Crystal and I grew up together in good ol’ Keizer, OR 97303 (a place which I believe always deserves the zip code that follows). Although a year apart, we ran in some of the same high school circles, therefore allowing ourselves to actually, legitimately connect on Facebook – gulp – 15 years later. Here’s the bottom line, though: she makes me want to be a better writer and a better storyteller, so I squealed with glee when she said yes to my invitation to guest post. Enjoy, and head on over to Creepy Ginger Kid to cheer her on.
If you grew up in the 90’s you remember the movie, She’s All That. Here’s the plot: Rachel Leigh Cook transforms from an ugly loser (wears glasses and a pony tail) into a beautiful popular girl (took off glasses and put her hair down). While her pre-makeover look is still incredibly hot–in a hipster sort of way–we root for her new look because we love the transformation.
We see this meta-narrative played out time and time again. Transformation/redemption stories are ubiquitous in our world. They are the reason shows like The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover, and The Swan are popular. With that in mind, forgive me for the superficial thing I’m about to say:
In my late teens I got pretty.
Now before you get on your high horse and assume that I’m arrogant, vapid and shallow; before you begin to pick apart my flaws (she’s not that pretty, and did you see what happened when she got pregnant?!), ask yourself if you’ve ever untagged your name from an unflattering photo on Facebook or if you’ve ever worn make-up, contact lenses, or braces for the sake of vanity. Ask yourself if you’ve ever read an article about how to improve your physique. No? Then permission to judge: granted. Anyway, I know it is only a matter of time before aging turns me into a cross between Ron Howard and Gollom from The Lord of the Rings… (Ok, that’s a bit far-fetched–I’ll never be that skinny.)
Getting pretty was like getting a parking ticket or polio. It happened passively, unexpectedly, and came with a host of new problems. For one, I got too much attention from guys and it did not go unnoticed by other women. Since I’d always had lots of girlfriends, I was unprepared for this, and didn’t know how to respond when insecure ladies were unkind to me. Once in grad school I attempted to make conversation with a female classmate only to have her say, “Crystal, I don’t need anymore friends.” I assumed she was joking (because who SAYS that?) until she apologized for “misjudging” me a year later. Thankfully, these problems mostly went away when I got a ring on my left hand.
Getting pretty wasn’t all bad–it also came with new opportunities. In the middle of college I moved to Austin, TX and decided to apply at Abercrombie and Fitch so that I might meet some people my age. My initial meeting with the manager was more like an audition than an interview–and I was cast as a “brand representative”. Basically my job was to walk around the store wearing A & F gear and be good looking. The other brand reps had this down to a science. They wore their vizors casually off-kilter and call each other “Broseph”. Outside of work hours they would take road trips to the Mexican border and purchase over-the-counter Valium. I did my best to fit in, but mostly I kept quiet so that no one would know that I was faking being cool. Then one night after closing they asked about my interests, so I put on the new NSYNC album. They should have detected that something was wrong with me when they realized that I was 20 and I still liked boy bands. Perhaps in hearing Justin Timberlake croon, I became too comfortable because I decided to tell them about a new dance move I was working on. It was called an Axel turn. Basically it required you to get a bit of a running start and the after two counter-clockwise rotations, you would pull your legs up into a fancy rump tap and land with your arms posed with extended jazz hands. Only I didn’t just tell them. I showed them.
With a determined, squinted brow I got my running start and then…one rotation…two rotations…lift the legs and WHACK…I ran into a table, knocking over a pile of overpriced cargo shorts. They stared at me, gobsmacked. If it weren’t for the substantial injury I sustained on my right jazz hand along with the heavy doses of contraband Valium in their systems, I am sure they would have been laughing instead of struggling to keep straight faces while I nursed my wound.
The jig was up. Sure, I had glossy, straight hair now. Sure, I was good-looking enough to walk around in a $50 teeshirt, but it was clear to everyone that deep down, I would always be a creepy ginger kid.
Thank you, Crystal. Leave a comment for our friend below, and in the meantime, if you haven’t already, help Cara’s writing grow by becoming a fan of be, mama. be, or by heading to the home page, looking to the left, and entering your e-mail address to follow the site directly.0