All of you have known me for so many years. Maybe you remember me. Maybe you don’t. Each of you still have pictures on your phones of us from what feels like forever ago, posing and making stupid faces at the screen. I know because you guys showed them to me religiously, along with the words,
“Remember what we used to look like?”
You bet I remember. I remember the floral shirt C would wear whenever we went out, because she thought it showed off her hourglass figure. I remember when L cut her hair crooked and the ends curled up around her ears for the next six months. I remember that A had a phobia of needles and declared that wearing a thick leather jacket no matter what the weather was the best way to defend himself from surprise pokes and pricks.
I remember what I looked like. How I hated my mousy, shoulder-length hair and my stickly arms. I wore the same pair of jeans for weeks at a time because they were the only pair that didn’t make my hips or my ass look big.
Remember when I chopped my hair off that one afternoon when we were home alone? C and I stole the Kool-Aid packets from the kitchen cabinet and dyed my hair red from the Wikipedia Step-by-Step guide. I showed up at school the next day with my choppy red hair and everybody fell head over heels. You guys didn’t complain then that I was changing.
Maybe you recall that morning at L’s house when I was walking around in a bra and jeans. C complimented my figure over and over, telling me that I was making her jealous. Neither of you told me that I was changing then, either. In fact, both of you said that I was only going to look better as time went on.
As the years went by, our clothing choices changed. A began to take off his leather jacket and only keep it around for certain occasions. L grew out her hair and moved on from her favorite t-shirts and torn capri pants into form-fitting jeans and jeweled blouses. C twisted her hardcore country pride and muddy rebel flags into strappy sandals and hair curlers.
I grew to love all of your new styles, but when I attempted to switch up the way I looked…
“You’ve changed. What happened to the way you used to look?”
Yes, what happened? It couldn’t be that I grew up, could it? The fact that I wasn’t thirteen anymore and didn’t want to walk around it public wearing a Suicide Silence or Paramore T-shirt that was three sizes too big and a duct-tape wallet that A gave me for my birthday so many years ago. I no longer wanted to have my red hair that had grown fluffy from the constant dye jobs and bad hair-washing habits, or wear a frayed bottle-cap bracelet that R insisted we wore all the time to show off our friendship.
Nobody complained when I cut my hair to two inches long and dyed it blond, and still managed to make a mohawk, or when I wore the fake gauges in my ears. No, you guys loved it because you thought I was keeping with my old self. But when I dyed my hair brown and switched out my pixie cut for a men’s razor fade and style, the pitchforks were raised. When I traded the cheap fake gauges for a single diamond stud in one ear, then removed that as well, the witch-hunt began.
Why wasn’t I allowed to grow up? Why did you guys crave to make me into the past version instead of cheering on the future one? Did I threaten your adolescence to the point that I couldn’t be trusted with changing anything about me?
Everyone “awed” and grinned when I showed up to that party wearing my black button-down and silver tie, with my closely cropped hair sprayed and styled to perfection. All of you thought it was the hottest thing when you found out I had started wearing boxers under my jeans. Yet the minute I joked about buying a pair of rad rainbow boxer-briefs, the eyes would roll dramatically.
“Sara’s the butch in the group,” seemed to be our mantra, and none of us minded it. So how come when I sent L a picture of my flannel shirt and beanie ensemble for the campfire, I was told that it was probably best I didn’t go?
“There will be a lot of girls there. They might think you’re hitting on them.”
Is that was this was becoming about? Was my butch lesbianism threatening our weekend activities? So what if they thought I was hitting on them. Maybe I was, but there’s no point in thinking on it because I stayed home “for the best of the group” so nobody’s night would be ruined except my own.
Guys, I took so many bullets for you. Every year I’d known you all, I grew and became more of the butch instead of just the lanky tomboy. You were sympathetic enough to compliment me on the definition in my abs and biceps when I started working out, saying I looked good with muscles. My hair became shorter and shorter, and C gleefully ran her fingers through the top when I would come back from the hairstylist.
I don’t wear many graphic tees anymore. I’ve traded skinny jeans for straight-leg and relaxed-fit. I promise that I still have some hair under this baseball cap; you can see the ends sticking out right under the brim. I don’t acknowledge my curves or ass; they’ve disappeared over the course of my fitness routine and hide nicely under my new clothes. I’m pondering the idea of the military. Don’t worry, R, they let women in there, now.
I will continue to grow up, and I know that scares you, friends. I promise you that it’s for the better, whether you think so or not. Most of you have already disregarded me as trying to be something I’m not. That’s a-okay. The lot of you only make up the tiniest percentage of the world’s population, anyway. I’ll find better friends along my journey. Your opinions won’t control the choices in my life.
The next time any of you look at those pictures, how about saying something like, “Wow, so much has changed, but I’m okay with it.” I’d appreciate it.