I really should have seen it coming. The harbingers of my plummet into pre-teen awkwardness were all flagrantly evident. I was 5’2″ with size ten feet. Did I really think that I could survive looking like I was wearing swim fins my whole life? Or even more preposterously, did I think I would be one of those genetic freaks who transition seamlessly from child to adult?
Despite my reluctance to acknowledge all the warning signs, puberty hit me. Hard. I grew six inches, seemingly overnight, without gaining a pound. I insisted on dying my hair black and cutting my own bangs… about 4 inches too short. This only highlighted my “too-large-for-my-face” nose, braces and cystic acne. If you need more of a visual, I essentially lived under a bridge and demanded everyone to “Answer me, these questions three.”
My “Awkward Stage”, as my family likes to call it, was hard on me. I just happened to be best friends with the most popular group of mutant seventh grade supermodels the world had ever seen. I never got as many comments on MySpace pictures as them or had any jealous girls make up rumors about me fooling around in some closet. The least they could have done was make up some eating disorder story about my Stretch Armstrong body. I mean, that’s how you know you’ve really made it, right? Boys didn’t laugh at my dumb jokes. In fact, boys rarely even talked to me unless they were soliciting advice on how to date my friends. While my girlfriends were flooded with IMs from everyone on their Buddy List, I sat in my room reading.
During this time, I was extremely self conscious. I felt like I had to compensate for my lack of aesthetic beauty with kindness. I mean, let’s get real, what pre-teen girl was gonna put up with run of the mill cyber bullying from a girl who looked like an anorexic Artie Lange? In my desperate attempt for a mere quarter of the male attention my friends were getting, I tried really hard to be the best version of myself I could be.
As months passed, then eventually years, I slowly emerged out of the aforementioned “Awkward Stage”. I was by no means a supermodel but at least no one was chasing me around with pitchforks anymore. Initially I was embarrassed of my former appearance. I became the queen of untagging old Facebook pictures and hiding photo albums in my house. I didn’t yet realize how much of a blessing those years were.
Through my high school years, and now college, I have encountered too many girls who place all their self-worth in their appearance. You know the type, girls who need a boyfriend at all times, girls who have no substance or the very worst, girls who think it’s okay to be mean to others who don’t look or dress the way they do. Because of my “Awkward Stage”, I’m able to be friends with guys without needing any sort of validation from them. I can walk around without makeup on. I can eat a giant disgusting burrito in front of any man, woman or child for God’s sake! Simply put, I am completely comfortable just being me.
One day when I have kids I hope they have the most atrocious, revolting Awkward Stages ever. Bring on the unibrows, glasses and man boobs! I truly believe they’ll look back and be grateful for the impact it had on their life. And just for the record, when I see old pictures of me now, I couldn’t be happier. Sometimes I even think I look pretty cute in a Java the Hut kind of way.
by Christine Salamone
Follow Christine on Twitter @CeneSalamone