An Ape-Girl No More

Ashley - Binghamton, New York
Entered on October 9, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

At age twelve, I became acutely aware of my body and its lack of feminine character.

It was football cheerleading tryouts that made me acknowledge the budding breasts and hips my girlfriends had developed during their 6th grade summers. Though I tumbled and pirouetted my after-school hours at countless acrobatics and dance classes, I was a tomboy by all standards. My slight physique let the oversized t-shirts and jeans I wore hang loosely on me. I kept my hair cropped short out of habit and hadn’t even thought to experiment with makeup. After all, I was still just a kid in the years before Mary-Kate and Ashley — and a full decade before Hannah Montana.

The most defining moment occurred at a Red Lobster one Saturday afternoon, when the host asked my parents if “he” (speaking of me) would like a “child’s” menu; an inquiry wrong on so many levels.

I wanted to be a cheerleader for the sport of it, not for what wearing the skirt and toting the pompoms meant to the boys. I liked doing back-handsprings and flips — cheating death one jump-twist at a time. My friends felt differently, however. And after many boy-crazy bus rides to and from away games, I, too, learned to hold what boys thought as important . . . well, vital.

Yes, during that first season, it happened. The self consciousness, that is. I still had a while to go before my first period, but I had reached that tragic point of no return: I’d become aware of what others thought of my looks, of me.

Even when I began to develop — at age fourteen, now — my body protested the classic female shape. Each part seemed cruelly reversed from the ideal: full thighs, but a flat chest; thin lips, and even thinner hair that, to this day, has not reached far beyond my shoulders.

Big feet. Big hands. Long arms. Short Legs.

I felt closer to apes than to humans on the chain of evolution. As moms often do, mine told me I wouldn’t stop developing for a while. The awkward phase would end, she said, and I’d eventually emerge a beautiful, feminine woman.

So, I waited, and waited, and waited. Now I’m 25, and those breasts still haven’t come in. Though I haven’t sat in a biology class since college, I think I’ve finished developing.

What has developed in me through years of good and bad haircuts, trendy clothing styles, pounds gained and lost, and breakups with aforementioned boys is a more holistic attitude about my looks and, in turn, a more positive image of myself as a woman. I could write a lot of things right now: how beauty is in the eye of the beholder, how it’s only skin deep — those true, but trite girl-power mottos . . .

What I will write is this: to all the gawky girls out there, my ape sisters, if you will — I believe that I am a beautiful woman. And someday, you will too.