Thursday, February 18, 2010

the way i see it.

Listening To: Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol
Appropriate Quote: "Saying, 'I notice you're a nerd,' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' " - John Green

Most of the time, to the delight of fellow motorists, I wear contacts. I can't see a darn thing without my contacts. I can read if I hold a book close to my face (if I literally stick my nose in a book). But put something a few feet away from me and I don't know if it's a chicken or a llama or a bag of microwave popcorn. Contacts are a must do.

When I'm not wearing contacts, I'm either a.)sleeping or b.)wearing glasses. Sadly, my eyes are uber-sensitive to sunlight. I wish I could wear my glasses more often though because my frames are quite funky. I have spoken of them before, I think. I have big nerdy dark rimmed glasses. *sigh* It was love at first sight.

There were only two other customers in the store the day I tried them on. The first customer was an older lady, already seated across from a sales associate so she could pay for her specs. I tried on my winner frames and looked at my reflection. I smiled. The seated lady pointed to me, then looked at the sales associate and said (very loudly):

"Why didn't you show me frames like that?"

To which the sales associate replied, "You have to have ... a certain kind of face to wear those."

I shall assume she meant this as a compliment. Though I'm pretty sure she didn't because I think they might be men's frames. Alas. I'm wearing the cute glasses in the picture there to the left. I would also like to point out the ethereal glow about my face. This is always present. (It has nothing to do with the open window beside me.)

I got my first pair of glasses back in fourth grade and I was ... wait for it ... thrilled. Really, I was. I thought glasses were adorable, awesome, and pretty. I couldn't wait to wear them. I had a hunch I needed them too. The chalk lines on the blackboard (does anybody remember ye days of olde before marker boards?!) were starting to smear like yellow paint. Upon entering the magical glasses portal at my doctor's office, I was smitten. Hundreds of shiny lenses sparkled underneath the flourescent lights. Where to begin? What to try on first?

A soft beam of light shone down on one pair in particular: a pair of gigantic hot pink frames.

"Thoooose," I purred.

I put them on and looked in the mirror. They were approximately the size of my face. I smiled. "Theeese," I said.

As you might imagine, that decision lives in infamy.

On picture day, I wore my hot pink glasses. I also wore my hot pink knit outfit, the one with tapered pants and a t-shirt complete overlapping layers of puff-paint that sort of created the illusion of a shield. It was like my own tacky suit of armor, with little shiny dots scattered all around. (The shiny dots made it fancy.) That outfit was one of my favorite ensembles. On days I wasn't scrunching two different colors of socks over stirrup-pants (leggings that hook around one's heel), I was hoping my puff paint shirt was clean because I liked the way it matched my glasses. And my slap bracelets. Permed hair. Puff-paint. The glasses were the final touch. Hawt.

Confession: There has never been a moment in my life I have not been aware of my nerdiness. Fourth grade was probably the pinnacle. Maybe. The tendency toward, um, loud clothing was only one small factor. There was also the book factor. Like how my hands would shake with excitement when I got a new Troll Book* order. Like how I got so excited about picking a book from the library, I couldn't concentrate until library hour arrived. (And I don't know why. All I did was alternate between The Chronicles of Narnia and Judy Blume.)

If the tendency toward bibliophilia wasn't a giveaway, my love for 4-H might have clued you in. Cool people like 4-H too,** but I took my enthusiasm to a dorky extreme. I was the secretary of my 4-H club and I was mostly convinced I had the most important job in the world. I took copious notes during the meeting. Then I went home and wrote a rough draft of my "minutes." Then I wrote the actual entry in my white 4-H book. That moment every month when the man with the handle-bar mustache came and asked me to read the minutes of the last meeting? It was my moment to shine. And I wore hot pink glasses. And a hot pink knit outfit. I was invincible. The first time I remember ever giving a speech was for a 4-H competition, which I won. As I left for recess, my teacher said, "I'm calling it right now, kiddo. You'll either be a writer or a politician someday." (Awesome teachers rock my world.) (Even though I pursued writing, the current political atmosphere is most certainly in need of that speech, in which I compared conflict management to the episode of Full House where Stephanie let Uncle Jessie remove her pink bunny wallpaper).

I really do have a point. I don't think my glasses were a symbol of my weirdness. They were a symbol of something greater: the fact that I didn't mind being weird. My parents loved me. I had a cool group of friends. I wasn't embarrassed about pursuing stuff I loved. For a very small, wonderful chunk of my existence, I didn't care what other people thought of me. If only the pink, puff-paint, perm days could have lasted forever. Metaphorically.

In middle school, I decided it was time to stop dressing like a bag of skittles. But I didn't stop loving glasses.

At some point in middle school, I saw this video:

And omigosh I wanted to look just like Lisa Loeb. How cute is she? Do you see how she rocks her big, nerdy glasses? It was a win. So I went to the eye doctor for my yearly check-up determined to find some Lisa Loeb frames.

Sadly, this new eye doctor did not have cool frames. Maybe he does now but back then, they were all unfortunate. The glasses I wore in 8th grade weren't pink, but they were wiry, bendy, and funkily shaped. Not good. And that sort of fits. Because the end of middle school - ugh. Those were the years I remember becoming extremely self-conscious. That was the first time I was severely teased (by a bully who had a bad perm and acid wash jeans).*** Those were the years I started comparing myself to other girls at an exhausting rate. I felt like the glasses made it all worse. They didn't, really. Glasses are just glasses. Still, I got contacts. (And probably would have anyway. Sometimes they're just more convenient.)

Even now, I think Twelve-Year Old Me with bushy eyebrows could teach Twenty-Something Me a lesson. It's not like I was a wellspring of confidence at any point in my life, but at some glorious puff- paint-point, I was more comfortable doing what I liked, and wearing what I liked. I never felt like I had to apologize for being a nerd. I never felt like I had to apologize for being myself. That's a really good way to be.

I guess I'm in rant mode today because I've received a few sweet emails this week from readers who connected with a specific chapter (chapter 3) in Paperdoll (yay!). One of the sweetest compliments I've received about the book so far came from a reader who said: "I've never been the thinnest girl in my class and I'm learning that's okay. I'm tired of comparing myself to other people."

That is more than okay, you fabulous reader, you.

And in honor of my speech writing fourth grade self, I shall also add this:

I hope you never ever get to the point where you decide it's time to fade. Be the scuffed up Converse sneaker in a room full of stilettos. Be the artsy girl who writes song lyrics on the back of her notebook. Play your guitar, or your flute, or your tuba, and don't pay any attention to people who tease you for it. Embrace your inner band geek. (Consider this brilliant band people: you can read music. It's like you know this perfect secret language no one else can appreciate and that language is music. Crazy awesome!) Fly the nerd flag and take every AP course you can squeeze into your schedule. Take the upper level math and science classes and prove all those boys, who say girls aren't smart enough to do that, wrong. I hope you audition for the lead role, even though you know you won't get it. I hope you write stories you know no-one else will ever read. May you fill up sketchbooks, practice free throws, and read books you love (regardless of whether or not other people love them).

No matter how much older you get, or how much cooler you become, I hope you never stop embracing your inner nerd. There is always an elusive who, this uber-exclusive-cool group who set the bar for hawtness and stand ready to make fun of you for something. They are so not worth your time. As I get older, I'm realizing usually when people tease you or make fun of you ... it usually has to do with the fact that you have a little something they're jealous of. May you smile at them, in all their hipster glory, and then walk away without giving a second thought to their empty words. The best revenge is a life lived full.

So ... my new glasses. I still don't look as cute as Lisa Loeb ...

And they aren't hot pink (thank goodness). But I think they're super fun. :) And I think the quirky 12-year old girl who loved Star Wars, Judy Blume books, and Full House marathons would totally approve.

If you're in the mood for some retrospection, I would love to hear about the dorkiest outfit you've ever worn. Happy weekending, lovelies!

* Troll Books was the name of the company. The books weren't made by trolls. Sadly.
** Really cool people got to participate in the chick chain, an event in which the 4-H agent would give you chicken eggs to hatch at home and raise! Every year, I told my mom about it and asked her if I could do it. And ever year it took her approximately .5 of a second to say, "NO. NO. NO." :)
*** That was the first time I heard someone make fun 0f me, at least. I still remember exactly what she said. Isn't it crazy how stuff like that sticks in your heart?


  1. I love your glasses! I have similar ones, but they are dark purple :) They make me feel creative. I only wear them at night or during bad allergy days..which is often.

    I loved this post. I t makes me want to read Paperdoll again. I really wish more girls, (and guys) realized how special they are and how much they have to offer. I personally always loved talking to the band, art, theater, science and english people. They have so much creativity, and love for what they do. Sadly, they felt seriously alone at school. It broke my heart that the ones who had the best hearts (and minds :) were so picked on. SO I chnaged that. My friends were the band nerds, the science geeks, the foreign language geniuses, and the writers. :) They are still some beautiful people, even if I don't see alot of them at my college. But I am still discovering that people, however insecure, by someone saying hi and talking to them, gain just a little confidence. My high school french teacher, who was amazing, said this,
    "Everyone is born with the same amount of confidence...none. :)". It;s helped to realize that however insecure I feel somedays, it may not compare to someone else, and they may need help with it. Thanks for the post.


  2. You just made me nostalgic for the early 90s when I, too, rocked the puff paint.

    And also, I'm jealous of your glasses. I'm the only one in my family with perfect vision. Hubby just got new glasses. And I spent the entire time at the eye dr. trying to convince them to give me one of the fake pairs. It didn't work.

  3. What a cute picture, Natalie! Today I heard someone say, "Quit being a David in Saul's armor. Be yourself." Great post.

  4. Our glasses look eerily similar...

  5. Hi Natalie, came across your blog and enjoyed the entry, have not read your book yet, but will do so as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

    I thought you might enjoy this site that we created. We call it a secret language, but really its just a fancy way of programming, maybe you will consider including the concept, in one of your future books...

    Secret Message:

    Hope you enjoy it.

  6. Elementary/Middle School flashbacks! I remember those pink glasses. I, being the dork I am, was jealous that you got to wear glasses and I didn't. As far as outfits go, I wore those same knit, all one color outfits, too. The shirt, the leggings, sometimes a Scrunchi in my hair or holding my shirt up at an awkward angle. Would you like for me to somehow send you some BFF pictures from 1990? Let me dig out my scrapbook....

  7. I have definitely learned to embrace being the nerd that I am. Have you ever watched the TV show "Big Bang Theory"? The four main characters on the show are all engineer/scientist types, and I think they are hilarious. The funny thing is when I agree with them or follow their thought processes, and in turn get made fun of by my roommates.

    I always wanted glasses. Always. And I wanted thick dark ones, similar to yours (or, to go a step further, the ones in Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" music video). But, alas, I am plagued with perfect vision. I almost bought fake glasses at the mall last year, but was talked out of it by my friends.

    The dorkiest outfit I have ever worn would probably be any shirt with the floral-patterned denim shorts my mother bought me in fourth grade. I also thought it would be fun to wear a bell on a necklace to our class Christmas party that year (along with the standard puff-painted reindeer Christmas shirt that you paint using your handprints), and loved the way it jingled. However, my classmates all hated it. I didn't care because I did the same thing for the next two or three years.

    Anytime I say, "So, when I was younger..." my best friend starts laughing without me saying anything, simply because she knows that the story following that statement will be a story about how dorky I was/am. And it's wonderful.

  8. I am so with you on the "Full House" marathons. I watched reruns every day when I got home from school. Now I own every season on DVD and actually just watched an episode this morning.

    Wow, I needed this today. I came home from school even more aware than usual of how different I am from everyone else. Today was like living in a movie that would be rated R for swear words and other general immorality. Not to mention that the constant presence of critical girls. Good grief, I hate to think of what they say about me behind my back. I'm the biggest nerd of them all. =)

    Your glasses are adorable! My first pair of glasses were black on the fronts and sides of the frames. But then when you moved them back and forth, the tops and bottoms of the frames were purple and they shimmered. I thought they were awesome. I got them in 4th grade and got contacts two years after that. I hardly ever wear glasses anymore, so I actually just got a new pair last year, LOL. They're sort of like yours, except with slightly smaller lenses.

    I have never went through a time when I was brimming with confidence, LOL. Or if I did, I was so young that I don't remember it. When I was about 10 or 11, I went through a chunky stage, and to make matters worse, I refused to wear anything but these huge t-shirts and baggy jeans. As if that would make things better. So I have several years worth of dorky outfits. A year or two after that, I also found these boots. Knee high, black...think Spice Girl platform boots. I thought they were the best. Mom begged me not to wear them and called them Frankenstein shoes.

    Anyway, after this tough day, thanks so much for the reminder to love the weirdness. You really don't know how much I needed it! Says the one who today corrected a stick-thin model girl for saying that they skipped books when making the Chronicles of Narnia movies (original written order-hello!) and felt her blood boiling when another girl said the book (LWW) wasn't any good and was the exact same as the movie.


  9. LOVED this post, Natalie! It really resonated with me because I am also a nerd and of course everyone thinks I'm bizarre. Usually I'm okay with that, but sometimes it gets lonely. And so, your post gave me a confidence pep-talk for those times!

    I'm sending you an invite to my blog, if you want to take a peek at my nerdiness... :)

  10. Natalie, your monthly column in brio and now susie is my favorite!! i love your unique writing style and insight! i was so excited to find your blog and proudly bookmark it on my computer so that i can now read more of your wonderful writing! :) btw, your glasses are too cute!

  11. Wow, I think we're about the same on the contacts department. I can only make out colorful, fuzzy blobs without them. My glasses are...sad. I got them a couple of years ago when I thought I should look nice and now I just want to look like me. Not that me isn't nice but me is just funkier than nice and not as nice as nice. Many years ago I was very excited to get glasses for the first time and I had a great pair of purple glasses. (On a side note: isn't it weird how people say "pair" of glasses when it is just one? Whatever...) But that was after the time of the giant frames and mine were rather small. Now larger frames are back in style, which I think is great, because it is difficult to peep out of skinny little holes without missing some important stuff. I do like contacts better. I put them in almost every morning and gasp, "I can see!" We blind folks are pretty amazing. :)

  12. LISA LOEB!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where are you????

  13. I really LOVED this post!!! It was just what I needed to read. We can never be reminded too much that we are beautiful and amazing because of our Great God. And I love how you loe creativity and art....mmm! It speaks to me =]

    Amazing post!

  14. I love your glasses! They are so adorable! (Mine are purple :)
    I'm learning to embrace my "nerdiness", too, and just learning to love it even when people think I'm weird :)
    The dorkiest outfit I've ever worn was probably in the sixth grade. It was my first day "with the big kids" when I finally got to go to youth group. I had on a long red velvet dress with a fake rose in the middle that had a ribbon tied on it. It came to nearly my ankles and was just really bad. LOL funny know to look back and laugh about it!

  15. Weirdest outfit? My Mickey and company shorts overalls (I LOVED overalls and wore them until about the 10th many POCKETS of potential!) with white tights under and a purple ruffly neck turtleneck. Probably Keds or Saltwaters, and floofy bangs and a barrette made from about seventeen rolls of ribbon all loopy-like.
    I have yet to outgrow the wearing of articles of clothing that make me feel good to wear, like a favorite tshirt or pair of lucky socks. Sometimes that's all ya need!

  16. I know this is way after you posted this, but I have to comment...
    That really touched me, since I'm going my own way in my high school and it's pretty hard.
    I seriously printed it out!
    *My glasses look like yours too :)

  17. Anon, YAY for you :) No matter what people tell you, high school years aren't the best. I think it just gets better as you go along. The fact that you're making your own way now makes me so happy. Everybody wants to do that, but I think few people are brave enough to really do it. *hugs*

    And if anybody still reads this post-- thank you guys SO MUCH for these comments. I'm so glad I'm not the only girl afraid to unleash the nerd within :) You people are way too fabulous for your own good ;)