Who would wear a t-shirt and overalls on her first day of third grade?
The girls at Greystone Elementary didn’t dress like the girls in West Des Moines. In Iowa, kids dressed comfortably. Girls wore clothes they could play in without having to worry (about boys looking up their skirts, or dirtying church clothes).
The Greystone girls wore sheer blouses with camisoles underneath. Low-rise jeans. Tiny denim shorts. Halter top dresses.
These girls were groomed to be miniature copies of their mothers (the ladies who played tennis and downed cocktails at the club for lunch). The pretty girls who were enrolled in cheernastics and dance once they could walk. The popular waifs who were dieting at age eight, so they could wear string bikinis to the pool during the summer without sucking in their bellies.
There was no way I could ingratiate myself into their crowd by being a chubby Filipino girl with crooked teeth. So I retreated into my schoolwork, reading books for fun, and filling composition notebooks with angsty scribbles. Resigned, I knew my fate was to be known as a smart girl, not a pretty girl.
Braces and a growth spurt weren’t the answer to my ugly duckling phase. Years later, I no longer yearned to look like those girls. They were society’s default version of pretty. Basic bitches. Instead, I got tattoos on my shoulder blades and a pixie cut.
Finally, I felt beautiful — which, as it turns out, is synonymous with free.