Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Author Guest Blog: Katie Alender
Katie Alender is the author of the wonderful Bad Girls Don't Die. (If you haven't read it yet, please do soon!) Here she is telling us what she wishes she knew when she was sixteen.
When I was thirteen years old, I was hanging out with my mom one afternoon. We were goofing off, doing our makeup and talking, and I said, "I wish I were prettier. And not as smart."
At that age, being one of the smart kids hadn't really done much for me, as far as I could see. As I got older, I'd recognize that I'd ended up in smaller classes, with more individualized attention from the teachers and blah blah blah--but in eighth grade, all I knew was that the smart kids weren't the ones everybody wanted to be friends with, look like, dress like--BE, basically. That territory belonged to the "pretty" kids.
I had enough friends of my own, but they were like me--smart. Average. Nobody special. And I was at the exact age where you start to want to feel special.
Why is that? I think it has something to do with the fact that you're starting to grow out of being a child and into being your own person. That's a scary transition, full of uncertainty and insecurity and self-consciousness. If you can look out of the fuzzy confusion and imagine yourself as someone "special", the path seems clearer, the road straighter, the destination more assured.
The problem is, even if that's what you think you want, getting there isn't easy.
I'm sure my mother reassured me and said that I was the perfect combination of smart AND pretty and that I should just be myself.
She was right, of course. As I got older and felt more comfortable in my own body, I realized that what I'd held up as "pretty" was actually "well-presented."
When I was in junior high, my parents didn't have the money (or inclination, frankly) to keep me decked out in the designer clothes my more popular classmates wore. I got my hair cut (and permed, bless my heart) at the cheapy place by the grocery store. And nobody hovered over me in the bathroom, teaching me how to apply makeup or blow-dry my hair (which I'm actually relieved about).
I wasn't well-presented. My hairstyles were awkward and silly, my makeup was all wrong, my clothes were inexpensive and paired according to my (still to this day) somewhat oddball sense of personal style. But it turns out that I was plenty pretty after all.
The problem isn't that I wanted to be popular--there's nothing wrong with being popular. It's that I wanted to be someone other than who I really am. I thought giving up a piece of myself and plastering on some facade would make my life easier and better. It would be smooth sailing from that day forward!
Well, here's a secret: nobody gets a golden ticket. Nobody has a perfect life--whether they're pretty, smart, popular, rich, talented, or whatever. Everybody ends up with their own unique problems and their own unique heartaches.
Would a makeover and a new wardrobe have given me the life I wanted? Probably not. Underneath it all, I would still just have been me.
In eighth grade, I would have said that "still being me" was the problem.
Now I see it as the ultimate blessing. Every day I come through "still being me" is a day I've been true to myself. And that's about as much as a human being can ask for.
Thanks for reading!
Thank you so much, Katie!