Since I work in a school and live more permanently in my own fantasy world, I have a unique sense of time. More often than not, I’ll have a student say something to me I once said to myself, and I’ve found out, about seven years later, it’s not true.
One of the topics we talk about (invariably, since we talk literature and there’s a lot of life choices stuff in that) is dating. It usually starts off by me asking my kids to describe the character, and explain their answers, and then I’ll ask them to compare themselves to that character to see how well they relate.
I had a student tell me, after discussing a character in Bridge to Terabitha, tell me she didn’t know what other people would say about her. Then she said never mind, because she knew how other people described her, and also why they’ve listed her as undateable.
I asked her what “undateable” meant, and she said the reasons why someone wouldn’t want to go out with her. She didn’t want to mention any of the specifics, so I shared my list of “undateables” from when I was in high school.
1. I was too fat.
Or at least, not thin enough. And I was pretty sure I wasn’t very attractive, especially since I didn’t like to style my hair, wear makeup, or put jewelry on. It was hard not to feel this one, since a lot of girls in my class were taller, and longer, and thinner. Even the shorter ones, though, seemed to have model-ready contracts lined up.
When I went to junior high, my best friend was new. I didn’t have any friends in my class from my elementary school, and I’d never met any of the smarter kids from any of the other elementary schools around. So when I made a new friend, A., I kept to her. And she had a bit of a self-image problem, where she’d just lost a lot of weight and people were noticing her. I think I caught a lot of that, too, from my mother. My mother has always been a beautiful woman to me, but she was always concerned about her weight. This rubbed off on me a lot, and so I started working out, going to Pilates, and dieting. I don’t think I ever felt good enough myself for others to think I was good enough to date, and I blamed it on feeling fat.
2. I was a snob and a goody-two-shoes.
This one is complicated, because I wasn’t a snob, I was shy; I didn’t talk a lot, and it was harder for people to get to know me. And when effort is involved, I think a lot of people would just rather subscribe to their theories. So I was a snob, until about tenth grade. Then I started to open up a bit more. By twelfth grade, I’m pretty sure people just wanted me to retreat back into myself. It turns out I was very opinionated, like the morality police. I made sure to follow the rules and didn’t really want to get into trouble. I’ve never had a detention in my life, and didn’t want one. And I didn’t see why other people didn’t care if they got one, either.
So I was more like a teacher than a student already: I just didn’t get why kids acted stupidly and got detentions. I never wanted that, and I didn’t want to be seen as someone who did that.
3. I had braces and glasses (though contacts helped).
This plays into #1 again. I just never felt attractive enough on the outside. And getting me to talk, to show what I was thinking, never made this anymore easy. Everything inside of me that was beautiful and inspiring had to be channeled out through my awkward teenager insecurities. It’s a problem that sometimes still plagues me, especially if I get nervous. Or if I talk to someone from high school.
4. I was just not cool enough (didn’t have clothes, shoes, car) to hang out with, largely.
I didn’t really want to do anything that the ‘cool kids’ were doing. I didn’t believe PDA was necessary, especially the excessive bits people do now, and I especially didn’t want to have sex before marriage. I’d seen too many people go down the sex path and, really, to this day, I can only name one couple left who stayed together from high school to close to fifteen years later. One, out of about a hundred. Okay, two. I can name two. But that’s it. And I don’t like those odds.
I remember very clearly the first time a boy told me I was ugly. He said, “You always wear the same outfits every week,” and that it was “Not pretty.” When I was younger, my parents traveled a lot with us as a family. Consequently, I had shirts from Vegas, Disneyland, Boston, NYC, and Florida. No one cared. They weren’t pretty enough. I don’t think the rest of my wardrobe was particularly exhilarating, either. I wore sneakers and jeans. Sometimes I had a sweatshirt on. And I still wear mismatched socks from time to time.
5. I was kind of weird.
I liked things not a lot of people really liked. I liked anime, I was a pretty religious kid (going back to that “I don’t want to get in trouble” bit) and I loved to read and write. I also liked to knit, which I did in class quite a bit while the rest of them played games on their TI-84 calculators.
I think the knitting vs. the video games sums it up. I wanted deeper things than pleasure in the present could offer me. I wanted the meaningful and purposeful things the future had for me. I always knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to go to college, become a missionary, teach English, write books, get married, have kids, and that’s about all on my list. (I can specifically tell I am an adult now because my list now includes “Get out of debt” and “Do laundry.”) I did most of those things.
After I told her that, I told her within two weeks of going to college, where I wanted to go, where everyone who was there wanted to go unless their parents twisted their arms to go there, I had about six boys chasing me. I was dating by the end of October to my future husband. We were engaged in March the following year. I was married two years later (Planning a wedding and getting through college both took time. I don’t regret waiting that long at all; I was able to get all my priorities covered, for the most part, and I was able to get through school without worrying about married life stuff like taxes and living off campus).
So, yes, if I can find the love of my life, and get married to someone who loves me, then yes, she can too. And being “undateable” doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it’s just a temporary thing. It’s like my sister Jen says. She has standards. And her standards are not just for anybody.
So, what are some of your “undateables?”