Where’s the self-love?

It started in sixth grade, when the boys started noticing the girls.

One girl started developing early and became the person all other girls were judged against.

Overnight, we all obtained labels. There were the pretty girls, then there were the flat, fat or ugly girls.

“The average schoolgirl is flat, ugly, and mean. You’re just two of those things, Kelsey,” said one of the bully boys.

I took that as a compliment.

But it didn’t take much time for me to loathe my body. I was far too tall. I’d had my growth spurt before all of the boys and most of the girls did. I towered over most of them. Instead of realizing they were only making fun of me to compensate for their feelings of inadequacy due to short stature, I felt like I was the odd one out.

I did not have any trace of boobs. I knelt at my bed some nights and prayed for them. I measured my bust size periodically with measuring tape I pocketed from an Ikea store. It didn’t change.

When high school came around, things only got worse. I went from a Catholic grade school, where we wore uniforms, to a public school, where casual clothes were appropriate. Now, not only did I have to dress to impress my old classmates, but I had to learn the trends of the new ones, too.

I was lucky to form a close-knit group of friends quickly, so I had at least some level of comfort at my new school. But when I stepped into my freshman CP English class, that fuzzy feeling disintegrated.

The class clown/bully immediately singled me out as a target. At first, he tried to flirt with me. He sent me messages on MySpace and winked at me in class. When I gently turned him down, he began to slowly tear me down.

He called me a “horse” in front of the entire class on a daily basis because I hadn’t yet grown into my longish face. He “neighed” when I walked in the room. He made sexual gestures towards me to make his friends laugh. I cried after school most days. The teacher did nothing about it.

My parents told me to ignore the harassment.

But ignoring it just made it worse. I had tried to snap back at him when he bullied me, but he always had another insult that hurt even worse.

At that point, I began refusing to wear any type of shoe with a heel. I would search for the smallest heel-ed tennis shoe in the store. Once, I even cut off the bottoms of a pair with an already-tiny heel. I wore flip-flops even in the winter and walked on the sides so I wouldn’t add any additional height. I adjusted my walk so I hunched a bit and lost another half-inch.

The summer after freshman year, I laid out in the sun almost every day to get tan and make me feel more confident about myself. I dyed my hair blond and straightened it, and I got my braces off. I came back to school that fall feeling good. But it wasn’t permanent.

I still hated being tall, and I always lied about my height when people asked me. I had made myself look just like I was “supposed to.”

It took until the middle of my college years to accept my height and start to like my body again. One day last year, I looked in the mirror and realized I was standing up straight. I hadn’t given a second thought to my height in a long time. I let my hair go wavy and I wore the clothes I wanted to wear (lots of cat shirts).

The combination of my maturity and lack of teasing from my peers helped me get over my body-hate. I wear high-heeled shoes now.

I know there’s a sixth grader lying in her bed right now feeling the same way I felt back then. And I want to tell her she should only be worrying about which swimming pool to go to tomorrow, not about how to adjust her body to make it look like other people think it should.



Dog Bites and Catcalls

I loved every dog that crossed my path until a few weeks ago. Big, small, fluffy or shorthaired, I wanted to pet every single one of them. I usually asked the owners if I could, then gave them pats on the head.

Then, during finals week, I decided in a flash of motivation to go to Starbucks and finish my final paper early. I packed my laptop in my backpack, braided my hair and walked out of the door.

I can see the coffee shop from my house, so it only took me five DSCN1113minutes to get to the corner of busy Main Street. During my walk, I noticed a cute medium-sized dog trotting a few yards in front of me.

When I approached the corner, the dog and its elderly owner were standing there. I had to edge past them to reach the doorway. As I did so, I gave the cute dog a little wave.

I didn’t have time to react before its teeth sunk into my left thigh. I felt a sharp pinch but felt paralyzed and helpless standing there. I had never once feared this might happen, so I wasn’t prepared for it.

While the dogs teeth chomped further into my skin, I looked up at the owner with pleading eyes. After what seemed like five minutes, he finally pulled the long leash and scolded the dog. Then he walked away as I stood there, face burning and leg throbbing. I was wearing thin leggings and I didn’t know what my leg looked like underneath yet. I walked into Starbucks in a daze, and was going to still try to do my homework until I looked up at the long “Frappe Happy Hour” line and saw nearly every person staring at me. Some were even smirking. The large picture windows surrounding the building gave them a full view of the attack. Yet no one said a word to me. Not one, “Are you okay?” or “Did that dog just bite you?”

So I limped out the door and fell apart. The shock, pain and general disregard afforded to me by everyone that day made me feel worthless and embarrassed. I didn’t want to leave my house for the rest of the day.

That same feeling rushes over me nearly every time I walk down my street. Granted, I do live on College Avenue, the home of frat houses and College Fest. But I still shouldn’t have to put up with the “Whore!” and “Bitch!” screams (and worse) every single time I walk to the end, regardless of what I’m wearing, which shouldn’t matter anyway.

Usually, the calls come from houses with at least five shirtless frat monkeys hanging around on the front porch. It seems this is a ritual that the men do to gain acceptance and approval from their gorilla peers.

The worst part about the catcalling is there is no good way to react to it. If you shout something back at them, their fire will be fueled. They will say, “Man, she really is a bitch,” even though you were simply standing up for yourself.

If you ignore them, they will probably continue to do the same thing to every female who walks by. I don’t believe there’s anything a victim can do to stop the behavior. The change needs to come from within.

If just one friend says to the cat-caller, “Hey man, that’s not cool. You don’t even know her,” then maybe, just maybe, the man will stop doing it. But most likely, the rest of the men will gang up on that defender and call him a “pussy.”

All I ask is for a day when I don’t have to worry about walking past dogs or men on a porch. That will be a happy day.