Why it’s Better to Blossom than Peak too Soon
It was my first day of secondary school and there I was all alone in the playground; skirt too long, bag too big, eyebrows too huge, bushy bouffant hair, spots and hairy legs. I was ready to make a big impression with all my new friends… unfortunately it wasn’t the right one.
Being a teenager is never an easy time, but being an ugly one is excruciatingly difficult. No matter how much we instill in our children that looks are not important and it’s what’s inside that counts, those poor kids are still going to get judged. And if you are surrounded by pre-teens and uneducated arseholes, the judgement cuts just that much deeper.
On that first day of school, as I looked around at the gangs of friends that had moved over en-masse from their previous schools and the long swishy blonde manes of the girls who were already destined to be the popular ones, I realised that it was a good job that I liked school. I was smart and I wanted to learn, so at least I wasn’t going to have flocks of boys fighting for my attention and distracting me. As much as I secretly wanted it.
But I was fine, more than fine. I wasn’t one of the pretty girls at school, I wasn’t even one of the funny ones either, but so what? The cool boys sometimes sat next to me but it was mainly to copy my homework. The pretty girls were nice enough, some were even my friends, but their talk of ‘Charlie’ perfume and Smash Hits pin-ups soon got boring and I’d retreat back into a good book and my diaries.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a 1990’s London comprehensive secondary school not some ubiquitous American High School where everyone gets categorised into Jocks and Geeks and Cheerleaders. My fellow classmates were nice enough even though I did occasionally get compared to Frank the wedding planner from ‘Father of the Bride’ (it was the hair, my unfortunate ‘why-won’t-it-fucking-grow 80’s throwback from my mullet years). But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
It was no secret that I wasn’t the pretty one. No one flirted with me, no one wrote my name on their school folders and I didn’t get to do any snogging behind the bike sheds. Instead I got to listen to my pretty friends and their love life woes and help them decide who to go out with. Their boobs filled an entire bra and their hair was straight and long and didn’t look like their nan’s. They had perfectly shaped brows, little light freckles on their button noses and were allowed to spend their pocket money on lipstick from the market on Saturdays. We’d swap clothes and go to the under 18‘s disco but I would get their left-overs to dance with at the end of the night during the ‘erection section’. Plenty of slow dances with my fellow spotty awkward duckling swaying along to to Boyz to Men’s ‘End of the Road’ and Prince’s ‘Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ (I think the DJ only had a few records).
And so that was that, I spent my early teens destined to be the DUM DUM (Designated Ugly Mate) that the boys only spoke to when they wanted your pretty mate’s telephone number.
Then something happened.
Beauty must have crept up on me slowly but it felt like it arrived in one big bang one summer when I wasn’t looking. My boobs didn’t grow but my confidence (and hair, hurray) did. By 15 I had discovered wax and tweezers and the fact that I had long legs and a flat stomach. I was suddenly getting wolf whistles along with my high grades. The boys noticed me. Finally! I was the one with the sharp wit and all the A star grades but, oh my god, I was no longer the ugly one.
This was no Hollywood transformation. I didn’t need the Pink Ladies to do me over neither did I descend the stairs on the night of my graduation having taken my glasses and dungarees off and everyone suddenly noticed me. It wasn’t that. I had just finally blossomed.
The cool boys suddenly liked me (which was fun as I had already seen them for the shallow twats that they were) while the cool girls still looked like they did at twelve years old but had got mean with it. They were old hat now, no one fancied them anymore.
By the time I left school I wasn’t the scared little girl any more that didn’t fit in, I had worked on myself first and my looks caught up with me when I was ready for them.
Well now I’m screeching toward 40 and that’s a different story.
I look okay, I don’t like the idea of leaving my youth behind but I think I’m coping just about – I’ve only had a few midlife crisis moments. So I got to wondering exactly what happened to all those pretty girls I wanted to be when we were at school, and that’s what Facebook is for (don’t you just love it?!)
I looked up all my old school friends and laughed and hugged myself with glee when I saw that all the other ducklings had also grown into Swans. The chubby kid in drama class that no one liked was a model now, and the dorky boys that the girls laughed at were leaders of massive industrious companies. The cool boys were mainly in prison or turned to weed and even funnier, the previously admired girls had turned into dodgy old turkeys.
It’s true. The pretty and popular girls that worried more about what shoes to wear to school and how many fags they could smoke in their lunch break are now, well, pretty bloody rough. They simply peaked too soon. Their lack of interest in school work is evident in their dislike for their lifestyle, their skin is ruined from so much smoking at such an early age and the body that they never had to work too hard to maintain has morphed into a new more rotund shape.
If I sound like I’m being bitchy then that’s probably because I am. It’s not easy being a teen, and it’s even harder being an ugly one. But I’m glad I DID have unfortunate hair and hairy legs and a disproportionate face because I learnt to focus on me, to believe in me as a person and what I could achieve with my brains instead of my beauty. Then when my looks finally turned up, because they always do eventually, I had both the brains and beauty to really conquer the world.
So to all those little ducklings waiting in the wings and watching the flocks of pretty birds saunter around the school getting strutted at by the hot peacocks – don’t worry. When you eventually become swans you will become the best kind of sexy bird, because your beauty will radiate from the inside out. You will be strong, courageous, clever and invincible and you won’t only get noticed, but you’ll get noticed by those that are worthy of your attention. Just ask that little girl standing in the playground, she did just fine.