And then I was fourteen
an essay by Ingrid Ivorra
Ten years ago, I was thirteen years old and entering the 9th grade. I was then obsessed with High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Zac Efron, musicals, dance, music again, singing and make-up.
My bedroom was dark purple and lime-green, filled with posters from my “Dream'up” magazines, and I slept in a mezzanine bed, in which I had, two years previous to that, watched HSM (High School Musical) thirty times over the course of thirty days, on my portable DVD-player.
And I knew what I wanted out of life. Exactly what I wanted, and I thought that if I believed and worked hard enough for it, I would indubitably be there one day.
This was also the year I discovered what “getting unwanted attention” from boys meant.
At thirteen I wanted to be in musicals on Broadway.
I turned thirteen on the 16th of October 2008. Disney Channel was about to release High School Musical 3, and I couldn't have been more excited. From the moment the first film of the franchise was shown on M6 (French Channel), on the 30th of October 2006, I had been obsessed. I asked for the DVD the following Christmas, and as I was saying, I did watch it over thirty times in January 2007. It was a comforting movie for me to watch. I had just transferred schools, and I didn't really know or wasn't close to anybody. HSM was my dream world. And I wanted to be a part of it so badly.
My love for musical theatre really started at that moment.
Of course, I had watched Singing in the rain, or The Little Princess before and I already liked musicals. My brother and I would also put on clown shows when we were kids, for the sole entertainment of our parents. But this love for performing wasn't as strong as that urge I felt to express myself on stage, that I felt the first time I ever saw HSM on TV.
And it only grew stronger by the time I reached the age of thirteen.
So I looked into musical theatre classes, how to be on Broadway, learning English, watched other musicals (that includes Camp Rock), tried out for a Disney Channel Talent Search and filmed my first High School Musical cover.
At thirteen I KNEW I was going to be performing every night on Broadway when I grew up. I was sure of it.
At thirteen, I learned what “love” meant.
At least, I thought I did.
See, the middle school I was going to, arranged our class schedule specifically to fit our musical activities during the afternoon. So we were a small group of thirty kids having all our classes together. We weren't mixing up with other classes of our grade, because they had different schedules.
No, we were constantly together.
And so we were a big family, with the fights, the love, the gossip, the jealousy, the judgment. For the hormonal pre-teens that we were, that was also a big challenge. I remember having a crush on every single boy in our class at the time. (Over the course of three years, you know. Shit happens).
Let's just say that I was not very popular. I was arrogant, loud, annoying, jealous, basically the opposite of “cool”. So, no boy was interested in me. Well, so I thought.
Yes because you see, there was this one boy in our class, let's call him Alex*, a big tall redhead, quite cute, who was constantly hitting me on the head.
This Alex would do that every day for a year and I kept telling him to stop, that it wasn't funny, that it hurt, and that I would snitch if he kept going.
But he didn't stop, and I didn't snitch.
I had a crush on him, and I wanted him to like me. But I was mad. I wanted to hit him back, but he was much taller, and every time I tried, I literally never succeeded even just a tiny bit.
Later, I was told that he liked me and that's why he had acted like this.
That's around that time that I became quite violent with boys. I was mad, angry at them, for feeling so entitled to hurt me all the time, for touching me, for “being boys”.
Eventually, my crush faded. Until Ben* started texting me.
And so it began. We texted for weeks.
And I fell for him, he was a nice guy, I felt wanted, somehow understood. And at that time that was more than enough.
Oh, how I wish I could read our text exchanges at the time.
But then, everyone in our class started talking about it: “Did you guys kiss yet?” “What do you mean, no?” “Come on girl, you gotta do it” “I would have done it by now” “Well whatever, okay bye” Rolled eyes, sighs, and condescension.
We were already quite awkward, both of us, with our dental braces, our insecurities and such. But everyone pressured us so much that by the time we actually went out together for lunch, it was so sad and embarrassing that we decided to break it off.
That was my first heartbreak, and I felt so ashamed, so worthless. Then rumors about guys asking me out for bets started spreading, I was warier and warier. I couldn't trust anybody in our classroom.
By the end of the school year, another guy, Matt*, started hitting me on the head too, but he was much smaller, tinier, blond haired and I hated him. So the third time he hit me, I looked him in the eyes and said: “You do that one more time, I'm gonna hit you in the balls”. And he did hit me one last time. So I stomped his right foot with my heeled-sandal and kicked him in the balls with my knee. He was NOT happy. I looked at him defiantly.
I must have not hit him hard enough because he struck back by twisting my wrist. He got detention. But you know, he only hit me and twisted my wrist because he liked me.
Same with other boys who thought patting my ass or rating my breasts was showing me affection.
By the time I entered high school the next year, I was thinking that ALL boys were pigs.
At thirteen, I got my periods.
This really annoying bloody thing we, women, get every month, made its first appearance in July 2009. That explained why my body was evolving in a way I had never encountered before: I had breasts, a big ass, hips, acne, mood swings, and pain in each area expanding.
I remember it so well.
My godmother had invited me over for a week. When I arrived I had two surprises: firstly, she was getting married, and secondly, I was going to have to share a room with her son.
I, of course, was way too excited for her wedding, I had just bought a fantastic red dress (one that definitely was not appropriate for a young girl like me) that I had brought with me.
I was a little nervous with the sharing a room part. And I was right: we fought constantly during my whole stay. Me thinking boys were jerks was obviously also not helping. And of course, the worst happened one night: I woke up to blood on my sheets. I freaked out and tried to hide it, putting water on it, feeling so ashamed. I snuck out of the room and got my godmother to check it out. I felt so ashamed for getting the sheets dirty. It felt way worse than peeing my bed.
But at the same time, I felt so excited. It was the proof I was finally growing up and wasn't a baby anymore. I could wear that beautiful red dress, heels, make-up, just because I had gotten my periods.
But when I put on that amazing red dress (I call it the periods' dress), I instantly got unwanted attention. My godmother herself, pointed out my breast over dinner, guests at her wedding looked at me weird, her son always looked away and I didn't know why. So I hid my cleavage and put on jeans and a sweatshirt so nobody would look at me like that ever again. Showing cleavage was creating a desire in boys' bodies, so I had to hide it because they couldn't control it. Even though I was only dressing up because I wanted to look more grown up, and not to attract boys.
But I thought that it was my fault, I felt ashamed, and hated boys even more.
At thirteen I understood that my body was wrong.
I grew up with a mother who didn't love her body the way it was. I never understood why because I always thought she was so beautiful, but she felt that she always too fat, too short. Not enough. So she would be on constant diets, the most horrific one was the smellier: the cabbage soup diet. That would be the only thing she would eat for months.
I would watch TV and see ads for products to lose weight, women looked quite always the same, blond, thin and cute.
I didn't really care for a while, I thought I looked cute until I was told by my ballet teacher that I would never be a ballerina because of my prominent ass. Or when I was told by my mother that I looked so much like her and that I, unfortunately, inherited her big bottom.
Or when my jazz dance teacher insinuated that I was too fat to ever do musical theatre. Or when that one guy in my class asked why my nose was so big. Or when I was told by many female classmates how I was so lucky to have my breast. But I never thought I was lucky. No, I always thought I was cursed at birth to be looked at, like somebody I wasn't. So nobody could ever know who I was because I had my body covering it up. I always wanted to be thin, to not be looked at like a piece of meat.
Back to when I was thirteen, I had to be thin, beautiful, have smooth skin, loose that ass and that belly in order to achieve my dreams. If I am totally honest, I probably haven't recovered from this way of thinking quite yet.
At thirteen, I had one friend.
Since I never was really into any groups of friends, I felt rejected, and every time some of them came up to me I felt so cool, I wanted to be liked so much! But one thing I never liked was to talk shit behind people's back just to be accepted. No, I was one of those gals who tried to solve any issue or disagreement. I always tried to understand the person who came up to me and asked for the version of the other half and then tried to make them talk to each other to solve their issues. That ultimately backfired because they would, after they made up, look at me and be like “That was none of your business”, roll their eyes, and walk away hand in hand.
And so every time I was trying to be nice, I was just a dork, annoying. And I probably was. I had one good friend, my neighbor with whom I shared so much. We would listen to Taylor Swift together, she'd understand my obsession for High School Musical, hang out with me, be there when I was fighting with my family, or when a boy had just broken my heart. And I was the first one to be there whenever she needed me, show her how the boys she was dating were treating her like a doormat, and watched “Saw”, (SIX OF THEM) simply because she wanted to. We were best friends.
Then I turned fourteen, started wearing black, being awfully cruel towards boys, decided to have the best grades so I can study musical theatre abroad, and asked to go the next year a year overseas.
My focus was not on social endeavors anymore and so I let my teenage angst pass me by. Only to catch me up 10 years later.
*Names have been changed