A few weeks ago, I got invited to join a Facebook group for my 10-year high school reunion because, evidently, I’m a lot older than I feel or would care to admit at this point in time.
It’s so fun to interact with these people again. No matter where we eventually ended up, we all have this crazy past experience in common — a collection of four years in which we all tried to grow up too fast but also be young and stupid at the same time, yielding countless memories of euphoric highs and heavy lows.
Naturally, senior year was my favorite. By the middle of the fall semester I’d already been accepted to all the colleges I’d applied to, so I tried my best to enjoy my final days in high school as much as I could.
(Read: I slacked off and, uh, let my hair down, if you will.)
One of the most fun parts about senior year was, of course, the Senior Superlatives for the yearbook. I’ll never forget the day we were filling out our ballots. The room was all abuzz about Who are you voting for Biggest Flirt? Best Hair? Most Likely to Succeed?
Then, of course, Best Looking.
“Oh, I don’t know who to pick,” I told one of my guy friends.
“I’m picking you,” he said.
“No you’re not!”
“Yes I am. Watch me.”
Sure enough, he wrote my name in on his ballot for Best Looking. My name. Mine! For Best Looking!
For an insecure girl battling an eating disorder, that was the best news ever!
Now, to be fair, he probably only did that because a) in a class of more than 500 people it’s hard to think of one person and I happened to be sitting right in front of him at the time or b) because he wanted to be nice or c) he wanted to get into my pants and I had no idea.
Still, I was very flattered. So flattered, in fact, that I couldn’t wait to tell my boyfriend.
My boyfriend at the time was a year older than me, already knee-deep in his freshman year of college in another state, and, as I would later discover thanks to the at-the-time-very-newfangled internet, absolutely cheating on me.
“I got voted for Best Looking!” I almost screamed into the phone.
“Oh?” He said.
“Yeah! Isn’t that wild?”
Then, without missing a beat, with the flattest voice, he replied, ”Your class president should win that category.”
If I’d had a mouth full of water, I would have done the most epic spit take.
“Not to be mean, but she is the prettiest girl in your class.”
“Are you serious right now?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. First of all, he was right. She was definitely the prettiest girl in our class. Second of all, she was a friend of mine, and he knew that. Third of all, I was his freaking girlfriend! Anyone with a brainstem knows that, regardless of the validity of a statement like that, you don’t bloody say it!
“Yeah, I mean, no offense. If she weren’t in your class I’d vote for you.”
For the record, I am still friends with this beautiful girl. I never told her this story but I wish I would have because I know we would have laughed our faces off about it. Perhaps at the reunion?
Ten years later, I’d all but forgotten about this little exchange until the Facebook group brought back a tidal wave of memories, both great and (like this one) less than great.
To be honest, I don’t remember who won Best Looking. Or Most Likely to Succeed. Or Best Hair. (And I have no idea where my yearbook is — oops — so it’s not like I can look this stuff up.) But, you see, here’s the thing.
Ten years ago, my life hinged on whether or not people found me attractive. If they did, I felt like I was worth something. If they didn’t, it was crushing because I was convinced it meant I was useless.
Today, I know that isn’t the case.
I have a wonderful husband and a devastatingly beautiful son and a life that is so full, so abundant, that it has exceeded any and all dreams and hopes I’d ever had for myself.
I am radically loved by so many people. My God and myself included. And I am grateful.
So. Here’s a message to all you young ladies in high school right now who are praying to whomever you worship that you’ll be voted Best Looking. Or that your boyfriend won’t cheat on you. Or that you’ll lose ten pounds before prom. Or that you’ll go from a B to a C cup by your junior year.
Listen to me. Listen good.
I know all of this seems important. Like earth-shatteringly important. And I’m not here to tell you that it’s not because it was for me, too. But what I am here to tell you is this:
Just wait. It gets so much better than this.
Ten years from now, you will look back and laugh at yourself for ever thinking (or caring) that you were fat or ugly or lonely. You will look around you and see all the blessings you have because of your brain and your heart and your talents and your demeanor and you will wonder why you ever thought any differently. So just hang in there.
Oh — and for Christ’s sake, eat something.