This will not be very surprising to most people – especially those who know me in real life… but I was a nerd in high school. A full fledged one.
I was under-developed for my age, weighing a startling 70lbs when I started Grade 8. I wore kid size clothes until I was about 13 or 14 when I started wearing adult sized clothes anyway, often pinning them back to make them fit. My boobs didn’t grow to their full size until well into Grade 12. I wore thick wire rimmed glasses because my mom wouldn’t let me get contacts until I was 16. I was introverted, socially awkward, clumsy and uncoordinated but not in the cute romantic comedy sorta way.
Thankfully, I wasn’t picked on particularly. I wasn’t bullied – sure, there were a few mean girls who turned their attention to me once in a while. But no consistent barrage of threats, insults or violence. The few incidents that stick out in my mind: the time someone tried to steal my old jacket out of my locker, thereby bending the locker door to the point where it never quite fully closed again. The time a couple of the popular girls put gum in my hair while I sat in front of them during a school assembly. But those times were few and far in between. For the most part, I was left alone by them, ignored or maybe just never seen?
But worse than all of that, I was never seen by any of the boys in high school either. Being the typical teenager I was, I had major crushes. A couple boys in particular I was infatuated with for years. But none of them ever really noticed me: the little mouse of a girl in the corner. Or if they did like me back, it was for a split second before moving onto the prettier, more confident girls in school – many of whom were my friends (which hurt just a little bit more than if it was someone no one knew). Embarrassing confession: I didn’t get my first kiss until I was 18 and out of high school.
Well, that’s not true. Some boys did like me – the nerds like myself. Maybe they felt that I’d like them because I wasn’t so different from them. The awkward ones who were sweet but didn’t know how to smile or wink in a way that made my heart palpitate like whoa. They weren’t the ones I thought about for hours and wrote hundreds of pages about in the diaries I kept.
After high school, I ended up going out with too many boys, kissing too many of them and sleeping with more of them than I care to divulge. A big part of that behaviour was me making up for lost time. Trying to catch up on all the mistakes I didn’t make in high school – falling for the jerks who didn’t deserve me. Sleeping with someone, only to realize it just drove them away rather than made them stay.
I looked for validation in all the wrong ways. Kissing random boys just to prove to myself and the world that I was wanted. It took me a few more years to figure out the difference between liking someone for them or liking the validation they gave me.
What’s odd was that I never really liked or went out with any of the typically cute/hot guys. I was always attracted to the cute, smart and slightly geeky types. The Brandon Walshes of the world rather than the Dylan McKays. Or more accurately, the Duckies of the world rather than the Blanes. Give me a pair of glasses and a sarcastic sense of humour over washboard abs any day. I think I wanted to keep my expectations and hopes down so not to be disappointed by what I believed would ultimately lead to rejection.
I think, for a lot of people – myself included, who we were in high school is still in a tiny way who we think we are as adults. For all the friends I have, for the lovely husband who’s always by my side, for all of that, I still feel like that nerdy, awkward, insecure little 14 year old girl. I still find myself sometimes trying to prove to the world that I’m more than that girl now.