It seems that all women struggle with self-esteem issues, especially when it comes to their physical appearances. I am no different. I have spent pretty much my entire life feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.
When I was a pre-teen I read an article in some beauty/fashion magazine that listed the bodily dimensions of the top super-models at the time. To this day, I remember the inadequacy I felt comparing my own body to these women's impossible proportions.
I was the tallest girl in my class at the time and I wore a 32C bra. Developing at a young age is really tough on girls. I was treated differently, not only by my my peers but by adults too. I was actually sent home from school one day for dressing "too provocatively." I clearly remember the colorful, striped, wide-strapped Stussy tank-top that caused all the trouble. I can also recall defending myself in the principal's office, stating matter-of-factly that my shirt was no more revealing than the shirts that the other girls were wearing. And, I will never forget my disciplinarian's response: "You're different from the other girls. You are causing a distraction for the boys." According to him, it was my fault that the pubescent boys in my class were more interested in boobs than in mathematics.
Sometime around that same period in my life, I developed an eating disorder—the classic binge and purge technique. I also started taking diet pills, which I got from a friend who stole them from her older sister. I wound up getting suspended for 10 days and sentenced to drug treatment/therapy at the local family health clinic when I got caught with them in school.
It wasn't until my early 20s that I would even consider wearing a bathing suit without shorts in public. I was in a horrible car accident when I was nine years old that left me with a huge scar down my left thigh and what is now a barely discernable limp. I spent the next decade obsessed with and embarrassed of my "disfigurement."
By the time I entered high school, I was attracting a lot of attention from older men who would try to pressure me to do things with them that I wasn't ready to do. I remember when I was 14 years old being at a house party and this guy Mike had cornered me in a bedroom and was forcefully pushing me onto the bed. Luckily for me, someone heard me yelling and busted through the door to yank the scumbag off of me. On another occasion, I was left on the side of a road after refusing to give a guy a blow job in exchange for a ride home.
At 16 years old, I started dating men in their 20s. I saw nothing wrong with it then, but now it literally makes me feel sick to my stomach. If I had a 16-year-old daughter bringing 20-year-old men around, heads (or nuts) would roll. Being sexualized my men at such a young age wrecks a young girls self-esteem....
I moved out of the house immediately after graduating from high school and moved into an apartment in Philly with my boyfriend at the time. He was a 22-year-old bum with no job. My mother was completely opposed to the idea and cut me off financially. That's how I wound up working multiple waitressing and odd jobs to pay my way through college and to support myself—and my boyfriend who never seemed to keep a job.
When the bum boyfriend first started showing signs of aggression, verbally abusing me, punching holes in the apartment walls and busting up my things, I just ignored it. I guess years of being emotionally abused by my drug-addict father had led me to believe this sort of behavior was acceptable. It wasn't until he shoved me down the staircase in our apartment building that I finally left him.
I will never forget that night. We were in the apartment arguing. Fed-up, I went into the bedroom and called my friend Nadine to tell her I was coming to the little South-Philly bar she was working at. I needed to get away. The boyfriend heard me on the phone and stole my shoes to try to stop me from leaving. He started pushing me out the door, barefoot, screaming at me to "go ahead and leave then." He pushed me hard the last time, and I fell down the stairs in our apartment building hall. I jumped to my feet and ran out the door. Tears streaming, barefoot, I walked down Washington Ave. towards the bar. I called Nadine, and she informed me that she had called the police and they were on the way to my apartment, so I should go back and have them take me inside to get my car keys and some things to come stay with her.
When I got back to the apartment, there were two police cars. The boyfriend was screaming at the cops, and when he saw me, he threatened to kill himself if I left. I left anyway. I left him with the apartment and everything in it and moved into Nadine's place. He didn't kill himself.
For the next couple of years, I hated men. Really hated them. Maybe I had always hated them....I certainly didn't trust them.
Jack has helped me through a lot of my issues with men. We were friends for years before we started hooking up. It took months of dating exclusively before I would call him my boyfriend and even longer before I would stop flinching when we had even the slightest disagreement. He is so unbelievably patient with me...
Until now, Jack was the only person I had ever told about a lot of the things I have written about in this post. It feels really good to get these things out. I feel one step closer to becoming "comfortable in my own skin."