It takes more than one teen, relying on their own strength, to survive high school humiliation.
High school was not a charmed time for me. Long story short, I was a bit of a mess. There were good days and there were truly awful days. There were also a lot of mortifying moments.
Like when my frennemy pulled off my dress as we were practicing modeling for a school talent show and I flashed a room full of, well, high schoolers. Or like the many many times my pens burst in my mouth (bad habit of sucking on them, ewwwww) and I got ink all over my tongue, lips and face, not noticing until a kindly teacher suggested I take a bathroom break. Or how about the time I walked past a group of senior girls who started shouting “Bitch” until I was out of earshot – I still can’t think what I did to deserve that. And the memorable occasion in Gr. 9 when I went to the blackboard to solve a math problem and my male teacher gently told me to stop and take my seat again, only to have my seatmate inform me that I had bled visibly onto my pants. Nothing like a group of Gr. 9 boys making period jokes in stage whispers!
But for all that, I still came out of high school with my ego and self-esteem mostly intact.
I think my genetic predisposition towards a certain self-confidence and vanity are partly to thank. Thank you to my Latino and Scottish ancestors, from you I inherited a stubborn sense of always being right and the belief that as a woman, I am inherently beautiful and attractive. And by my ancestors, I mean my parents. I mean my dad’s authoritative statements on politics, global warming and the proper purchase of Tupperware. I mean my mom’s adorable pleased-with-myself smile when she dances or when she predicts a soccer match correctly.
The other part of the equation is also my parents. Growing up I remember being told I was beautiful or smart or interesting every day of my life. Sure, I was a pretty conceited kid but my self-confidence had three-foot steel armor all around it. Entering high school I had enough protective layers that although I got really lost, I made my way out of the maze eventually.
Tell your daughters they are lovely. Tell your sons they are lovely. Tell them over and over again. Tell them they are cool, tell them they are interesting, tell them they are fun to be around, tell them they are funny. Tell them the truth. Find someone who will tell you the truth.
Because then, if some punk leans over the lunch table and rubs your daughter’s hairy forearm and says “Wow, you’re hairier than a dude. Why don’t you wax?”, she can look right through him and refuse to unpack her long sleeve shirts in the warm weather. Tell them so that when a guy says “Why did you do that to your hair? You’re lucky I’m still dating you”, she can reply by walking away and congratulating herself for ditching him sooner rather than later. Tell them so that when someone shouts “Bitch” at them, they will survive the shock by simply thinking to themselves “How rude.”
Someone feeding you the right information is someone fighting the battle with you.