Friday, August 05, 2005

a life lesson

In high school, my sister and I were nerds. Hard to believe, I know, but it gets worse: we were fat nerds. Waddling down the hallways, thighs rubbing, underwear riding up in the cracks of our plump bottoms. I remember it keenly, the hot sting of tears behind half-closed lids. Looking down at my bulging stomach, avoiding the mocking giggles.

Cut to my first day at NYU. I'm wearing Calvin Klein jeans that hug my now tight and shapely ass. Smiling confidently. Tossing my shiny curls. Basking in the glow of admiring glances from cute college seniors. I was hiding my inner fattie behind svelte curves, a flat stomach, and best of all, my newly exposed collarbones.

Now that I was thin, I was finally ready to be "in". In with the sorority girls, that is. You know the ones: the Betties, the pretty girls with matching pink shirts and perfect manicures. Already popular and fashionable, I was well on my way to being acknowledged by the highest ranks of the university caste system. Not that I needed them to recognize my fabulousness. No, I wanted it like you want sweet, fluffy icing on an already delicious cake.

I mingled with the best of them, memorizing pretty faces, collecting names the way I used to collect candy and hide it under my bed at fat camp. But where the candy made me fat, these names would make me popular. "Oooh, nice shoes, Tiffany. I have the same ones in mauve." "Good to meet you, Kelly Ann." I was one of them; I knew it, and I knew they knew it. I spoke the same language, wore the same labels, sparkled with the same je ne sais quoi. Yet I was utterly genuine; I didn't have to pretend to be fab. How could they not love me?

But somehow, they didn't. And to this day, I can't understand why not. Looking back, it seems like a freak accident or an unexplained phenonemon. Getting hit by lightning, twice. Crop circles on a well-groomed suburban lawn. The kind of mystery even Sherlock Holmes would struggle with. A tragedy, even. Senseless.

Okay, I'll get to the point: I, Steph Goldstein, was a sorority reject.

All the other girls got bid envelopes. Yes, even the fat ones, the ugly ones, the dogs and hippos. And I, no longer fat or ugly, was cast aside like an empty chocolate bar wrapper.

For years, I've kept the pain of that awkward rejection letter to myself. I never told anyone except Annie. Instead I said: "Sororities are for desperate girls who want to prove how popular and fashionable they are. I'm too fabu for that; I don't need to prove anything." But inside, I felt that familiar sting once again. Not good enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough. Somehow, despite all my best efforts, just not enough.

So why am I breaking my long-held silence, out here on the world wide web where everyone can see my heartbreak? Why now, at 1:43 p.m., on a steaming hot day in New York? Because I'm older now, and I'm wiser. I no longer need hide my inner fattie, or hide in my dorm room crying.

Now I can say: Look in the mirror.

Realize that you're thin and pretty, and that's all that matters. Forget what other people say; the only person who should be handing out rejection slips is you. Reject the bitches, the haters, the dogs and the hippos, and realize that they're the ones who aren't good enough for you. Realize that there's a whole world out there, full of people who will love you for the popular, fashionable woman you are. Not that you need their approval either; all you need is to make yourself happy -- just you, no one else. Do you whatever it takes to feel superior, and enjoy the view from the top. How do I do it? I write. Not in a group of pink-and-white sorority sisters, but with my own sister, on an amazing blog, for everyone, but really, just for us.