Even though I was very excited to go back to my hometown, I was nevertheless a little hesitant. After all, I pretty much think back to my time in Chicago as the time when I was most body-confident. Of course, I did have youth on my side!
Even though I was picked on when I was younger for being 1/2 Asian, it really set me apart from the others once I became a little older. Most people referred to me as being "exotic", "stunning" and a "breath of fresh air" in comparison to the vast majority of people I went to high school with.
I've always been pretty, but my body was totally banging back in high school! I guess you could say that I was someone who really found my worth by being beautiful. Wow, did I really just write that? Seriously, please don't hate me. It doesn't exactly make me proud to admit either, but it was what became "normal" to me.
Going back to Chicago and seeing many of my old friends was amazingly fun and meaningful for me. It really dawned on me just how much I missed the Chicago skyline and shoreline, my friends, the Chicago accent, and mostly the overall feeling that I was back "home". The only hesitation I had was being a little nervous catching up with friends from my past because the last time they really saw me, I was still in what I refer to as my "hot" phase. *Yes, I am fully aware that I present workshops on body image, and the irony is not lost on me. Like almost everyone, I have confronted my own body image issues.*
I think I probably always realized that falling back on beauty was a dangerous thing, but I figured it was my best commodity as a young person. I never took school very seriously and never even considered myself very motivated or *gasp* intelligent. Sure I had a good personality, but I've always been someone who had few very close friends and then lots of other people that were more acquaintances. I had been athletic in junior high and the beginning portion of high school because I was really into tennis, but that all fell to the wayside once I figured out how much more fun it was to flirt with boys. I was confident in my looks, and spent a lot of time and energy making sure I looked and dressed better than most everyone else.
Putting on weight changed the way I saw myself. I no longer fell back on my looks because, quite simply, I didn't feel that I looked the same. My body was no longer the envy of others, I began to dress much more casually, and my personality became much more engaging. I still thought of myself as pretty, but didn't dare think of myself as being "hot".
So, as I headed back to Chicago, the thing that I was most hoping to hear was my old friends telling me I looked the same as I did years ago.
It is really an amazing thing to be able to see yourself through other people's lens. One of my old boyfriends told me that he not only would have married me back when we were dating (around the time I was 17 to 18 years old), but that I was the most physically beautiful girl he had known. Looking back, I think we were both just so happy to be with each other simply because we were so damn physically attracted to one another. I also remember thinking that he was the sweetest and nicest boyfriend I ever had. I had been in love with boyfriends before, but this relationship was different because he really treated me like a princess. And not in the "I can walk all over you" type of way either. The thing that he said changed most about me was how much bigger my breasts had become!
Over the next few days I was able to catch up with many of my old friends. Some I had known as far back as pre-kindergarten. As we reminisced, both my male and female friends mentioned that I was intimidatingly beautiful. I even found out that I was one person's first crush, which, of course, I had no clue about. I was even more excited that my friends, bless their hearts, told me that I looked exactly the same or even better than when I was in my teens. I'm not sure if they all meant it, but I tell you what, I will take it!
Even now, part of me wants to erase this whole blog post because I realize just how nauseating it is to have put so much stock in my beauty. While I am not the least happy about putting on the pounds as I've grown older, it has forced me to become a much better and nicer person. I no longer think to myself "wow, I'm way prettier than her" (barf!) or "that guy isn't attracted to me, he must be gay" (puke!)
I've always been a confident person, but now it is more complex and layered than being based solely on what I look like.