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Hi, I’m Callie, and I’m going to tell you a story that might seem a little unusual.
I’m really pretty. Like, beautiful. I know that might sound like bragging—and to be honest, it feels like bragging, because I don’t always feel beautiful—but enough people have told me I am that I’ve come to believe that is how most people perceive me.
The attention I got for my appearance started when I was a baby. People would tell my mom, “Oh, you have such a beautiful baby.” “You should enter her in contests!” Pretty normal, right? I mean, people love babies. But it continued when I was a toddler. A modeling agent approached my mom in a restaurant when I was three to see if she could sign me. My mom said no—three was too young, she thought. But the attention didn’t stop as I grew older, and eventually my mom was asking me if I would consider a career in modeling, or acting.
By that time, I was starting to feel really self-conscious. People commented on my looks so much. I hadn’t even hit puberty yet, and I was already getting cat-called on the street. I loved math and science, but nobody seemed to care that I was good at those things. Most adults I interacted with commented on how I’d be “beating the boys away with sticks” soon, or how I’d have no trouble finding a husband. When I was thirteen, I started a YouTube channel dedicated to robotics, one of my greatest loves. But in the comments section, people would leave comments like “ur hot,” or “shame you’re not legal.” Stuff that made me really uncomfortable.
I started wearing baggy clothes to hide the curves I was developing. I kept my textbooks over my chest in the hallways at school. I started getting so anxious about when the next unwanted comment would come that I would spend breaks between classes in the restroom throwing up. I started showing up late for class so I didn’t have to walk through the halls when there was a crowd.
And the other problem with being too pretty? People don’t like you. Other girls think you’re full of yourself. And guys only want you so they can brag to their friends about how they got with you. People also don’t think you’re smart. I was the butt of so many dumb blonde jokes, even though I was a great student. Once, my mom told me I was so pretty that I wouldn’t need to worry about going to college. I’d be able to snag a doctor, or a lawyer, and he would take care of me. That hurt more than anything. Between my self-consciousness and the way my classmates resented me, I didn’t have any close friends. And with the way people didn’t take my aspirations seriously, I started to doubt my own ability to have a career in robotics like I wanted.
So I decided that if this was how the world was determined to see me—as just an object—then that’s what I’d be. I traded my baggy clothes for low-cut tops. I started wearing lipstick, and flirted with the guys who gave me attention, even if I knew they had girlfriends. I did not care about anyone. I’d gossip about the other girls who I knew had been gossiping about me for years. I stopped trying in my classes. A couple of teachers noticed, but I blew them off when they tried to talk to me. I wasn’t sure if this made me happy, but I keep doing it, perhaps because I was so tried of proving my real self to others.
I didn’t stop. For Homecoming, I wore the sexiest dress I could find. A chaperone told me I’d violated the dress code, and handed me a sweater to cover up. Everyone looked at me and I could tell they were shocked. Perhaps for two main reasons. One, this doesn’t look like me, because that’s not my style. And second,, well, because I looked very attractive. However, twinges of my old self-consciousness resurfaced. Then a guy walked by and pinched my backside. That was the last straw. I couldn’t take it any longer! I started to cry uncontrollably. People began to stare at me, some of them snickering and whispering to each other. “What are you looking at?” I screamed at them. “Stop staring at me!” I couldn’t stop myself. I felt so hurt and confused and alone. I fled the dance and went out to my car. My hands were shaking so badly I was lucky I made it home in one piece. I locked myself in my room and refused to come out. It’s not like I could ever go back to school, after the scene I’d made.