Saturday, February 24, 2007

Problem Girl

"Why 'Problem Girl'?" I was recently asked. Here's why "Problem Girl".

I was always a really shy kid. It wasn't too big of a problem when I was young because I still managed to make friends easily. People said I was nice and funny and that seemed to make up for the shyness. So I was always a little quiet with people I didn't know well but otherwise, it was ok.

Then one day something strange happened. All of the sudden all the other little girls around started growing up. They talked about boys all the time. I couldn't figure out why the same boys we had run away from shrieking last year were now the same boys they thought were "cute" (or, in painful 80's speak "fine"). I thought the boy crazy talk was stupid and pointless. I still wanted to play Barbies.

Things got worse. At a pretty young age I shot up and out and my body changed in ways that I have still not gotten 100% comfortable with. Boys started to look at me diffrently. I hated it. (I hate it still. Just because I have a big ole' pair of boobies on my chest doesn't mean I don't have eyes on my face. Look up when you talk to me please!) Add to this my general confusion about why boys were supposed to be such a big deal to me and you have one confused and uncomfortable little girl.

Even though I matured physicaly at a young age I never really developed the same interest in clothes, hair and makeup that so many of my friends did. I'm still that way. Give me a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, a ponytail holder and a tube of chapstick and I'm a happy camper. I'm just not into that other stuff most of the time. I'm fine with that now but at the time it just served to set me even further apart from the other girls I knew. I don't think my mom ever understood my lack of interest in girly things either and it was sometimes a point of contention with us.

Things got worse. We moved to Germany where I went to a very small cliqueish school. You were either "in" or you were "out". Way out. There was no in between. I was lost. At least in California there were people that knew that I was funny and nice even if they did think I was weird. In Germany people just thought I was weird. And since they were just kids too they never bothered trying to learn anything else about me. And I was too shy to get them to see anything else about me.

During those 3 years in Germany I felt worse and worse about myself. I was an easy target. I never stood up for myself no matter what was done or said to me. There was one boy who was in several classes with my who would grab my breasts in front of the other students (and sometimes even teachers). No one tried to stop him. I actually started to blame myself, to blame my own body for what was happening to me. "If only I didn't stand out so much people would just leave me alone."

By the time we moved to Colorado I was a wreck inside. I don't think I let it show at home how I felt. I know that I fought with my parents a lot and made life pretty miserable for all of us but I don't think I ever told them why I was acting that way. I was pretty sure it was all my fault. Anyway, if a teacher could see another kid do something like put gum in my hair and do nothing to stop it then what could my parents do for me?

Things got worse. The school I went to in Colorado had a lot of well-to-do kids. They drove flashy cars, wore expensive clothes and in general looked down on people who didn't do the same. At this point my early maturation was no longer an issue since the other girls had caught up to me (although not all the way up if you get my drift) and I had taken to wearing clothes 10 sizes too big for me anyway. Now I was an outcast for other reasons.

For some reason that I've never fully understood a lot of people I went to school with thought I was a lesbian. Not a good thing to be labled as when you go to a conservative, uptight school a stones throw away from Focus on the Family (and several other religious groups). How can you prove to people that you're not gay when they want to believe that you are? Anyway, the lesbian thing wasn't what was important. It was just one more thing for people to rip into me about. From being a lesbian, to the fact that my jeans were always to short. I heard it all and I heard it every day. Because I didn't know how to stop it I even started to blame myself for all the harassment I was getting. "If I just wasn't so stupid/uncool/ugly/weak then people would leave me alone."

Aside from the memories I have of a few very good friends (two in particular who I really think were all that kept me from just giving in and giving up) I have no good memories of those three years of school in Colorado. Do you ever walk past someone and they laugh and you think to youself "Are they laughing at me?" for one second? No imagine how you would feel if it turned out that they really were laughing at you. And it happened over and over and over again. I no longer felt funny or nice, I just felt bad. It takes a long time to get over that.

Happily, 10+ years after it all ended I have managed to get over it. I've slowly remembered that I am funny and nice. I'm smart too and I'm a good person. And frankly, the fact that I can even say that stuff about myself and mean it? Impresses the living fuck right out of me.

So why "Problem Girl"? Because even though I'm over it I will always have the memory of those past hurts. You never heal 100% from wounds that deep. Even though most days I'm great (and I am great, when it comes right down to it I've got an awesome life) there are still occasional times when I feel like the whole world is just laughing at me behind my back. And I need an occasional reminder that I am ok. And it's cheesy and it's silly but for me that reminder comes in the form of a song by Rob Thomas. Hey, it's good for me ok? You gotta do what works.

"Problem Girl"
Don't let 'em get where they're going to
You know they're only what they think of you
You heard of this emotional trickery
And you felt like you were learning the ropes
But where you're going now you don't know

And when the kids on the street say
What's your problem girl
And the weight of their smile's just
Too much for you to bear
When they all make you feel
Like you're a problem girl
You're no problem at all
You're no problem at all

Pride like promises can let you down
You thought that you'd be feeling
Better by now
You worry all the things they could do to you
You worry about the things they could say
Maybe you're seeing things the wrong way

If you stand or you fall
You're no problem at all


StickyKeys said...

You are a strong, beautiful girl, and I'm glad that you used those experiences to grow and learn instead of shutting you down. Lovely entry.

Ben said...

Ahh, you're still pretty cool, you know, for a sister and all.

The Other Girl said...

Oh, Jen. All those kids missed out. I know that's sort of a "Mrs. Brady has a talk with Jan" thing to say, but (a) it's true, and (b) you're not as neurotic as Jan was (unless you have a curly black wig hidden away somewhere, in which case, I might even like you more).

cassandra said...

See, this is why the world is not run by high school kids from Colorado. Because they're not the greatest judges of human character.

You seem to me to be smart, beautiful and kind. (And I say that as one who has never seen your chest, either). The operative part of that song is "Remember
You're no problem at all
You're no problem at all."

Jen said...

sticky - We've already talked so you know how much what you said means to me. So let me just ask this: can you please hang out here more often? People think I'm cool if they know I have a black friend. (Kidding! Although you are cool.)

Ben - Oh Ben. You're so getting to pick the movie we watch on Tuesday.

TOG - Thank you, that's sweet of you to say. Also, not to self - Hide giant, curly black wig before Regina finds out about it.

cassandra - cassandra of the LLN cassandra? You found me! Woot! Stick around and get yourself a blog. ThenI can leave nice comments for you to. Thank you for the kind words.

Kel-Bell said...

I totally feel exactly the same way as you do. I had the same experience. Unfortunately, unlike yourself, although I am 25 years old now I'm still not over it. I still think that if *only* I was {insert what I'm not in this this space} then people would like me better. He wouldn't have left me, she wouldn't have effed me over, I'd have more of this or less of that, etc. For the longest time I was literally terrified of the entire human race... now I can actually get out of my car to go in to the gas station for cigs instead of paying more at the drive thru, haha. Stupid things like that. Anyway, I love your blog and you seem like a swell person. I wish we knew each other in real life!

shyestviolet said...

isn't it funny how we grow up, the past dims a bit, but one tiny thing can bring it all back and you feel like you're 12 again?

I still get so embarrassed thinking of two girls who used to follow me home yelling, "floop floop! floop floop!" because I had boobs and they didn't yet. and that was 12 years ago.

StickyKeys said...

sticky - can you please hang out here more often? People think I'm cool if they know I have a black friend.

Ha! Funny, they don't think the same about me... I should hang out with myself more often!

Sheliorama said...

That was a beautiful post Jen. Isn't it a wonderful weight off your chest (so to speak, heh) when you finally realize that it was the Mean Girls (and boys) who were screwed up and not you?

You are a beautiful person inside and out and I'm glad I got to know you.

Jen said...

kel-bell - Feeling better can take a long time but it does happen and it's the little things that prove that. Thank you for your kind words.

shyestviolet - Man, teenage girls suck so much. I'm sorry you had to deal with that too. I don't know what it is about boobs that makes them such an issue.

sticky - Well, I think you're cool. That has to count for something!

sheli - You're too sweet. Yourpost seriously choked me up. I don't even know what to say.