There have been a few times in my life in which I felt strange. Not weird, because I am always weird according to other people, but strange as in, not normal for myself and/ or different from others. Some of these times have been self-imposed; maybe I was just very depressed and this depression allowed me to isolate and choose to feel different from others. In a few cases, I truly felt unlike the person I was before.
The first time I felt this was during puberty. I was always very small for my age, and so people mistook me for being a lot younger than I was. I was often called, “Little Laura,” which was fine by me, but I mention it as it defines how I was visually perceived.
This was an endearing perception for me because I liked being loved and knew the term was used affectionately. I didn’t feel self-conscious or upset for being small, until I hit puberty.
Puberty is nature’s bitch of an awakening call. It painfully changes us in either fast or such doggedly slow ways, in which others can physically note and watch as we transform. We don’t have the beauty of doing this in a cocoon or during winter hibernation, nor can we camouflage ourselves.
Getting breasts was the pinnacle of anxiety and thrill for me.
Growing up with four adult females, three of whom were entering puberty or close to it by the time I was three, I really wanted to be a woman. I wanted breasts, bras, tampons, boys, and the whole nine. When you are raised around a whole bunch of excitement that you can’t possibly partake in, you long to be part of things. Maybe if I had had a sibling near my age, these adult things wouldn’t have seemed quite as fascinating to me, but such is life.
I remember my first training bra vividly: White triple AAA bra with a tiny white and green flower stationed in between the two nipples that really needed intense military bootcamp if they ever were to grow. That and some serious doses of estrogen.
Two years after I met that enchantingly sweet bra on the lingerie floor or either JcPenneys or Macy’s, my mom and I were traversing the wide world of bras beyond the D’s. I remember buying a bikini in January of my eighth grade year: the bottom was an XS and the top, an XL. In June, I was way too big for that top.
While I wanted to be excited about my boobs because Samantha Fox, Belinda Carlisle, Gold-nippled Madonna, and ever hair metal and rock band told me that boobs were indeed, better than a money tree, I couldn’t be because my classmates tortured and ridiculed me. Plus, there was that discomfort between my old definition and the new definition of Laura: the feeling of strange.
I couldn’t be Little Laura anymore because Little Laura had adult sized hooters. I couldn’t be cute and sweet exactly, because now I was the awkward half-woman, half-baby. I had hips the size of a 12 year-old boys (still do) and the naiveté of youth. I simply had a structural adult addition tacked on to this child’s frame, and I wasn’t prepared for the way it would change both my own and other people’s perceptions of me,
A few incredibly obnoxious twits dug this lie into my classmates’ minds that I had stuffed my bra. So many other woman can attest to experiencing this situation. I wore a coat in 99 degree weather. I felt conflicted over what being a woman was going to be like, and the stakes rapidly increased when I started hanging out with boys, and in more than a few circumstances, men who were way too old to be hanging out with a 14/15 year old girl.
I had watched too many movies and television shows, and had this fantasy image of what love and adult relationships looked like, and I was given a huge dose of reality that was nothing like the movies I watched.
I remember meeting a man who I had hoped would look like Jim Morrison, and yet he turned out to look like Meatloaf.
These very early and painful memories of becoming a tiny sex object really made me feel like an alien, or unlike other people. I have struggled with being close to people and relating to others as I have internalized these experiences as some sort of mark of my difference, or flaws.
I often discuss the impact of media and social expectations of females because I was at once a confident and outgoing girl who became an insecure and people-pleasing teenager. I couldn’t be cute and little anymore, but being a sex object was a sudden and drastic perception that I had no idea how to manage. How I once biked down a street unnoticed, I was now honked at.
How I once was the source for jokes, I was now the butt of them.
I could once write stories with interesting characters, and I was now the topic of stories.
It was jarring. All the excitement and wonderment I had felt as a young kid when looking to the world of womanhood, had been knocked and subverted on its head. I wanted to be the object of the beholder’s eye, yet I did not want to just be the image. I fought with this for years, this idea of being sexualized yet not wanting to be just sex. I learned the lesson too young, and I am afraid to say that it is something that runs like a black-and white movie on the projector of my life–a narrative that has bled into my adult stories and life.
There are a few other times in which I have felt strange–pregnancy, child loss, and stardom of sorts, and I will address them at an other time as they deserve their own blogs, but at the heart of my book is the true conflict of what it means to be female, to be a sexual person. To be victim or the survivor, or maybe both.