I was never asked out on a date in high school. There was one boy who I kissed a couple of times, and a couple of guys I “went out with” who I knew from work or mutual friends, but I was never asked out.
I remember going on a couple of dates in 7th and 8th grade, but after that it was radio static until college.
I have no idea why this realization came to me weeks ago, but it kind of knocked the wind out of me and made me feel sad. In the span of an unguarded second I was seventeen again, wishing I was one of the popular girls with a nice, cute boyfriend. To be honest, most of the guys in my grade were nice guys—very few jerks—it’s just that none of them were interested in me.
That’s always the first question, isn’t it? For me, anyway. I suppose there are people who can brush off their shoulders and go “screw ‘em” but I was never like that. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast in high school and had some of the best girl friends anyone could have asked for during that time, but there’s always that “but” isn’t there?
There was a boy in 6th grade that said I was ugly.
My friend and I called him (by looking up his number in the phone book) and she asked if he wanted to go out with me (while I listened on the other phone unbeknownst to him). He said “no”, and when my friend pressed as to why, he said, “Because she’s ugly.”
Writing that sentence brought tears to my eyes. That was twenty damn years ago, and I can still hear his prepubescent voice slaughter my self-esteem with one word.
How are these two things related, you might wonder?
To me, they were two sides of the same coin. My friends had boyfriends off and on. Some of my closer friends had long-term boyfriends that lasted for maybe a whole school year or most of high school, but I never did. Heck, there’s even a couple that started dating at the end of our freshman year that’s married today with kids.
I didn’t have any of that, and any time I found myself flippantly wondering why no one was interested in me, or those who I was interested in weren’t interested back, or any time I was lonely in that department, I knew why. Because I wasn’t pretty enough.
I didn’t think I was ugly, ironically enough. I wasn’t, in fact. I was nice, funny, smart, and pretty, as far as I was concerned. But I also have eyes, and know I wasn’t as pretty as some of my friends, or gasp the popular girls. They had the boyfriends and the nice smiles and were skinny with big boobs. I wasn’t fat, but I was thicker than they were. I was good at sports, but not as good as they were.
Close, but no cigar.
That’s how I viewed my romantic life. I just wasn’t enough. Maybe a “maybe” for some guys. Maybe a plan B, C, or D, but never a first choice.
The kid who called me ugly actually turned out to be a nice kid. Nice enough to me on the cross-country team we both ran on, and we even had a great conversation at our ten-year class reunion. He’s a really great guy from a nice family. I kind of feel bad that whenever I see his name or face, I think “ugly”, because I don’t want to have that memory. Eleven and twelve year old boys are idiots. Stupid assholes. So what if he thought I was ugly? He was allowed to think that and, in his defense, he didn’t know I was listening. I doubt he would have been the kind of kid to actually say it to my face.
That incident, of him calling me ugly, didn’t set the stage for the shit-show of a romantic/sexual life I had post-high school. He wasn’t the reason I chose to enter into physical-only relationships with guys because “I didn’t have time for their shit.” Because, I didn’t honestly have time for their shit. He didn’t ruin my life. And, no, I won’t ever identify him because he wasn’t the problem.
What happened that day was a seed was planted. And it took root. A deep, unrelenting root that apparently is ready to be excavated since I can’t stop thinking about it. A seed that made me feel like I’m not good enough. Not pretty enough, smart enough, charismatic enough, popular enough, loud enough. Not good enough.
31-year-old me sees that girl as a girl who kept her eyes on the world and not on God. 31-year-old me wants to whisper to that girl, “You’re so loved right now, it’s unbelievable.” And, on the earthly side, 31-year-old me wants to say to that girl, “There’s this guy … he’s out there living his life right now and you can’t meet him yet because that would be all sorts of weird and wrong and impossible, but one day he’s going to sweep you off your feet, strip your soul bare, and show you what human love really is. And, with him, you two will find out what God’s love is really about.”
Why am I writing Jesus Freaks?
Honestly, I’ve realized that this is more about me than any other book I’ve ever written. God knows it’s easy for me to ignore what’s going on in my own heart and soul, but I’ll pay attention to my characters and their motivations and their journeys.
God has put pieces of me in every single character and story in the Jesus Freaks series. It’s a mirror that he’s making me fashion myself. A mirror he’s asking me to stare into. A mirror from which he wants me to turn away a better person. One who focuses on him and not on ugly, lonely, too heavy, too strong-willed, too anything.
I stopped writing the post here and went to go have lunch with my grandmother. On the drive, it hit me. God hit me upside the head. I was thinking about how the first book in this series tanked sales wise, and I am expecting about the same from this book.
Then, God smacked me upside the head in the loving way only he can manage. He said to me, “This isn’t about them. It’s about you and me, and this series is the only way I can get you to look at some of these issues. Because you won’t be honest about them any other way unless you dress them up in fiction.”
Jesus Freaks is my journey, guys. Not just in Kennedy. Sure, Kennedy and I share roots. But I’m in every single one of those characters. I’m in every setting, every internal thought, and every action. It’s too scary to sit down with a journal and hash all this out, so God’s letting me use art.
Art therapy, God approved.
I want to get over being called ugly, and never being asked out. Most days I am over it, honestly. But, some days … some days I remember that phone call, and never being asked to a prom (I asked all my dates), and it makes me want to scream. At them, and at me.
But God wants me to look deeper than the “ugly” I was called based on my appearance. He wants to excavate the ugly in my spirit. The ugliness that covets unsolicited male attention and, if I’m being honest, sometimes solicited. The ugliness that is envious toward the absolutely stunning friends I have. The ugliness that sometimes puts my relationship with Charles ahead of my relationship with God. All the ugliness that separates me from God. Every single thing I stack up in front of me, to keep God from looking to close.
Because then I might have to change.
So, Jesus Freaks is for me. It’s about my relationship with God. My struggles with theology, religion, the unseen, the seen, and the pain.
I am a Jesus Freak. And, I want to tease out what that means for my life and the way I’m living it now.
So, that’s why. That’s why Jesus Freaks. I’ll take 3 part-time jobs if I have to in order to support myself financially while I write this series. Because there’s nothing else in me right now as loud as this series.
It’s what I have to do. I might not know all the “why’s”, but I don’t have to know. That’s the beauty, sometimes, in developing a close relationship with God. Sometimes he’ll just ask you to do something and you won’t know why until you’re at the end of it, or sometimes not until much later.
I don’t know the actual “Why” that will be the full realization of this project. But I do know that this is what God’s asking me to do.
For now, that’s the only “why” I need.
I have to write my way out of the ugly.
Photo Credit: Loleia