Saturday, March 19, 2016

Beast, Renee Cree

Former Beasts Unite
By Renee Cree

Puberty is tough on everyone. But, Good Lord. In a past life, I must have really pissed someone off to an insane degree. Let me paint the picture.

I’ve always had a lazy eye. You know—one eye is looking at you, the other’s looking for you. Well, mine was not only looking for you, it was about to leap off my face and follow you home. And I would’ve welcomed that; I could’ve been a pirate. And pirates are cool.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, my teeth were incredibly jacked up. Snaggletooth didn’t have shit on me. I had an absolutely SAVAGE overbite, and one of my front teeth was growing UPSIDE DOWN—like you do—so it had to go. Slap some braces on that hot mess and I was the belle of the monster’s ball.

Top all that off with the fact that, once I hit puberty and those hormones started a-flowin’, my hair made the executive decision to not be straight anymore. It literally sprung up overnight. And because no one else in my family had curly hair, I had no idea how to care for it. Mia Thermopolis in “The Princess Diaries?” I put her to shame. My hair had its own climate: tropical rainforest at the roots, arid desert at the tips. It crackled. Hairbrushes quaked at my sight.

Here’s the thing: children are awful. Even though we’re all going through Mr. Toad's Wild Ride together, some of us make it through puberty better than others. I, unfortunately, was not unscathed. I was called “cross-eyed,” “toothless” and poor. That last one didn’t have anything to do with me physically, but my parents didn’t have much money, and kids are assholes. 

Someone started a rumor that I had roaches in my hair. That was fun. Someone else started telling everyone I smoked because I stunk like smoke. (I probably did, my parents smoked. But again, kids are assholes.) A boy found out I liked him, and spent a considerable amount of time making me think he liked me too. He didn’t. (Assholes. Do you see a pattern?)

A young, impressionable mind takes all of that (and there was more, but this ain’t a pity party) and makes it true. As the sage hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Julia Roberts said in “Pretty Woman,” “The bad stuff is easier to believe.” So whenever I looked at myself, I didn’t see someone who was intelligent. I didn’t see someone who was kind. I didn’t see someone who loved books, and climbing trees and playing Sonic the Hedgehog. I saw the hideous, smelly beast everyone else saw. Who wouldn’t?

But beasts can be smart. And funny. (I watched a lot of "X-Men: The Animated Series," and there IS a mutant called--ahem--Beast.) I started to focus on my writing. My 7th grade English teacher discovered I might have somewhat of a knack for slinging two words together coherently, and decided to publish one of my poems in the school’s literary magazine. Suddenly I was getting positive attention. I also learned to poke fun at myself, Eminem-style. What could people say that I hadn’t already said about myself? I even made people laugh. And I figured, that was better than the alternative.

I came out of all that relatively unscathed. I was able to get myself straightened out—at least physically. But we former beasts carry those experiences with us, forever. It shapes who we are. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I believe it makes us more tolerant of those who are different. It makes us more open minded to different points of view. We strive to see the world through other people’s eyes, because no one bothered to do it for us. And—this is maybe the most amazing thing—we can recognize other former beasts, without ever saying a word. And with them, we form some of the most soul-nurturing relationships. It’s beautiful. And it makes all of it—every single prank, every nickname, every time I looked at myself in disgust—totally worth it. 


But that’s just how I see it.

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