Every child has an awkward stage. My awkward stage began promptly at the age of seven when I decided to play barbershop and chop off all my hair. The haircut was a tragic, unfixable mistake. For weeks, my classmates stared at me with a puzzled look, pondering whether or not I was in fact a girl. I remember waiting patiently in line to drink from the water fountain, enviously observing one of my peers carefully pull back her beautiful, long, golden locks as she sipped the water. When she turned around, it was obvious that my new look repulsed her, and in her nasally voice, she asked, “Are you a boy or a girl?” I was mortified, and failing to think of a clever comeback, I responded with, “Are you a human or an alien?”
I once defined ‘the awkward stage’ as the time when a child looks the most unfortunate. It was the time in my youth when the proper and necessary supplies to “fix” or cover up imperfections were not present. In my hopeless situation, there was no way I could fix or hide my atrocious haircut; I was too young to have extensions in my hair and it was against the rules to wear a hat during class. Creative tactics had to be utilized to attempt to improve physical appearance; however, without the proper supplies, it only resulted in making me look significantly more ridiculous.
An example of this would be during middle school, the pre-tweezer days. One day, I decided that my eyebrows were too bushy. I found a razor in my parents’ bathroom and carefully tried to trim hairs to thin out my brows. The next day, I walked around school with one bushy eyebrow, and the other one almost completely shaved off. Another example of this would be when I decided my cheeks were too round, and I insisted on using the crevice tool on the vacuum cleaner to try to suck the fat off my face. This resulted in a red rash in the shape of a circle on the right side of my face. Unfortunately, these desperate acts only highlighted my flaws.
In middle school, I had this theory that awkwardness can be outgrown and that only aging could defeat gawkiness. Because of this, I was under the assumption that by the time high school came around, I would no longer feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about my physical appearance. I would wake up one morning as a teenager, be naturally flawless, and say farewell to awkwardness forever. That was sadly not the case, being that high school was the epitome of physical (and social) awkwardness for me. I felt like a chunky Casper the Friendly Ghost with braces and was constantly surrounded by thin and tan upperclassman girls with perfect teeth who strutted confidently down the hallways. I remember the smell of cat urine on my hands as I applied expired body lotion on a first date with a boy I liked because I was desperate to moisturize my clammy palms. I remember coming to school after spring break in excruciating pain/looking like a lobster, sun-burnt because I took a snooze in the blazing sun attempting to get a “sun-kissed glow.” There was also the time my hair started falling out because I insisted my friend braid cornrows on my head, because I somehow convinced myself I’d look both “cute” and “gangster” at the same time.
As a college student, I have continued to sustain my all-natural, awkward disposition. No longer required to wear school uniforms, I find myself every other morning struggling to properly put together an outfit. I feel most awkward when my only clean laundry doesn’t match, when I try to look like I know what I’m doing in the gym, and when I get caught eating dinner in the cafeteria by myself…yet again.
I have accepted the fact that I will never fully grow out of my awkward phase. Every time I walk into an dentist appointment, wear a bathing suit at a public pool, or forget to shave my legs, I greet awkwardness like an old friend. Perhaps awkwardness is not a stage, but rather, a lifestyle one inevitably transitions into when he or she chooses to hyper focuses on an imperfection. I have been a prisoner of this lifestyle beginning in the second grade when I spent my days feeling self-conscious about my hair. So far, age has not defeated awkwardness. I have continued to grow and point out new flaws and in doing so, maintained this emotionally draining lifestyle.