Senior year was a weird time for me. I went to a high school where they hard core prepped you for college, and while everyone else was getting ready to go off to all these great schools and do great things, I was struggling with my next steps. I had dreamed of going to NYU or Ithaca College, but I couldn’t get any financial aid, and my grades weren’t good enough to get me any scholarships. It’s funny because they tell you to be well rounded in high school so you have something to put on a college application, so I did so many things that I didn’t have enough time for my homework. Volunteering at the soup kitchen does nothing for you if you can’t pass Chemistry.
I also spent too much time worrying about what people thought of me.
When I was a junior I had my first boyfriend. It lasted for 4 months. I loved the attention I got from everyone because of it. Suddenly everyone thought I was so cute all the time and my outfits were so cute and I soaked it all in. When we walked down the halls holding hands I loved how everyone looked at us. It was so stupid, because in all honesty I knew he’d asked out so many other girls before me, I was just the first one that said yes.
We broke up over the summer in between my junior and senior year. I remember calling my aunt to tell her, and she asked if I was upset. I didn’t feel anything really. Which is I think how I knew I was in that relationship for all the wrong reasons. It was not one of my best moments as a person.
Then when my senior year started and I no longer had that attention that I felt I had from that relationship, which for some reason seemed so important at the time, I questioned so many things about myself. I no longer knew how to dress, because the outfits everyone said were so cute before no longer got comments. High school is so ridiculous. I cared so much about things for no reason.
Then there was prom.
I used to take online classes, so I spent most of the mornings in the library chatting with the librarian about American Idol. Me and some of the other kids were talking about how stupid prom was going to be. I talked about how I didn’t even want to go, even though I secretly did.
I wanted that She’s All That moment, where I suddenly had contacts and looked amazing on the night of prom and walk down the stairs to some guy who asked me to go with him. But I had to act like I didn’t care. I don’t know why. I acted like I didn’t want to go buy a dress, when I secretly did. But I didn’t care, remember? Also my house didn’t even have a fancy staircase, like there were stairs that led to the back door but there was no possible way to have that moment in my parent’s house.
My mom was so sweet, she asked someone she worked with and she gave me a hand me down dress that I needed to get fitted to my size. That’s a problem I will get back to.
In the library we talked about how stupid prom would be, and how we should just stay for an hour and then go bowling afterwards. I loved this idea.
Slowly though, things unraveled.
The guy I thought would ask me to prom ended up asking one of my best friends. I can’t blame him, she was so much more confident than me, so much prettier, much more comfortable with herself. Another friend of mine told me not to worry about it; I didn’t need to go with anyone.
Then my other best friend picked a date, and they made their own plans. But they said don’t worry, you can still ride with us, it will be fine.
My mom took me to go pick up my dress and it was too tight. I hadn’t completely lost faith in the night though. All my friends had dates and I didn’t, and my dress didn’t fit, but we were only going to stay for an hour, then we would all go bowling and it would be a group thing and I wouldn’t feel alone.
When I got home from school the day of prom, I tried to curl my hair, despite having straightened it earlier in the day. I have very thin hair though, so the curls weren’t keeping. I should have just rewashed my hair, but for some reason I didn’t think I could do that. I used to make up a lot of rules in my head that never existed. I also had no idea how to do make-up. Seriously, for a short time I thought roll-on body glitter could be used like eye shadow. That short time was not short enough.
That night I squeezed into my dress and felt like a blub. Still not losing faith though! I thought so badly that everything would be okay. My friends came and picked me up, and off we went. It was just stupid prom and we were going to go bowling after. I had my change of clothes, and everything was going to be great.
Well when we got there everyone looked fantastic. They all had their hair professionally done, had their make-up done, nails done, brand new dresses. I felt disgusting. I felt like my stomach was sticking out, my hair was greasy and in my face, I didn’t like any of the food and didn’t want to eat anyway because I could barely breathe. Everyone had dates so everyone was focused on that and I didn’t have anyone to talk to.
Then the dancing started. Suddenly everyone who said prom was stupid was on the dance floor looking so pretty and I was at one of the tables not sure what to do. I didn’t know how to dance, and I couldn’t move in my dress anyway. I continually checked my watch and after two hours I realized that there was no bowling, everyone except me loved prom, and when I asked one of my friends when she was going to leave, she told me it didn’t matter she wasn’t taking me home. I have no idea why I gave that girl 13 years of my life. But alas, we all make mistakes.
At that point I crashed. I didn’t know at the time that it was an anxiety attack, but I felt trapped. Trapped in my dress, trapped in the venue, surrounded by people I thought I was comfortable around but it was like everyone had changed and the lights were too bright and the music was too loud. I picked up my bag with my change of clothes that were supposed to be worn to bowling and went and sat outside and called my mom to pick me up. Someone came out and asked me why I was leaving, and then didn’t even listen to my answer as they ran back inside.
My mom picked me up and drove to the back of the parking lot and let me cry before she took me home. She asked me what happened. I told her I had never felt so uncomfortable and I just wanted to go home.
God bless my parents. I don’t know how they dealt with me. I’m a mess.
Then of course there’s the next day, where people who didn’t go asked how prom was, and when I said I had a terrible time, they were like “Aw, I would have taken you.” Because there’s no bigger slap in the face than a pity comment.
I wish me now could talk to me then, and tell her that it doesn’t matter. That none of it matters. I wish I could tell her that it’s okay to look stupid, and she should have just danced because looking stupid doesn’t matter, and that eventually she would work at a theme park where she would get paid to dance around in an ugly polyester outfit selling glow necklaces and she would love it so much. That she’d be wearing that ugly outfit when she met her husband and he wouldn’t care how stupid she looked. I would tell her that it’s okay to be excited about something, and to want to buy a pretty dress and to look pretty and to wash her hair if it doesn’t turn out right the first time. It’s okay to start over. I wish I could tell her that it was okay for her to be herself.
I know that most people are embarrassed of how they were when they were younger. I get more annoyed I think. I was so scared to be excited about things, so scared to act like I cared, scared of what people would think.
But I guess it just wasn’t time for me to be me yet. Me now is a different kind of mess, but an improvement on the me of back then.
Two nights ago, Marc and I were sitting on the couch watching TV. Oliver had his head on my lap. I played with Oliver’s little ears and sang to him about how cute he was, making his ears dance back and forth while he slept. After a few moments, I looked up and Marc was staring at me.
“See, you know that was weird because you didn’t even realize you were doing it. Did you forget I was even here?”
I love to sing to my Oliver, I love to dance around the house to the songs from La La Land, and lip sync to Broadway songs. I love to be excited about things now because I missed out on being excited about so many things back then.
I’m sure the future me will have some things to tell the me of now. Like, “Girl, I know you love those Pops, but if we are going to be honest, you have a problem.” And I’ll be like, “UM I AM SORRY NO I DO NOT GO AWAY ME OF THE FUTURE.” And she’ll be like “One of them is the centerpiece on your dining room table right now.” And I’ll be like “AND IT IS BEAUTIFUL SO BACK OFF FUTURE ME.”
It will be a great conversation. I imagine it will happen in some sort of old folks home. Future me will be wearing pajamas with ice cream cones on them and rocking my pink fuzzy ear muffs. I’ll be talking to a mirror and Marc will be there, playing a video game.
It’ll be good. Trust me.