Folks, it is finally time to announce the completion of a project I've been working on for the past year. It's a book. It's called Dear Girls, a Mother's Message about True Beauty. It's written for girls age 12-25, and is about body image, and taking healthy steps to discovering our power and potential in this world. It is based on my very own true story.
"If you don't quit worrying about your body, your girls will start worrying about theirs." These chilling words spoken by a true friend have haunted Rachel since the day they were spoken. Worried there might be some truth to that bleak prediction, she decides to write her young girls a story, one that tells her very own tale of forgiveness, health and healing.
The book is due to come out in mid-November, and a launch party will be held at the end of November for any who want to attend. More details will follow, but until then please enjoy this teaser chapter of my beloved project: Dear Girls.
The Beauty of Boys
November 6, 2011
“This, like all other stories worth telling, is all about a girl.” That’s one of the first lines Peter Parker speaks in the 2002 hit movie Spider Man. Sometimes when words like that are spoken by a cute boy on a big screen it sounds romantic. When I was younger, though, and I heard a girl say something like that about a boy and her actual life, it sounded pathetic and desperate. Why was that? Why did I think that the pursuit of a girl by a boy was romantic, but the pursuit of a boy by a girl was just sad? It’s because in my mind, you only had to pursue a boy if you weren’t good enough. If you were good enough, perfect enough, skinny enough and enough enough, they would come after you. And that was just plain romantic.
I was in sixth grade when I first noticed boys noticing my body, and to my dismay, other girls’ bodies. I was boy crazy for as long as I can remember and I craved their attention. I had at least one dramatic and devastatingly deep crush every school year. I couldn’t name all my teachers, but I sure can tell you who I spent my time thinking about each year. From Brandon Fisher in Kindergarten right on up to Billy Walters in fifth grade I had someone to daydream about. Sixth grade was when I discovered how exciting it was to actually earn your crush’s attention by flirting. Back then it was “totally in” to be “going out” which of course did not mean going anywhere at all, but that you were committed to a lasting, meaningful relationship with a particular individual as long as you both shall live, or until he broke your heart at recess, whichever came first.
The boyfriend I was most proud of that year was Shawn McGee. He was the new kid, so his allure apart from his heart palpitation causing dimples was his mystery. He sat next to me in class and was the shy, blushing type. He could kick the ball the farthest in kick ball, run the fastest in all PE activities and was the tallest and most athletic of all my classmates. He was an only child, which was interesting to me since I had four siblings. He lived right by the school. I got to walk past his house every morning and afternoon in my to-and-from school travels.
At that age, as any self-respecting sixth grade girl can tell you, you have to beat them at something to get their attention. Then be flirtatious and fun for the most part so they’re not insulted, just impressed. Then you have to tease them and pay them lots of attention. I did my utmost to make sure I was on the opposite team in kick ball and always played the outfield so I’d be in prime position to catch his high flying kicks in my direction. It almost always worked. I flirted shamelessly with him every day. And then it happened. Right around February that year he asked me out! Not on a date, of course, for in sixth grade, the words, “Will you go out with me?” took on a much deeper meaning than a simple possibility of an upcoming date. No, no, those words meant commitment. I of course wrote “yes” on the note he had passed me to submit his request. I can almost feel the butterflies now.
The next week was very important because it was going to be our first (and likely only, but you couldn’t tell me that) Valentine’s Day as a couple. I had to wear the absolute perfect thing, of course, and think of something completely meaningful to give him. I mean, a valentine’s gift isn’t just your average present ladies; this is something you bestow upon each other to symbolize your deep and abiding love! Also it had to be under $5. Tricky. I planned balloons and candy. I had to get up early and beg my mom to take me to buy the balloon bouquet and heart-shaped chocolates I thought he’d like most. Carrying them to school with me made me feel so special that those multicolored balloons might as well have been carrying me off the ground. He surprised me with a card he stamped himself with a teddy bear stamp and: a rose. A ROSE! Oh man, that’s when you know you’ve made it, girls, when you can proudly tote a rose around to all your classes on Valentine’s Day and even the teachers noticed. I was living the dream, and Shawn and I lasted clear into that spring.
In early April I secured the envied crossing guard duty. It was always a privilege to be a crossing guard at any crosswalk, but this time I got what I considered the best news of my life up to that point: I was assigned the crosswalk on Ridge Street, right by Shawn’s house! Every morning I would arrive early with my neon orange flag and walk kids across to safety right where he could see me if he so chose. Every afternoon, I later found out, he and his friends really would watch me that whole week. It was then I heard the powerful words he said about me. These words filled my heart with the joy of success and feeling wanted and loved. Randy Chapman told me that Jason Stock told him that Shawn said, “Rachel has the best body in the whole sixth grade.” Done. I now knew exactly what I had to have in order for the boys to love and want me around: The best body. Did I need to be funny? Nope. How about fun, easy going, sensitive, a good cook, smart, or rich? Nope, nope, nope. Beauty had now been defined to me by a boy I liked: The best body. And who determines whether or not I have the best body? The boys do, by the amount of attention I receive from them.
I tucked that golden nugget of what I thought was knowledge away for future romantic pursuits. I imagined I had the key to ensure I was desired, loved, and otherwise doted upon for the rest of my life. Little did I know what a double edged sword that “knowledge” would prove to be.
The summer before seventh grade was a trying one. Shawn and I broke up (no surprise there), and I entered the summer with no strings attached. I went to the pool every day with my friends, had a great tan, and spent many a carefree eve with night games and sleepovers. Also I gained over twenty pounds. Yes sir, puberty bit me hard, right on my growing gluteus maximus. I didn’t know what to do. I thought puberty came with menstruation and that had happened ages ago back in the fifth grade! I totally thought I’d dodged the weight gain bullet of puberty. But no, that summer I passed the dreaded one-hundred pound barrier, and had one fleeting wistful glance at it as I ran right through it to a hundred and ten. What?? What are these weird white stretch marks on my beautifully tanned and otherwise muscular thighs? How did that unsightly flab appear overnight on my upper arms, and what the?!? Are those LOVE HANDLES? Life? Over. Beauty? Gone. Hopes of ever catching anyone as fabulous as Shawn McGee again? Dashed. I felt shafted, doomed, and otherwise ill-fated. That my puberty should consist of a period and weight gain seemed outrageously unfair. Plus I got braces and zits. Oh how could it get any worse? It would though, because I was about to enter the deep dark hellish hole we refer to as Middle School.