My cousin’s daughter is 12 years old. She’s this sweet tiny girly girl that moves with caution at all times and bates her eyelashes a lot when she’s confused. She giggles loudly and gets embarrassed easily. She has an easy smile and it’s quite a pleasant girl, it’s nice to be in her company, she’ll talk a lot about her pre adolescent adventures when she’s comfortable. I like her a lot. I want the world to be kind to her. But twelve is a weird age to have. You’ll start to become aware of yourself; start to feel the need to be a bit more independent; and your friends opinions will become more important than your parents.
I remember being twelve. I was quiet, tall and skinny, had very long hair and was cute enough. That’s a fair description. My friend group consisted of loud, pretty, popular girls, who were all in the gymnastics team, so throughout my teens I would never be exactly in the shadows. Never really stood out on my own either, but was always a part of the group that did.
I remember the first time I caught a boy’s attention, it was also the first time I was told I wasn’t pretty enough.
I felt this boy’s gaze on me while I ordered my lunch at the cafe, it made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t uncomfortable because he was staring at me, it was uncomfortable because he was cute. Later that day he asked a common friend if she could ask me if he could have my number (if is sounds complicated, it’s because we were twelve). She was very excited about it when she told me and teased me a bit for it. I taught it was funny and cute, it was my first teenage love affair, and I dared to dream a little. That dream must have lasted ten whole seconds. Another girl in the friend group would quickly shatter my dreams of living a high school musical romance with a nasty comment about my appearance. It made me feel like he must have been mistaken, it wasn’t really me he was interested in, no one could ever be interested in the boring plain Mariana.
The worst part wasn’t that she said it. The worst part was how she said it so surely that it made me believe it. Girls learn to be merciless at a very young age. I know now that it came from a place of jealously, it wasn’t really felt or even thought off. But it stayed with me nonetheless. We were all dealing with first periods and unexpected boob growth and to make it even worse, the boy craze fever will never be as high as when you’re a teen. Twelve years old girls go through a lot, they often say and do things they’ll regret later in life. So, I don’t really hold her accountable for it, I never could. Karma was on my side, the boy went on to become my first kiss and we dated for a whole two weeks before summer break, so the joke’s on her really. Specially because a couple years later I would level up to her in meaness. It’s important to say I’m not proud of it. I wasn’t the nicest teenager, being a part of a group brings you a certain type of confidence that can easily become cockiness. From twelve to sixteen I did a lot of things with my girl friends that don’t really match up to my branding today.
I’m a firm believer that the devil is a teenage girl. And I once embodied it.
All that to say that I can’t bring myself to look at my cousin’s kid and see how she could ever relate to my experience at twelve. She’s so innocent and cute, how could she even dare to kiss a boy at such a young age? And her friends, I hope they are nothing but nice to her, she doesn’t have a bad bone in her and it would pain me to know that someone could ever comment on her appearance in an unkindly way. I hope she’s alright, kids nowadays either grow up too fast or are too sheltered. I hope she takes her time with the boy fever. And that she won’t carry words that were said to her today to the rest of her life.