Jan 31
essay challenge: Teenager

Lipstick Girl

        I think that maybe I'm not really growing up, but just growing older. Years can fly by, but I still feel the same as I did when I was a child, crawling and crying and looking for attention. I suppose no one really ever gets over that stage in their life, but when I think about myself, all I see is a smaller version of what's on the outside. My heart, my words, my hands and my lungs are always in continual growing pains, confusing me into thinking that maybe, I'm going to change.
        You see, being a teenager seemed so magical in my early years, all short skirts and makeup, nice shoes and white teeth. Every girl daydreamed about it, waiting to get braces and highlights and lipstick, and for some strange reason, I think I grew into my teenage years ready for my expectations to become reality. I ignored the obvious signs that I was different than the girls I had dreamt of being, and took it upon myself to change until I was satistified. It's a familiar story, but I don't think it ever ended. I still find myself in the bathroom for hours, wondering how I got to this point of needless nitpicking and harshness towards myself. I still go through the whirlwinds of phases, becoming a new person every month of the year, trying desperately to find a place in life that I can finally be happy with the person that I have made myself into. 

        I remember one day when I was about 7 years old, my mom took my sister and I to the grocery store with her to run some errands. While she endlessly roamed the aisles, trying to find everything on the long list she had prepared, my sister and I had free reign, running around the store and picking out items that we knew we were never going to buy. When I happened to stumble upon the cosmetics section, I was in complete awe. Makeup was a foreign topic to me, but the talk of it was heavy around the older girls at school, and I was dying to get my mom to let my buy some. I plucked a bright pink tube of tinted lip balm, and closed my fist around it, running to find my mom. I begged and I begged, trying to convince her that it "wasn't really makeup," and finally, she pursed her lips and put it in the shopping cart. 

        I was so desperate to go home and try it on that I whined for my sister to get into the car so we could go home. She rolled her eyes while my mom laughed at my rushed demeanor, but I didn't even care, I was so excited. As soon as my mom pulled into the driveway, I scrambled out of the car and flew into the house, kicking my shoes off and running to the bathroom. Carefully, I locked the door, and dug the tube of lip balm out of my pocket. I took off the cap, twisting the bottom of the tube so that the bright balm popped out, and I smiled. I put it on messily, happily, giddy to finally be applying it. It was shiny and much brighter than I thought it would be, standing out against my brown skin. For a moment I felt like a princess, like I was the prettiest I'd ever been. But the moment was over quickly, and instead, I was filled with an enormous sense of shame. Shame because it didn't look very good on me. Shame because I couldn't even put it on right. Shame because I looked silly, delirious and fake. Shame because I was not the type of girl who wears tinted lipbalm.
         I wiped it off and hid under the kitchen table until dinner, embarassed for my family to see my stained lips, knowing that they would see only my desperate (and failed) attempt at beauty.

          I will never forget that feeling. That shame. I will never forget it because I still feel it every time I look in the mirror after putting on makeup. Every time I wear a short dress. Every time I take a picture of myself, or when I straighten my hair. I feel it every time I shave my legs or pluck my eyebrows, every time I change another tiny thing about myself. I feel that desperate need to be someone that I'm not, and then I feel the instant disappointment that comes along with it.

           For me, that is what being a teenager has been like. I am always the little girl with the lipstick, trying and failing to satisfy the hunger within myself to be something, someone, somewhere that I cannot be. I take pills, I talk and I talk and I talk, but the strange feeling at the bottom of my stomach doesn't want to go away yet, and sometimes it tests my patience.

         But being a teenager has also taught me that so many feelings can be temporary. I don't have to hide under the kitchen table if I don't want to. My lips aren't stained anymore. And I think, that maybe, I really could change this time.