To All The Women I Have Hated
Danny was everyone’s crush in my 6th grade class, including mine and my two best girlfriends, Lily and Anna. He was skinny and pale, but he had long, wavy hair that fell over his right eye in a way that was just too cool for any 6th grade girl to handle. Also, he was older, okay? He was already 12! I didn’t care it was because he had to repeat 6th grade. So what he was lazy? He didn’t just wear Nike and Adidas, but designer brands my 11 year old brain had never heard off. Calvin Klein boxers, the band showing over his baggy Levi’s that fell just so over unlaced Timberland’s. A white Guess T-shirt under a black Helly Hansen ski jacket, a narrow gold chain around his neck. He was older. He was rich. He was cool. He was a boy who wore jewelry, okay?
We decided that since we all liked him, there would be no other way than to have him choose which one of us he liked best. It was some fucked up kids version of the Bachelor in our classroom, where the three of us giddily positioned ourselves on a desk in front of him, asking him to pick his new girlfriend. Everyone else was looking on, as we all struck our best pose, clumsily imitating what we thought models would do in this situation. I was wearing my nicest no-name jeans with a cartoon character shirt laying flat against non-existing boobs, and an unbuttoned denim shirt over it. Denim on denim was a thing, dear god. I had a deep side part with my long brown hair falling over my right shoulder and partially covering my face. I tried to look up from underneath my lashes and hair in a way that I hoped could be construed as flirtatious rather than cringy.
I wish I could give 11 year old me a hug. I was so clueless about the disaster hitting me in 3–2–1….
I didn’t think he’d pick Anna, who was small and pale, with a screechy voice and frizzy hair. But Lily was another story. She was one of the oldest girls in the class, and she already had boobs!! She had long, shiny dark hair and eyes with impossible lashes, olive skin, and long fingernails that she tapped on her desk while blowing pink gum bubbles. She was allowed to wear clothes I would never even dare to look at in the store. If we’d had a Victoria’s Secret in Germany at the time, Lily would be the one wearing sweatpants with “Juicy” emblazoned on her butt. Something I could only dream of with my cat-patterned cotton training bras.
I still thought I had the best chance for Freddy to pick me, since I was the most popular girl in the class at the time. I was popular because I was funny and outgoing and cute in 5th grade. I could feel things slipping a bit, since Lily was surpassing me in development and appearance, and it also became more apparent that I didn’t have money for the right clothes or the right gadgets, making me quickly loose status at my private Catholic school that I attended on scholarship. I didn’t even have a tamagotchi or a pager! But I still had popular girl status, for now, and being Danny’s girlfriend would certainly reassert my standing.
I pick Lily.
I looked at Danny, confused, then around at everyone else, then Lily grinning.
Wanna go to the movies this weekend? Lily squealed yes, covering her adorable dimples with her manicured hands, while I felt the heat rush into my cheeks, trying to use my hair curtain to cover my reddening face. This was not how it was supposed to go. He was supposed to pick me. As the bell rang and our teacher walked into the classroom, I took my seat, dazed.
I felt ashamed that I put myself in a position of competing against my girlfriends but more ashamed that I lost. It was one of the first times I remember feeling that other girls were not friends. They were enemies, they were competitors. It was also one of the first times I thought, what’s wrong with me? What does she have that I don’t have? Why didn’t I get picked?
Lily and I stopped being best friends. I was jealous of her and instead of dealing with the common brutality of 6th grade where sometimes your crush will choose your best friend over you, I hated her.
And then I kept on doing that. The hating I mean. Of course I had girlfriends and loved hanging out with them. But there was an undercurrent of jealousy and hate toward other girls who were not my friends and who were or had things I coveted.
There was Cassie, the beautiful, cool, older girl who I saw at gymnastics, but who was of course in a more advanced class than me. She was long-legged and graceful, and her curly hair dried in perfect ringlets immediately when she got out of the water, while mine stuck to my face. I know this because I watched her at the pool for an entire afternoon once, like a creepy stalker. She was there with a boy. I was there with my grandparents. I so badly wanted her confidence and self-assurance.
There was Lydia who had the fanciest clothes, and one of the biggest houses in my little town. They had marble floors when that was a cool thing and she wore shiny shoes and bows in her hair and her dad was a hotdog truck entrepreneur. One time, I went over to her house to play and her mother asked her to change into her play clothes. I didn’t know such a thing existed! Play clothes because you don’t want your good school clothes to get dirty. Also, they had all the good brand name snacks, not the off brand dusty granola bars we had at my house. I wanted her comfortable life, big house, and closet full of matching outfits.
There was Kelly, a friend of a friend when I spent a semester in the US. She was THE girl next door. A 16 year old version of an American girl doll. The perfect 90s vision of light blue baggy jeans, contrasted with an extremely tight fitting white T-shirt on a trim, tan body, blond, straightened hair, and chiclet teeth behind light pink, glossy lips. It didn’t even matter that she also had overplucked, sperm-shaped 90s eyebrows. She was that cute. She looked like she just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. I wanted to be universally liked and fit in the way she did.
There was Abigail, who I met through work. I was in a position I didn’t enjoy much and she came in one time for our usual meeting and excitedly told me about a new job she’d accepted. It was a position I would have loved for myself. She was younger than me but kicking ass at work and advancing faster. She always looked put together and professional with her french twists and pencil skirts, while I literally stained my top with toothpaste every single morning of my life. I wanted her cool job and career opportunities.
So…to all the girls and women I have hated:
Thank you for being street signs and mile markers on the road to myself. Yes, very cheesy, but true. Thank you for shining an unintentional light on the parts of me or my life that I was unhappy with or needed to change. Thank you for accidentally pointing out my insecurities and helping me discover secret dreams I wasn’t allowing myself to realize and beauty that I wanted but didn’t think I deserved.
Sorry I hated you and talked shit (sooo much shit) behind your backs. I was just jealous. I really, secretly, sometimes just wanted to be your friend. I thought you were cool and funny and pretty and smart and ambitious. If I met you now, I think I would try to be your friend instead.
To Lily (not your real name):
Thank you for being my friend. Danny turned out to be a real dick, so I’m sad we never reconnected and became friends again after your 4 week relationship. I’m not being facetious, a month was a fucking eternity in 6th grade. Anyway, I was jealous because you were pretty and cool and mature and I never managed to grow my nails as long as you. I thought you were amazing, except that one time you asked me to come into the bathroom with you to continue our conversation…while you were pooping. I didn’t realize then that you had your own insecurities. I know you felt stupid a lot and certain teachers didn’t help with that. I think you missed your dad like I did even though you rarely talked about him. I really hope your idiot brother stopped being an ass to you. Wherever you are, I hope you’re well.