When I was a little girl, nobody told me that chocolate cake does not fix low self-esteem. Actually, nobody told me that self-esteem was something I had to actively work on. Most distressingly, not a single person warned me about the embarrassment that comes along with infatuation. I learned this the hard way. I have stumbled through life, falling for boys, and in turn, falling on my face.
The first time I tried to win a boy over was in preschool. I spent the entirety of story time batting my eyelashes at a bald boy named Hampton. He had big chocolate brown eyes, and I adored him. I guess I thought if I fluttered my eyes toward him long enough, maybe he would like me back. During that time, I developed some serious upper eyelid strength and Hampton developed the hots for the teacher’s pet, Sara Clinton.
I thought I learned what boys really wanted in kindergarten. On the weekends, I took my neighbor, Daniel Hopken, out for long rides in my Barbie jeep. I would speed down the driveway like Danica Patrick and let the wind mangle my long, brown hair. I even shared my goldfish with him. In exchange, he taught me how to use spy gear to listen to my parents’ private conversations through the wall. Things were going really well, until one night at dinner, he told my parents about what we’d done. I lost my allowance for a week and Daniel didn’t really talk to me after that.
In middle school, I was convinced that I was in love with a boy named Ryan Lowry. We were both in Mr.Pitt’s eighth grade English class. During reading time, I would stare longingly at the freckles on his face and dream about our future children. One day, I passed him a note down the line of desks. Written in pencil was my AOL instant message screen name ‘alwayzbeinme333.’ I never got a message from him, but I remained hopeful.
A few months later, we were at the same birthday party at UNO pizzeria. I made sure to sit across from him at the table and coolly mentioned that one of my best friends, Caroline, lived on Mapleton Lane where Ryan also lived. I knew this because I looked up his address in the school directory just in case his house was on fire and I needed to run in and save his most prized possessions.
“Caroline’s house is amazing. I’m there soooo much. I even know her address,” I said. “It’s 80701 Mapleton Lane.” At the time, it seemed like a normal thing to announce during dinner. Ryan was in the middle of a conversation with his friend and turned his head to look at me. “Wait, what’s her address?” he said. When I repeated it, he looked kind of surprised and then hesitated. “That’s my address,” said Ryan.
“I must have the wrong house number,” I whispered. I looked down at the pepperonis on my deep-dish pizza which matched the color of my face, and began picking nervously at the crust. His friend Shane looked over at him and snickered. “Be careful, she’s probably going to memorize your phone number next.” Too bad I already had, I thought, and got up to go sit in shame in the bathroom.
When I turned 20, I started dating a guy named Steve. Steve was a soapy TV actor and was used to having girls fawn all over him. He was also really old and had a horrible case of narcissism. But, his body was like a Greek god and his Australian accent canceled out his ego. I just liked lying in the park next to him and delusionally talking about how we would go to Bali together.
One night, I met him at a bar in West Hollywood for one of his shows (he was also in a band). The bouncer did him a favor and snuck me in, and I drank cranberry juice while I watched Steve “make the rounds” with every person in the room except for me. After an hour of being ignored, I left.
Before he left for a summer in Europe (without me), I bought him a journal and inscribed a little note inside, so that he would have a piece of me and our tiny little romance while he gallivanted around France fornicating with Parisians.
Putting my heart out on a silver platter and passing it around the party is like asking to be half-eaten and put into a napkin. Not everybody is going to like me. But, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to like me.
Rejection is not fun, and it’s not easy, but it also doesn’t define who I am. When a boy turns his head on me, it doesn’t mean that I have to turn on myself. It doesn’t mean that I’m not beautiful, or smart, or intelligent or funny. Only I get to decide that.
This is the lesson that I have learned from all the boys who have told me no. For now, it’s just me and my Netflix hanging out on Goss street. I can only move forward from here, swiping right for my next victim, and laughing in the face of rejection.