When I was a kid, I hated wearing glasses.
The truth is, I couldn’t wait to grow up so that I’d finally be able to buy contacts. I saw glasses as awkward and wanted to look like the beautiful women in movies and television.
Middle school proved to be especially brutal.
I was a scrawny preteen, with bangs and glasses to match. None of the boys wanted to date me back then and liked to stick gum in my hair or poke fun at my tiny stature. I became used to hearing the words, “ugly,” “nerd,” and “geek” being blurted in my general direction.
One day, I was sitting in homeroom and heard a classmate whisper my name, “Look, Nunzia! The guys are rating the prettiest girls in class.” She handed me a folded up piece of paper and I felt my stomach churn. I didn’t want to meet anyone’s eye. “Open it,” she gushed, “Let’s see if we’re on the list.”
I visibly rolled my eyes and thought to myself, there’s no way I’m on this list.
Despite my premonition, I apprehensively opened the note.
My classmate started calling out all of the girls’ names in class and next to each name was a number. I realized that this wasn’t a list of the prettiest girls at all; the boys were instead ranking the “prettiest” and “least prettiest” girls in class. And every single girl’s name was on that list. Every single girl except me.
According to them, I wasn’t even “ugly” enough to be last. “What about me?” I murmured. “Where’s my name?”
“Well, of course you’re on here. We just missed your name, let’s look again,” she reassured. After inspecting the list a few times, we still couldn’t find Nunzia.
“I guess they forgot about me,” tears streamed down my face but I quickly excused myself to the bathroom. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry.
When I got home, I sprinted towards my room, curled up in bed and cried into my pillow. My mom suspected that I didn’t have a great day at school and knocked on my door. When she saw me crying, she immediately rushed into the room and sat next to me on the bed. “What’s wrong, Nunzia?” she asked, anxiously. “Did something happen at school?”
“Why am I so ugly?” I looked up at her, helplessly, and began sobbing. I could taste the salt from tears that wouldn’t stop falling. She reassured me that those kids were just bullies. We sat there for almost an hour as she held me.
When it came time for high school, I took a trip to the eye doctor and bought the contacts that I so desperately wanted. I tried my damnedest to avoid anything that could potentially ruin this new chapter of my life.
After that, I can only remember a handful of times when I wore my glasses.
I became obsessed with all things makeup, fashion, and hair. The same guys that bulled me in middle school started giving me attention, but I still felt terrified about possibly being patronized by them.
Once, I ordered my contacts too late and didn’t have a spare pair for weeks. I freaked out and almost refused to see my boyfriend at the time until my contacts came in. “You’re beautiful,” he said when he saw me for the first time without contacts, but I felt insecure the entire night.
It wasn’t until college that I finally started to accept my appearance and gain confidence in myself.
I took a few feminist theory classes, spoke to brilliant female professors, and learned about the harsh societal demands that women face daily. I became enraged by these asinine expectations and knew that they made an impact on me growing up. My heart felt heavy but with knowledge came a new sense of power.
Although I still struggle with self confidence, I am learning to love myself more everyday, for who I am on the inside and outside.
And I can rock a pair of glasses.
So, this is something that I wanted to write about for a long time as being bullied can have some long-term effects. Learning about feminism and being surrounded by wonderful female role models has helped me become more empowered. What are some things that empower you? I’d love to know so please feel free to share your thoughts! 🙂
As always, thank you so much for reading 💕