Nearly a decade after graduation, there’s one high school memory that I return to again and again when I think about loving myself. Classes were done for the day; a few of my friends and I were sitting on the brick front steps of our school, doodling on our Converse and rolling up our uniform skirts to make them shorter, in case there were cute boys afoot when our parents picked us up and took us to Starbucks.
“Boobs,” one friend said. “Definitely Boobs.”
On cue, the next girl in our clique blurted, “Underchin. Is that a thing?”
We were discussing our dream plastic surgeries. When my turn came around, I was interrupted before I could respond. “I mean,” a classmate shrugged in my direction, “nose.” She wasn’t being mean—if she hadn’t cut in, I would have said the same thing. To our adolescent sensibilities, it was just a fact: Pretty girls possessed cute button noses or sleek ski slopes. I inherited my nose from my dad’s Italian family, along with a propensity to talk with my hands and a superhuman ability to consume pasta. And while Roman noses have long been viewed as stately on men, the imposing size and broad, hawkish bridge of my own nose were not the stuff of early-2000s beauty aspirations. Disney princesses didn’t look like me, nor did models or celebrities. It wasn’t uncommon for my friends to refer to me as T. rex or Dustin Hoffman. (Teen girls may be mean, but you can’t say they aren’t clever.)
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
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