smoking hot”? Me?
I tell my students all the time to give themselves credit for the progress they’ve made before telling me all that they didn’t accomplish. I often find myself giving the advice I most need to hear .
So today I’m going to give myself some credit. After trying on seven different tops and four different pairs of jeans, I finally looked in the mirror and told myself I looked good. But smoking hot? I think that’s pushing it.
9 Comments Add yours
GOOD TO SEE YOU FINALLY THINKING KINDLY ABOUT YOURSELF…..SINCE ALL THE KIDS IN THIS FAMILY ARE GORGEOUS, YES, EVEN JEFF….I CAN SEE WHY YOU WERE CALLED “SMOKIN’ HOT !”
I ENJOY YOUR STORIES ABOUT YOUR DAYS AND I SECRETLY WISH I WERE YOU…ALTHOUGH I DID HAVE A RATHER ADVENTUROUS YOUTH, I MUST SAY. KEEP UP YOUR DESIRE TO FIND WHAT IT IS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.
HELLO TO ALL THE GIRLS AND JEFF…..AND OF COURE, MOM AND DAD.
Thanks so much Mrs. Farina. I remember it was when I was in your class that I got glasses for the first time – they were huge and pink. Oh dear – those were the days!
Damn right, you’re smoking hot! Own that, and enjoy… in about 10 or 15 years, we’ll be happy just to have appreciative glances. I’d take a “smoking hot” any day of the week.
Thanks for the reminder to enjoy it now, Jenn! Reminds me of a whole other story I need to write about – a 70+ year old friend giving me the same advice.
Perhaps we need to start a Rebecca fan club in Asheville, as well as an APOC chapter…
Oh dear – please don’t. I’m embarrassed enough at putting this story out there (and since I posted it, have considered taking it down over and over again)!
Rebecca, you speak the words of many as you ‘retrieve’ the thoughts of your own younger days, (you are still a youngster ya know). I think it is well for you to share these tender times for the many who have suppressed them out of consciousness but continue to be influenced by the insecurities of youthful days. You are truly a beautiful person, inside and out, affirm yourself! If you receive those ‘smokin hot’ expressions I know they won’t go to your head, just let them warm your heart and feed that special glow that comes with your smile. Trust yourself, you are an engaging personality and a work of art. God makes no junk!!!
“insecurities of youthful days” – loved that phrase Pat. Isn’t that what it is, really? It’s not really a letting go of the past (it will always be there) but a moving on or growing in some way…