This is my friend Steffani Raff’s new book , The Ravenous Gown. It’s a beautifully written and thoughtful book about girls and beauty. I wish I had read this book when I was a girl. I wish my mother had read this book when she was a girl and then read it to me. I was one of the girls Steffani is writing for. One of those girls, self conscious, awkward, over compensating, and wishing I was anyone but me.
Picture me in fifth grade wearing cat glasses with untamable curly hair and big calves the size of bowling balls or Australia which is both a country and a continent.
Actually, my calves are still pretty big perhaps even freakishly so…. the shame. One time a woman asked me, “How did you injure your calves? Will the swelling go down soon?” “Uh no, that’s just the way they are thanks,” I replied. I’m not making that up.
At ten years old in Mrs. Kinney’s fifth grade class I was raising my hand at every question and desperately trying to bring in the leading score for my spelling bee team. (I could spell
pnuemonia, neumonia, pneumonia at the drop of a hat. Shhh, the p is silent …. ) At nine years old I was a true Amazon at 5’2″ and a gargantuan 120 pounds. I had graduated from a training bra to a full fledged cross your heart trainer. Oh how I hated my Medusa hair, the HUGE how can you not notice the front gap between my front teeth and big legs? I wanted to be pretty and petite like Deanna Aubertine. She had straight hair and wore loafers and stockings and had friends. If only….
That if only has changed into different ones
If only I could have seen the beauty of me with the wild hair and untamable spirit.
If only I could have seen the girl that was me was strong and willing and wanting.
If only I could have seen that she will become me still curly and strong and willing.
Those early days of changing from a girl to looking like a woman but still being a girl were really rough. The only way I could survive was to wish and try to be like the other girls who were trying to be like the other girls…. not seeing that this girl, this Regi girl, was pretty awesome even if she did have big calves. She was undeniably weird but talented and reflective. It saddens me to remember how much I hated myself for being myself but I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t remember feeling that way as a girl. Do you?
I hope Steffani’s book can change the way women and girls look at themselves. It’s taken me a very long time to look past my looks and see some beauty within. Stories have done this for me with their humor and wisdom.
In the meantime, here’s a story about a girl who felt like me and like me, became a storyteller. It’s called Lallah Pombo.