When she was ten
The first zits
Appeared on her face
While her friends continued to bask
In their childhood glow.
Small and pink,
But to her they made all the difference.
When she was twelve
She tried her third acne medication
At the urgings of her mother,
Who wanted her to look pretty
And take control
Of how she presented herself.
The girl agreed.
When she was thirteen
She tried her fourth acne medication
Because the third hadn’t worked,
Just like the first, second, and third.
She asked her mom for makeup,
But her mom didn’t want her to clog her pores
More than already.
So the girl blazed on bare-faced,
While her friends and the popular girls
All started their journeys with
Eyeshadow and blush and whatever else.
When she was early fourteen
She found a fifth medication,
An expensive high-end kit.
It worked a little, thank God.
Her mom finally agreed to get her concealer
Once the worst of the battle was over.
When she was late fourteen
Her mom insisted she go to the doctor—
The scary lady one.
She got a prescription there
And it actually worked,
At least most of the month—
White pills did nothing,
And the girl cursed them every month.
When she was fifteen
She started to use makeup more and more.
Women relatives sent her
Gift cards to beauty stores for her birthday and Christmas,
And she spent them shrewdly,
Making lists of versatile materials
From YouTube tutorials.
When she was sixteen
Her acne was stable,
And not worsening,
For once in her life.
She felt confident
To walk bare-faced, most days,
Or wear makeup, all days.
From videos, life, or perhaps innate talent,
The girl carved her round face
And smoothed her scarred skin;
She emphasized her eyes and lips,
Still strangely self-conscious
Of drawing attention elsewhere.
When she was sixteen and a half
Her mom asked her to do her own makeup.
The girl agreed readily,
Happy to make someone else’s face
Look as good as she had worked to make hers.
Frilly pink dresses
And tiny pink shoes
Made the girl feel pretty and girly,
And proud when her mom smiled at her daughter.
She flounced about with the other girls
Wearing identical clothes
And she felt at home.
The girl got a little older
And got neater dresses,
A-lines made of thin linen
With whimsical designs of fish or flowers
Dancing across the fabric.
She wore them as often as she could,
But only the school.
When she wasn’t wearing the A-lines to school,
The girl had a pair of jeans,
Thinned and torn out in both knees.
She wore them with loose shirts
And felt free.
Her mother hated the jeans.
The girl grew out of the dresses
And into more jeans.
She wore only Bermuda shorts
And scoop-neck shirts
For an entire summer.
Back at school,
She wore the same,
And in winter her shorts became jeans.
Her mother looked on,
She graduated from middle to high school
And shunned her preppy t-shirts
For black ones with bands and quotes.
She switched from the bras
Her mother and she had shopped for
In seventh grade,
In favor of sports bras
That compressed her breasts.
She discreetly stole a pair of baggy jeans from her mother
That hung from her hips
And exposed the waistband of her underwear.
She purchased baggier t-shirts,
That skimmed over the breasts
That the sports bras left visible.
A pair of high-tops completed the look
Of a heteronormative boy.
Ever the lover of frilly and girly things,
Shunned her daughter’s appearance
The girl couldn’t care less.
She didn’t grow out of the phase,
As her mother hoped.
She grew into it,
Learning on her own
How to make herself look both presentable
Vastly different from her middle school ones,
Adored her new look
And the happiness that came with it.
The girl loved dresses when she was young.
She felt pretty and right among her friends.
She shunned the girls that wore
Cargo shorts and boy’s sandals,
Alongside her mother.
As she got older,
Her legs got longer,
And she felt uncomfortable in the dresses
She had once cherished.
Not only that,
But her chest had grown with her age,
And dresses hugged that area
And made it more obvious than she was comfortable with.
With the appearance of her acne,
She switched to mostly jeans.
They hugged her legs
In a way that made her feel secure.
T-shirts curved around her breasts,
But not how dresses did—
It was different,
Her friends were all obsessed
With their own chests,
And the girl felt the pressure to have bigger boobs.
She wore v-necks and padded bras,
Almost as if in hope
That people would notice her chest
Instead of her zits.
Makeup made an appearance in her life
The same time she switched clothing styles.
She experimented in both,
Trying “girly” looks on her face,
While “boyish” looks decorated her body.
She’d never felt more confident at school.
She still wore dresses sometimes,
But not ones that clung to her chest,
And always ones she could wear sports bras underneath.
It worked for her,
And she kept the looks,
Happy to have finally grown into her appearance.
The girl liked everyone,
Except the boy that screamed when people touched his toys.
She especially liked the boy
She sometimes passed in the hall,
And would give a small wave,
She liked his floppy blond hair
And blue eyes
And shy smile.
They dated from fourth until sixth grade,
The fake kind of relationship kids have,
Without hand-holding or kissing or dates,
Just having shy, awkward fun,
And him attending her soccer games.
They broke up melodramatically,
And he suggested online dating.
She laughed—they were twelve.
In seventh grade a boy in her history class,
Shy and cute enough,
Passed her a note
With the little check boxes.
She didn’t like him a lot,
But she thought,
And checked yes.
He drew her flowers
And they laughed a lot,
And the girl was happy,
But happier as friends,
So the relationship fizzled to an end.
In eighth grade,
A boy in her second semester art class
Was new and exciting.
He spoke of politics
And a dark past
With plans for the future.
He played football,
And he was cute.
The girl loved him.
She asked him out with a note slipped in his binder,
And fought with her mother about it later.
She didn’t care,
And her mother eventually gave up,
For it was a fight about method,
He hugged her side once;
Didn’t want to get in trouble for PDA
With a stingy teacher.
They held books,
And he gave her his mom’s necklace,
A small gold chain with three gem charms,
For her birthday.
She said on a scale of one to ten, it was an eleven,
Because she knew what to say.
They went on one date,
To the movies,
And she wanted nothing more than a kiss,
But he didn’t give it.
Their relationship fizzled out too;
It’s hard to keep up talking
When they didn’t have any classes together.
Ninth grade year,
Her school was bigger,
With more boys
And more girls.
She noticed the girls more than the boys.
With the internet,
She discovered a term—
And it fit her.
She worked a job once a month that year too,
And the last day of the season,
She started talking to a guy,
A senior, she found out later,
Out they texted.
She liked him a lot.
They went on two dates;
Held her hand;
He gave her
Her first two kisses.
And then her parents shut it down
For age differences.
While she was dating the senior,
Another girl moved to her school.
She was vibrant and outspoken,
And never stopped smiling.
They grew to be close friends,
The moms of their friend group.
Their friends made a joke of it,
Calling them the lesbian moms.
Playing the part,
They held hands
And called each other babe.
The girl’s friends encouraged her to dump the senior
And date the other girl.
The senior was shut down a week into summer
And she texted the girl
If they should become official.
The girl replied positively,
And the girl was content.
She had come out to her parents the year before,
And wasn’t allowed to date girls.
The girl didn’t care.
“Boyfriend” had always felt wrong,
But “girlfriend” felt right.
Dark, hugging clothes,
A happy mother,
A happy child.
A worried mother,
A stressed child.
A confused mother,
A tired child.
An angry mother,
A happy child.
Slightly different friends,
Comforting and understanding friends,
Queer happy friends.