Entering the realm of adolescence was a scary journey for me.
I was never given “the talk”, but instead learned everything about the Birds and the Bees from the sex ed teacher that showed up one day when I was in grade 7.
We watched the 1970’s graphic video (they had converted it from the movie projector reel, by now) about what happens to your body and emotions when you hit puberty. The room was full of “Ew!”‘s, giggles, notes being passed and at the end, the obvious question that “anonymous” asks during the Q & A part of the discussion. “What’s a…?”
Once I entered high school, I immediately became quite shy. There were kids feeding in from a few different elementary schools and it terrified me. I had intended on taking drama classes, but opted for art classes because of pressure from my family. In elementary school, I was involved in school plays, choir, band, a lip sync contest, I even wrote a play based on the teachers and principal and cast my fellow classmates to portray them. I wouldn’t consider myself part of the popular group, nor the kids that got picked on…badly. I pretty much flew under the radar, but was the butt of ridicule more times than I care to remember.
I was overweight, still learning how to do my hair and make-up, and VERY self conscious. One boy even announced loudly in class one day, that I “had more chins than the Chinese phonebook” and another time, a girl wanted to see what size overalls I was wearing, so that she knew which size she should buy for herself, so she grabbed onto the back of my pants in front of a crowd and tried to look down as I spun around trying to loosen her death grip.
First Year of High School. Grade 8, circa 1989.
I had enrolled in a cooking class, but when I saw who my fellow classmates were, I immediately transferred out and took PE.
Once in an art class that I was taking, we had to apply pieces of plaster casting to our faces and make a mask that we were to paint. I froze in terror when the teacher had us begin our project. I couldn’t let anyone see me without my makeup! I discreetly told her of my fear, and she suggested that I come in early the next day before classes started and she would apply it for me and I could put my make up on before anyone saw. I will NEVER forget this teacher, as she seemed to be the only person that was sympathetic to my plight.
I remember getting my first period at school one day in grade 8. Fortunately it was at the end of the day, so I wadded up some toilet paper and made it home before it became a problem.
My Mum had a supply of pads in our bathroom cupboard, so I just used hers. I think afterwards, my sister got some for me.
The following month, I was visiting my Dad when my period returned. Fortunately, I was also visiting my aunt, so she took me to get some pads. But while I was with my Dad, I couldn’t even throw the pads in his garbage, I wrapped them up, put them in my suitcase and took them home with me to throw out.
Being a teenager wasn’t too bad, but it also wasn’t smooth sailing. I was never able to eat in front of strangers or peers until I was 30 years old.
This year is my 20 year high school reunion and a small part of me is fearful of seeing the people that weren’t very kind to me.
High School Graduation 1994
I graduated early because I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I went to my graduation ceremony, but did not attend any grad events or the grad dinner itself. I’m certain that I wasn’t missed. I also did not go to my 10 year reunion because I felt that 10 years wasn’t long enough for people to “grow up” and I hadn’t found myself yet.
I never want my children to feel the sadness, embarrassment or fears that I did. I will do my best to make them strong individuals, who are able to stand up for what they believe in, but at the same time be sensitive to others and appreciate who they are and what they have.
The kids & I
Funny though, the ugly ducklings tend to grow into swans when they get older. Not only in their appearance, but they grow up to have empathy for the new generation of ugly ducklings and they’re the ones who give strength to the underdogs. They see people for who they are beyond their outer layers and they’re the first ones to weed out the bad seeds when they see peoples true sides.
G Day is a new global social movement anchored by day-long events that celebrate and empower girls aged 10-12 as they transition into adolescence. Conceived by Lunapads Co-Founder Madeleine Shaw, the first G Day will take place Monday, April 28, 2014 at the Villa Amato Ballroom (3rd floor, 88 E. 1st Avenue, Vancouver BC V5T 1A1). Tickets are $75 and the event is limited to 300 girls.
To find out more or to get involved visit: gdayforgirls.com and follow the hashtags #gdayforgirls and #gdaystories.
To purchase tickets, click here.