Story of My Life


When she was ten

The first zits

Appeared on her face

While her friends continued to bask

In their childhood glow.

Small and pink,

Barely noticeable,

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,

Still black,

That skimmed over the breasts

That the sports bras left visible.

A pair of high-tops completed the look

Of a heteronormative boy.


Her mother,

Ever the lover of frilly and girly things,

Shunned her daughter’s appearance

As unfeminine,


And wrong.

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

And masculine.

Her friends,

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,

Always returned.

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,

Why not?

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 art,

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,

Not principle.


He hugged her side once;

Didn’t want to get in trouble for PDA

With a stingy teacher.

They held books,

Not hands,

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,

Both responsible,

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.



Girl clothes,

Cute boys,

Clean skin.

Preppy clothes,

Cute boys,

Red skin.

Dark, hugging clothes,

Cute boys,

Pink skin.

Boyish clothes,

Cute girls,

Pink skin.


A happy mother,

A happy child.

A worried mother,

A stressed child.

A confused mother,

A tired child.

An angry mother,

A happy child.


Girly friends,

Slightly different friends,

Comforting and understanding friends,

Queer happy friends.



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