Tuesday, May 8, 2007


My mom forwarded me this poem that she got from a daily writer's almanac email she receives. I can really relate to it:

Poem: "Instrument of Choice" by Robert Phillips, from Spinach Days. © The Johns Hopkins University Press. Reprinted with permission.

Instrument of Choice

She was a girl
no one ever chose
for teams or clubs,
dances or dates,

so she chose the instrument
no one else wanted:
the tuba. Big as herself,
heavy as her heart,

its golden tubes
and coils encircled her
like a lover's embrace.
Its body pressed on hers.

Into its mouthpiece she blew
life, its deep-throated
oompahs, oompahs sounding,
almost, like mating cries.

I was a chubby kid in late elementary school and junior high. Not only was I was chubby, but I had bad hair, and wore a BIONATOR! Which seemed to be the trifecta of ugly. A bionator is not a relative of the terminator, it's nothing cool, or deadly. Instead, it's an evil contraption - a retainer that fits your top and bottom teeth into it so that you talk through your teeth without moving your jaw. It wasn't the picture of glamour when I was in 8th grade, let me tell you. Unlike the subject of the poem above, I didn't feel totally isolated, I did have some great girlfriends, but never felt like I stood a chance with boys until years later, college probably.

This poem makes me think of being young, and yearning for attention from a boy. Any boy, except maybe the nerdy, smart one who had his eye on me. (He's probably a billionaire by now.) I remember writing in my journal that "I want to know what love is..." I stole the line from that Foreigner song. Real original, huh? I look back on that shy, self conscious girl and wish I could give her a good shake. I was chubby in junior high, yes. It was a very icky stage for me. But it passed quickly enough and by high school I was actually pretty cute! But I remember thinking at the time, that I was too short, too fat, my hair was to icky, my clothes weren't good enough, my teeth were too crooked, you get the picture.

I once had a crush on a boy named Brad Johnson (swoon.) He spilled juice on me once in the lunch line, and it made my heart flutter for WEEKS. But I never told him that I liked him, I would have died first. I was too sure that he'd never be interested in me when there were all sorts of other girls out there after him. I think back about that time and I wonder why I was so insecure? I wasn't hideous... I was smart. I was sort of funny. I had great friends, we had a lot of fun together. I remember yearning for the same experiences my friends G and J were having with boys. The only boyfriend I had in high school ended in complete and utter disaster: He told me he was dying. Of cirrhosis of the liver, FFS. He wasn't. It was a lie, presumably to get me to 'give up the goods.' Thank God my chastity belt was still firmly in place then. (He's a doctor now, I hear. HOW SCARY IS THAT?) But I digress, the point is, I was insecure, thought I wasn't worthy of boys' attention, but earnestly wished I could have the experiences my two best friends were having. It makes me kind of sad, really, that I didn't like myself the way I do today.

I don't have any of that insecurity anymore. I am a confident, successful, social, smart, and (ok, I'll say it, but don't think I'm conceited, because I'm not) attractive woman. I love who I turned out to be. I wish I could go back in time and give my old junior high and high school self some of today's confidence. But I know that I am confident today because of the struggles, victories, and experience my 34 years have given me. I also believe that my youthful insecurities helped make me the empathetic, compassionate woman that I am today.

I think it's interesting that my own daughter, who is now 13, doesn't struggle with insecurity like I did. It helps that she's a size 0, gorgeous, athletic, popular, and uber-intelligent, but I think a lot of it is sheer personality. She is happy with herself, and I love that about her. Sometimes I worry that her self-assurance will hinder a compassionate outlook in certain situations. How can she understand what it's like to feel left out, lost, alone? Maybe she can't identify with those feelings like I can, but I'm hopeful that she'll be able to recognize the feelings, and act accordingly.

So, as it often happens when I get going about abstract things like insecurity and feelings, I rambled on and on, without coming to a clear ending. Mrs. Spiker would NOT be proud. But I think there are many things here worth pondering. How exactly did my adolescent insecurity evolve into the confidence that I have today?


WebGal said...

I was the same way in Jr. High/High School. But I still am...so it's nice to see it's possible to break through that. Though it might be a little too late for me at 34.

Mom In Scrubs said...

Urgh. Junior high sucked. High school was a rollercoaster at best.
It's funny; my old insecurities have been replaced with new adult ones. Sure, I have a great job, and a lovely family. I have a lot of social insecurities (at work, with the other elementary school parents), and now I am more insecure about my body and looks than I have ever been. Guess the shoe is on the other foot, huh?
I am so glad you are in your zone. You deserve it. I think we should all have to experience both sides. It makes us appreciate what we have or had.