Blooming a Little Late.

I’m what you might call a late bloomer. I shot up to 5’7″ in about 7th grade, making me taller than 99% of the boys my age and socially awkward. People stared at me because I was tall all through those uncomfortable teenage years. Because most peoples’ teenage years are so comfortable, I’m sure.

Not only was I tall, I grew up in the shadow of an older brother and sister. Who were very attractive. And popular. People knew who they were.

When I arrived in high school a girl I knew from middle school (who was my age) came up to me and said, “I heard your brother’s hot.” He wasn’t even at the school anymore. He had graduated. He was such a legend, though, that people who’d never met him came up to me and told me how hot he was. Yeah, so I wasn’t friends with that girl anymore.

My sister was still at the school and I heard about her all the time. Her awkward teenage phase wasn’t nearly as awkward as mine. And she was just a bit taller and a whole lot thinner. She was basically a teenage supermodel.

Me? I had some major acne and growing-into-my-nose that needed to clear up before I’d be considered even remotely attractive. I like to call myself the caricature of my sister; Everything on me is a bit exaggerated, whereas on her it works. It’s great for the self-esteem, y’know?

This constant comparison of physical attractiveness caused me to lean on other things for self-esteem. I was smart. I focused on that and made good grades. I was funny (when I was brave enough to speak). I developed an odd, twisted sense of humor. And music. I always had music. This was in the days of Napster and finding new/unusual music was suddenly easy.

There’s this funny thing about being a woman. Men stare. A lot. At just about any woman. Or girl. They’re fairly indiscriminate. I know this because I’ve been stared at all my life.

But I noticed a shift when I became attractive. See, right after my third child was born I started going to the gym regularly and learned how to eat healthy food and lost a whole bunch of weight and my skin cleared up and I now look startlingly different than I did before I had kids. I didn’t realize how different I looked, though, until people started treating me differently.

Now when I catch men staring they don’t just look away like they did before. No, now they either look guilty when I catch them staring or they just keep right on staring. Like I didn’t notice or something. When we’re staring at each other. And, oddly, I’ve notice women staring, too. Although they usually just looked pissed off when I catch them staring.

And since I’m a married mother-of-three none of these encounters will ever lead to a cute romantic liaison. So I find it all very annoying.

There are a couple of things that told me I’m more attractive now than I used to be. One was when I went home for a funeral after being gone for about 10 years or so and I saw a whole bunch of people I hadn’t seen since high school. More than one person didn’t recognize me. And more than one person, upon seeing me, said, “Is that you? Oh. You’re pretty.” Like it was a surprise. (I told that story to my mom who said, “We always knew you were beautiful.” Which, in mom-speak, means I really was ugly for a long time but she loved me anyway. Thanks, mom.)

And then there was the friend I randomly ran into at one of my kids’ events. We had been friends when my first child was a baby. And we saw each other when my youngest was about 3. She didn’t recognize me at first. Then she told me I was, “mas guapa que antes.” Because it sounds way more socially acceptable to say I’m “prettier now than before” in Spanish than in English.

So if you’re a teenager or in your early 20s and still haven’t “bloomed”, there is still hope. I didn’t become attractive until my late 20s, early 30s. It’s hard to say exactly when it happened.

But it was late.

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