From the chapter on girls in the "What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys."
Today I braided my hair with one mirror in front of me and one mirror behind me and still it was ugly.
The day before I graduated I suddenly missed the walk--the walk that is so boring it used to make me grit my teeth--the walk from a Mass Ave gate behind Widener, through that corner of the yard past Lamont, up to the Carpenter Center, on a drizzly spring day. I thought: I have turned the corner towards understanding! This is what I will miss!
In high school a woman came to tell us about the dangers of eating disorders. She told us she developed her disorder in college after she heard two friends commenting on an older girl's weight. "Did you see Katie?" they'd said. "She really put on the freshman 15!" And so, the woman lecturing us told us, in that moment she decided that she would never let anyone say that about her.
Last spring I saw a class of 2011 girl post a bland and pathetic Harvard admissions video on her Facebook wall, with views of the Charles, the Yard, students eating in Annenberg, and so on. "Sigh..." she captioned it. "I miss Harvard so much!" And I was horrified. Is that what graduating college does--turns you into such an undiscriminating emotional mess that even the most canned images seem to bring back something essential about your experience? (Yes.)
Anyway, after I came back to Harvard for one day on my way to Norway, I visited the Signet, where I ran into a friend a year younger than me. We started talking about our summers, and she asked about mine. I told her I'd spent a lot of time this summer thinking about what graduating means, and what college meant, and what Harvard means, and what the campus would mean once I knew no undergraduates, and things like that. And she, just like I would have done last fall, or really at any point, was immediately interested, and wanted to talk all about all of that, and see what conclusions I had come to, and I wanted to hear what she expected it would be like, so we could finally figure out the difference between having one foot out the door and being out the door. But soon more people arrived and we never had a chance. I used to wander around the campus, which is of course precisely manicured and lovely, and think, this is the richest I will ever be.
When I listen to that song "Gemini/Birthday Song," the anthem of 2008-2012, I can't help thinking about one of my more embarrassing moments. It was Halloween and I was heartbroken. My friends brought me to a punk house, where I tried hard to fit in. "This is Molly," my friend introduced me. "Molly's really smart." (She was just trying to give my awkwardness a legitimate frame.) "Oh yeah, super, super smart," I said, giggling insanely, like I was trying to work the eccentric angle or something, or trying to catch everyone off guard. Like jpeggings, those jeggings covered in html and other Internet graphics, arrogant, giggling eccentricity works better in the conceptual stages. We took a tour of this big old bungalow that had been subdivided with curtains of dried flowers and webs of yarn and mismatched windows into bunk beds and tiny spaces. One person's bunk bed had a playpark slide coming out of it. And on one particularly lovely keep of driftwood planks and crude paintings (the kinds of paintings featuring line-drawings of pimply characters with their tongues hanging out), a girl was just waking up, with her hair all on one side, and because in that moment I believed myself to be cool, I aimed up and took a flash photo. Only after I developed the photo did I realize how much she hated me.
Pulling out in the silent, dark bus from Milano Centrale to Malpensa, the midnight bus--I was going to sleep in the airport, on a wire bench, according to Sleepinginairports.net, and I did not realize how much they hurt your thighs, even if you think of yourself as having big, insensitive thighs--I saw the most beautiful photograph that I could never take. It was one of those moments that is too perfect for a story and too beautiful for real life. On this hot Milan midnight, in the drought of late August, there was a girl sitting at the base of the huge dry fountain across from the train station. The bus made a slow semi-circle around the fountain so I got to see this girl, knees up to her chest, illuminated by the sulferous street lights, from every angle. I was so positive she was sulking after heartbreak.