When I was seventeen, my school's prom theme was Tale as Old as Time. Beauty and the Beast had always been my favorite Disney film, and every romantic bone in my body told me that this would be the night I'd magically transform into the belle of the ball. It wasn't so much that I wanted any specific boy from my school to dance with me, but rather, that I'd be asked at all.
After all, was that so much to ask for? Being invited for just one dance?
Days, then weeks, slipped by in rapid succession, and with them went my dreams. I watched my friends get asked, one by one, and smiled for them all until it became abundantly obvious that I'd be going stag again. Fine, that wasn't the biggest problem, I'd done it before.
The night of the dance, wearing a poof-skirted ballgown I had paid for with my own money and carrying expectations of an evening of pure magic, I descended not a grand stair case, but a single step down into my school's gym which had been transformed by my darling teachers. The setting was perfect, with roses scattered everywhere and twinkling lights strung over all our heads.
In retrospect, perhaps it was silly of me to think that night would be any different from the other school dances, but I was so sure that with the enchantment of the theme and flowers, something might be different.
The DJ played "Beauty and the Beast" twice that night: once in the middle of the night, once at the very end. My heart hammered in my chest as I was passed over for the first playing, but I still had one more dance, right? One, beautiful waltz with whomever decided to ask me, to commit to memory and dream about for years to come.
The final song played, and I stood near the tables in a group of my girl friends as one by one, each of them was picked off and swept to the dance floor. Right down to the last. My smile was frozen on my face and my heart skipped a beat as icy cold slithered down my spine and contradicting heat stung at my eyes. One glance around told me what I already knew; I was the only person left.
Those beautiful first notes began to play and I felt my smile start to slip. I dropped my head, walked over to retrieve my bag and keys, and slipped out the door. It was cold outside, but it was just what I needed. I walked out to my car and stopped a second to shove my hand against my mouth and stop the sob threatening to escape. I glanced up and for one final second, allowed myself to dream of some mysterious stranger scooping me into his arms and dancing with me among the stars.
I was pathetic.
Tears started falling, fast and hot, down my icy cheeks as I got into my car and cranked up, determined to get out of there. I managed to clean up long enough to smile at my mom as I slipped into the house and assured her I'd had a fun night; once safely in my tower, I curled up in a wrinkled bunch of taffeta and fake satin on the floor and wept as dramatically as any of my darling Disney princesses.
There's no real happy ending to this story. What can I say? How could I develop a positive body image or a shred of confidence when each year, the story was reaffirmed that tall, big girls don't get complimented, asked on dates, or even to those most innocent of events: school dances? When the same thing happens in college, when I'm out with friends, and even out in the "real adult world" outside?
At what point do I get to stop hearing "Just be patient, it'll happen, you're beautiful and they don't know what they're missing." At what point do I get to stop pasting on that smile as I watch my girl friends getting asked to the most casual of functions in elaborate ways, knowing that that has not and likely will not ever happen to me? When do I get to stop spotting a cute guy looking over at me, only to realize he's checking out one of my friends?
I wish I could start spouting off some uber-feminist power slogans and say that these things don't bother me. I wish I could casually shrug all of this rejection off and pretend I'm over it, that it's beneath my notice. I wish that I could stop wishing for it in the first place.
The truth is, though, that there are days when I feel untouchable with power, and that I am so sure of myself and my future, of the fact that I am not an unlovable creature despite past evidence to the contrary. And then there are days where I just do not understand what is so wrong with me, or undesirable, what I am doing wrong and most of my friends are doing right, or if it strictly comes down to genetics.
I know something for sure, though. I am not, and never have been, the belle of the ball. Like Elpheba, I'm not that girl. I'm nobody's first choice.
And I guess it's about time to learn to be okay with that.
Whatever. I'll always have my fluffy blanket, a hot cup of tea, a hundred books to choose from, and blisterless feet because let's be real; ain't nobody asking me to dance anyway.