The day my life took a turn

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 6: Describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn. 

I could take the easy way out and write about the obvious (though wonderful) turns that my life has taken including the day I met my husband, the day we adopted Joey, the day I started running, ect., but that's all old-hat. You've heard those stories or tidbits of those stories countless times as you've followed this blog, and I think it would be unfair to just regurgitate the same old spiel. It doesn't make those specific events any less life-changing or sublime, but I'd really like to avoid the whole "been there, wrote that" mentality that these writing challenges often generate.

I wish I had some awe-inspiring tale that would offer you a closer, more personal glimpse into my life and give you a better understanding of what series of cosmic events led me to where I am today. I'd love to regale you with a story about the day I crawled out of my bassinet and requested a pen and paper from my mother so I could begin writing my first novel, securing my fate as a future author before I could even speak.

I've got nothing like that, unfortunately.

However, my life did take a BIG turn the summer before I started fourth grade at a brand new elementary school. My parents were newly separated and somehow during the separation it was decided that my sister and I would no longer be attending our private Christian school. It was my first experience with public school, and I was still reeling over the loss of my old school mates.

My mom, sister and I were living in a small townhouse and I remember that townhouse primarily by its thick, deep tan carpet. It wasn't shag carpet by any means, but it was super cushy and looking back on it, a horrible color choice for any decade.

One day, my mom came home from a shopping trip and presented me with a new outfit (this wasn't unusual. I was still at the age where if my mom didn't pick out my clothing, I'd probably just live in my pajamas. Which I guess isn't entirely different from college.). Up until that point, a baseball hat and jean shorts with an over-sized softball t-shirt was my usual Courtney uniform. I wore my Colorado Rockies baseball cap so often, I'm surprised it never molded to my head. I slept in it, I showered in it. Tom Boy doesn't even begin to describe this phase of my life.

But the clothing in the bag bore absolutely zero resemblance to the comfortable rough-n'-tumble attire to which I was so accustomed. Rather, the ensemble my mother purchased included a slim-fit orange and yellow striped v-neck t-shirt and slim-fitting jeans. (Mind you, this was the mid 90shigh-waist, tapered jeans were all the rage for teenage girls. So trend wasn't the issue, fit was.) I looked at her doubtfully. I'm not sure which daughter my mom was confusing me with, but there's no way these clothes were meant for me. 

Against my inner Tom Boy's better judgement, I appeased my mom and tried on the clothes anyway, and I will never, ever forget how I felt when I saw my reflection in the large hallway mirror on the staircase's landing.

My life took a turn the day I realized that, much to my dismay, I was becoming a woman.

Somehow my body managed to go behind my back and start developing. For the past several months, my baggy play clothes were harboring a terrible secret that was just thrust into the blinding spotlight.

I remember feeling mortified and ashamed that I had the beginnings of boobies. Where did those things come from and who gave them permission to stay? (Granted, I don't think they ever really grew since that day, but still! At the time, anything other than a concave chest made me feel like freakin' Dolly Parton.) And how long had I been smuggling a bubble butt?

The moment I started asking myself those questions is the moment that I felt my psyche make the distinct switch from carefree child to insecure pre-teen. A singular event can't trigger your body and hormones to go berserk, but if the beginning of adolescence had a sound, it would be the sound of zipping up those darn light-wash tapered jeans for the first time. My body suddenly stopped making sense to me and I wanted nothing more than to cover it up and hide it from the world.

Welcome to being a woman, am I right?

That night I wore my new grown-up duds to Youth Group and it was the very first time I ever ventured out in public with my arms crossed over my chest and my shoulders hunched. I employed the same posture you see on every 11 year-old girl who developed early and is towering awkwardly over her small, boy-shaped girlfriends. "Maybe if I keep standing like this, I can collapse into myself like a star ..."

Me at age 4 or 5 without a single care in the world while at the zoo with my family.

I've shared this story with Clayton a few times and though he nods his head (and snickers when I mention the word "boobies"), I think his total lack of a second X chromosome makes it impossible for him to ever fully understand the magnitude of that day and what that new outfit represents in my journey to adulthood. Puberty pretty much blows for everyone, but I think girls have a rougher go of it, especially since females tend to show the physical signs of puberty long before the boys do.

My body and I have always had a rocky relationship, and the first shots were fired the day my mom brought home that new outfit, the clothing of a young woman. That was also the first time I ever considered my body as anything more than a vessel that allowed me to climb trees, hit a softball and ride my bike. It was my first taste of scrutinizing my physical self and it opened the door into a brand new world full of self-doubt, self-loathing, insecurity and uncertainty over the packaging God put me in.

Maybe some of you other gals (and guys even!) can relate to this story and maybe you can remember your own moment of "Crap. I'm not a kid anymore." And is it just me, or should we be listening to Britney Spears' "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Women" while we discuss this?

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