From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

What One Boy Can Show a Girl

I was never fat nor was I ever skinny. I always had some meat on my bones, which made me look healthy, not scrawny. But when I entered middle school, the first thing I pointed out to myself was how fat I was.

I came from a small elementary school, where no one wore name-brand clothes and everyone liked to have fun regardless of how they looked. We were not worried about guys or what other people thought of us; we were merely being kids. So middle school was a shock to me. There were so many different groups to hang out with. There was one that was considered “bad,” one with girls whose moms still dressed them, one that was really smart, and the one that required name-brand clothes and lots of makeup. Of course I wanted to be cool, have the boyfriends and be a part of the in-crowd.

I would only wear my name-brand clothes, which meant my wardrobe consisted of two pairs of jeans and four shirts. I begged my parents to let me wear makeup, but they wouldn’t budge. I tried to hang around the popular girls and win them over by complimenting them on their clothes and looks, but they just looked past me and pretended I wasn’t there.

My self-confidence dwindled. I gave up on my popularity quest and soon found myself back with my friends from my previous school. They were great. They were there for me and liked me for me, but I still didn’t like myself. I thought I was fat, and no one could convince me that I wasn’t. At the beach when all my friends would be playing volleyball in their bathing suits, I would be in my clothes. When we went swimming, I would make sure I had shorts on over my bathing suit bottoms to cover up my thighs. I was no fun to hang around because I was constantly worried about how fat I looked.

At the start of eighth grade I was faced with another issue: boys. I became interested in them and even had middle school boyfriends. But now not only did I worry about how fat I looked, I worried about everything else that went along with my appearance. I became so consumed with my looks that nothing else seemed to matter. Wherever there was a mirror, I was there fixing my hair. Wherever there was a scale, I was weighing myself to see if I had lost any weight. I wasn’t worried about grades, family and homework—only me. The world revolved around me and my appearance. My parents were concerned about how I was acting. I was not confident in my body, and it showed.

On the last day of school my class was to take a trip to a local water park. I cringed at the prospect of having to walk around and stand in lines in just my swimsuit. I wouldn’t even do that in front of my friends, much less all the guys and other girls in my school. I was dreading it, but I couldn’t miss the last class trip. And I’m glad I didn’t.

With the help of one very special person, Adam, I was able to open my eyes and see what I had not been able to see for so long. Adam was what all the girls considered a “major hunk.” Blond hair, blue eyes and a great body. So you can imagine my surprise when he asked if he could hang out with me and go on all the rides together. Things like that just didn’t happen to me, so I was thrilled, to say the least.

We had a blast together. At first I was noticeably uncomfortable with just my two-piece on, but after I realized that Adam wasn’t gawking over how “fat” my thighs were or how “big” my butt was, I settled into my skin. For the first time in nearly two years, I was beginning to feel comfortable with my body. Being with Adam gave me the confidence I needed to start appreciating and accepting myself.

The next day, as I was looking through a picture album, I questioned why Adam wanted to hang out with me when he could have spent the day following one of the popular blond girls parading around in her skimpy bikini. Then I spotted a recent picture of a friend and me at school. I looked closely at the picture and studied how I looked. I discovered that my butt wasn’t that big and my thighs weren’t really that huge. I had always compared myself to girls with other body types, and that only left me feeling sorry for myself. I turned the page and found a picture of my mom when she was in high school. It’s one of my favorite pictures because she looks so pretty. I cherish the picture because my mom died of brain cancer when I was in grade school. I compared the picture of my mom with the picture of my friend and me, and the resemblance shocked me. I had always been told that we looked so much alike, but I never really realized it until then. We share the same thick brown hair, the same body structure and the same facial features. I realized that if I can’t be skinny and tall like a model, then at least I can look like one of the most beautiful people I know: my mother.

Sarah Erdmann

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