We were 13.
On my dad's side of the family, we have approximately 25 cousins but I’m lucky enough to have two girl cousins that are the same age as me. I never had any sisters so I lived for the times our families came together and I got to see Jenny and Ciara. It only happened twice a year although, considering how small the Isle of Ireland is, I wondered why it wasn’t more frequent. My parents had just broken the news to my brother and I that they were going to separate so I can only explain my egotistical, narcissistic behavior on the fact that maybe I was looking for a distraction.
Ciara and her family lived in Kilcock in Co. Kildare. Jenny was there too. Jenny went to Performing Arts so she knew had to dance. I was particularly excited about this trip to Kilcock because this time- we were planning to meet boys. In the flesh. IRL.
I had visited Kilcock 6 months earlier when I was 12 and a half. Ciara and I had put on our finest Miss Selfridge clothes, a flick of her older sisters blue mascara (I’m pretty sure I even had a bindi on my head for extra effect) and we got our photos taken in a photo booth in Dublin. So cool. We each got a copy of the photographs and put them on our bedroom walls located on opposite sides of the country.
A few weeks after we had the pictures taken Ciara called me frantically on the landline. She revealed that she had made friends with some boys who lived in her estate and they had seen the photo of us hanging in her room and apparently they said that I was……”Hot”. HOLY SHIT. Me? “Are you sure?” I asked her.
Up until this point, I had never been called ‘cute’ or ‘hot’ or anything of the sort. Although, once while I waited for the bus to school an older boy doused in freckles and teenage sweat ran over to me while I waited for the bus to school and said while he panted out of breath that he “liked my T-I-T-S”. He ran off right after his declaration which left me perplexed for a few minutes until I figured out what he meant. I literally sounded it out in my head. "Tits?" I concluded. I was repulsed but also pretty shocked to find out I even had a rack never mind a noticeable one.
In the car on the way to Kilcock, I had quite the inflated head which was full of ego and possibilities. For the entire journey, which takes a mere 3 hours, I thought about which boy would be the cutest, which one would vie for my attention most? Do any of them have a cute step haircut like Nick Carter? What if I end up kissing one of them? Would they fight over me? Whoa, “I hope so,” I thought.
As soon as we pulled up to the semi-detached house at the end of the cul de sac, I was straight-up delusional about what was to come. The car rolled in, the wheels crackled on the gravel driveway and in my head, at 13 years old, I was metaphorically rolling into my teen years as a fully fledged ‘hot’ babe. The doors of the house flew open and a stampede of cousins, aunts, and uncles poured out the doors like one of those clown cars where they just keep coming and you wonder how did they all fit in there in the first place?
Within an hour of being there, I was convincing my cousins Ciara and Jenny to make up our own dance routine to Destiny’s Child- Bootylicious. After all, this song was about being too hot to handle and was incredibly relatable to me that day. I was Beyonce. Obviously. I even went so far (up my own ass) to suggest we perform our little number for the crowd of flocking, stampeding fans, sorry, I mean Kilcock boys. Jenny and Ciara reluctantly agreed to the performance.
This entire day was shaped around the big unveil. My big unveil. The boys would finally get the opportunity to meet me in real life. ‘The hot girl, Ciara’s cousin’ in the flesh for one night only. We had rehearsed to perfection. We had eaten all of our dinners and washed the dishes. Ciara washed, I dried and Jenny put them away much to our mother's delight. This meant I was finally ready for my big Kilcock debut and it was time to finally meet them.
(I swear Kilcock is the actual name of the town and I didn't make it up for this story. )
The boys called us on the landline and instructed us to meet them on the patch of grass just beyond the housing estate, right in between the old church and the corner store. We dug our grubby, sticky fingers into the eye shadow palette we bought from the pound shop and put on a lick of cobalt blue on our top lids (didn’t blend obviously) and a splash of hot pink Boujois lip gloss and away we went into the night…..well, until our 8 pm curfew.
When we walked up to them it was almost dusk. There was around 6 of them in total, swimming in a sea of Adidas tracksuits. They kicked around a football while almost overdosing on Roy of the Rover candy bars, Monster Munch and penny sweets. In my head, we walked towards them in slow motion just like the popular girls walk down the school hallways in 90’s teen movies. Jenny’s hair was chestnut brown, Ciara was raven-haired and I was the blonde, we were the holy trinity of HOT.
For 15 minutes they completely ignored us and looked at their feet while we huddled together, folded our arms and leaned against the wrought iron railing. I was wearing my white O’Neills tracksuit pants that exposed my pot belly, a pink hoodie that said ‘Pineapple’ on the back and I was sucking on a Push-Pop lollipop like I knew what sexual innuendo was. Eventually, Ciara’s boyfriend broke the silence and came over to introduce himself. He asked Ciara (as if I were not there) if I was the person from the photograph. She confirmed.
Nobody talked to me that night. We just kind of stood there trying so desperately to look cool. It was still exhilarating to be hanging out with boys for the first time but it wasn’t what I was expecting. We didn’t even mention the dance routine to Bootylicious we had prepared for them. That would have been dumb. I definitely was not feeling like Beyonce.
After an hour or so we had to go back to the house. It was 8.15 pm. At around 9 pm the boys called Ciara’s house again. They were still all hanging out together discussing and analyzing the meet & greet. They called solely to tell her that her cousin, me, looked completely different from the photo they had seen months prior and said that in real life I was 'really ugly".