WARNING: extreme introspection ahead.
I've been thinking about this on my cycle home. I feel I need to get it down; I've rushed in - haven't changed, eaten or showered. I need to write this - I'm not sure why or why it's significant but I feel that somehow, somewhere there's a clue in there that might help me.
When I was a teenager I was very pretty - in a particular way. I had the sort of curves that can only look good if reined in by youth, a fortunate metabolism and/or extreme deprivation (ie the sort that can't last!). I had had a miserable time from 11-15 and reinvented myself when I started at a boys school, that took just a few girls, when I was 16. I'd lost my remaining puppy fat and I guess had hit my peak. I had the sort of prettiness that consisted of jailbait curves combined with absurd innocence, ditsiness and compliance - even docility - it's an irresistable combination to many men. I suddenly saw myself reflected in the admiration in boys' eyes and I felt good about myself for the first time - my father had always told me I was stupid, worthless and ugly (except for a brief period at 16 when he took me out with his work mates to wine bars, held my hand and bought me clothes that he confided that he couldn't buy for my mother because she was too overweight). At school were other males - ones who told me I had the best legs in school (there were only about 30 girls I hasten to add and I was by no means the prettiest - or even in the top 3), that I was gorgeous, pretty, lovely etc. I was eager to please, eager, if I'm honest, to keep that buzz I got from admiration (although there were a few times it was frightening too). I ate next to nothing, feeling almost powerful in shedding the pretty normal chubbiness I had had. I took no exercise other than frolicking half-heartedly and prettily with a badminton racket occasionally when I had to do games at school.
The boy I really liked - typically - didn't want to go out with me; we were friends as I tried hard to get him to like me. He told me that he was afraid that he would hurt me, that he had a nasty temper. I wasn't afraid although I probably should have been. I went out with someone who pushed hard for it and then cheated on me, in front of me and then wept until I forgave him. I was hopeless at saying no. I didn't want to risk that novelty of being liked and admired. I was quite revoltingly passive. There were boys at uni who I let hold my hand, even kiss me - although I didn't kiss them back - even though by then I had a boyfriend who I really liked. Still, the combination of wanting to be liked, and reveling in the effect I had on men, was seductive. It was a horrible way to behave.
I had no real personality - now I would say that I am a woman of strong opinions and convictions, some people find me witty (not bf sadly - he looks at me with a mixture of bemusement and uncomprehension when I tell a story that has them roaring at work), I would even say I'm quite spiky. Actually, there were signs of the spikiness even then: I remember the only other girl in my history class fixing the teacher with her poutiest, most limpid-eyed expression (she was a very pretty girl), fiddling pointedly with the button at her cleavage and lisping prettily "Was Xerxes sexy Mr A_?" and me snapping "Oh yes, because we're bound to get that as an A level question. Was Xerxes sexy? Discuss with reference to the Ionian Revolt, considering the archaeological and contemporary source information to illustrate your answer". The teacher told me reprovingly that I was "waspish" and referred to me in those terms for the rest of the year.
And one of my friends now, interestingly enough - I hope she'll forgive me for saying this - was the opposite of me. She tells me she was overweight in her teenage years - her relationships with boys were more equal, they were friends too; she concentrated on pleasing herself as well as others. She has skills now from having those friendships that mean she can thrash most men at pool or at arcade games - and she can hold her own in any conversation about anything. She developed her personality, rather than concentrating on being pleasing. Now she's slim AND she has all the personality that made her attractive anyway - seriously, if I leave her anywhere for a moment now, some bloke will hit on her. Not that she usually realises! Good for her though.
And now I wonder if where I am now, how I am now, is some kind of divine (or otherwise) retribution for that silly, shallow girl I used to be. I remember finding a classmate's cardigan which was slung down, showing a size 18 label, and being horrified that anyone could allow themselves to get so big. Serves me right really to have been that size - still am that size sometimes. And what have I learnt? I don't want to be the vapid creature I once was but after everything, if I had to trade what I am now to be as pretty as I was then, I'd still do it in a heartbeat. How's that for shallow and stupid?