This post has been stirring around in my head and heart for awhile now and I’ve sat down a million times to write it but I decided last night to just start writing and see what poured out of my fingers. I’m sorry if it’s long, but grab a beer because you’re about to get a glimpse into a very vulnerable side of me.
While Sam was deployed, I became very reminiscent of our relationship. The little things, the big things, and the things that set him apart. You see, when you’re worlds away from someone you love and you don’t have them to physically connect with, you have to sort through memories and heart-flutters in order to emotionally connect with them. While we have a very fun courtship story (one I’m sure I’ll share eventually), I couldn’t help but remember the main aspect of Sam that ruined all other men for me forever. He was the first man to ever make me feel beautiful.
To give you a bit of a back story, I spent the prime years of age 18-21… how do I say this….. 25 pounds heavier. Now, when you’re 5’2” this shows. Every single pound shows. My value has never – hopefully will continue to never – be wrapped up in appearance but especially my weight. And while that is true, I think I made the mistake of thinking that I had zero value in the appearance department.
For high school, I went to a small prep school full of really gorgeous people. So my senior year, I felt like a leper. In college, I lived in a house with 9 breathtakingly beautiful women. Again, I felt like a complete outsider. I shared a room with a spunky girl named Ashley who was a freshman when she moved in with us. She had just had surgery so she had a roller backback because she couldn’t carry anything heavy. Yall- please imagine an overweight tomboy and a roller backpack carrying freshman trying to hold their own in a house full of older, gorgeous girls. It’s pretty much a miracle we aren’t going to die virgins.
But by Christmas break of that first year, Ashley of course had grown into her own knock-out self and I was still….. well, me. I felt like I had a choice. I was surrounded by beautiful people and instead of trying to seek beauty of my own, I made another identity for myself. I was blessed with incredible friends, great college memories, and a few relationships here and there but I always thought my role in those relationships was to be funny. So, I took on that as my identity. I would be the funny, non-threatening guy pal. Oh yes girlfriends, I was the girl that you couldn’t stand because my best friends were dudes and we kept you guessing on what our status was. (Let me put your minds at ease, they talked to me about their bathroom habits and punched me in the arms… and oh yeah, saw me as an asexual creature, so no worries on this end!) But, those left me with a lot of heartache because my heart held onto hope that I would somehow be seen as beautiful to these men, but sadly I was there because I could make them laugh and fulfill an emotional part of dating without their commitment.
Despite my feminist tendencies, there was a still a yearning in my heart to be called beautiful. Hell, I didn’t need to be called beautiful, I just wanted to feel like it. I suppressed that need until it was a faint whisper that I could easily ignore with a handful of SweetTarts and watching J.Lo’s “Enough”. (Isn’t that what college students do?)
Anyways, the summer after my junior year of college, all my roommates (except Ash) graduated and got married. I’m totally not joking. Seven graduated, five got married that following year, with the other two following shortly after. Everyone was moving on to their fairy tale and I was left to figure out mine. That summer was a huge growth time for me. I realized I was forcing the role of the “funny girl” on myself as a way to compensate for insecurity. I realized I had a really unhealthy attachment to food as a refuge. And I realized I was dealing with a shame that I really needed to be set free from. I didn’t care if I was going to be that size forever, I truly didn’t. But, I needed to get my heart right for my own sake. I was going to write my own damn fairy tale.
(Of course I made a lot of joke titles, “The Princess and the Circus Peanut” or “Sleeping Beauty… is still sleeping”)
My senior year I started off with a freedom and a confidence that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I wasn’t searching for a man or a specific pant-size to be my value. I just wanted to figure out who I was outside of the identity I had roped myself into. And I did. Each day I learned more and more about myself and each day I became more and more free.
Then Sam came along. (Enter Sam, Stage Right-Inconvenient time of self-exploration) I kept hearing about this young buck with great hair so I asked someone to point him out to me.
“Where’s that Sam kid everyone is talking about?”
“I’m sorry where? In the short shorts and boat shoes?”
Lets just say I wasn’t as captured by his charm as the others were. I mean don’t get me wrong, he was super hot. But too hot for me.
Well, he didn’t think so and was very, very forthcoming about his attraction to me. First of all, no one had EVER been forthcoming about their attraction to me. So naturally instead of embracing this like a normal human being, I decided to have a panic attack and run. What the hell was this guy thinking!? I’m older than he is, I’m not the cute sorority girl that I knew was his type, and I thought for sure that there was no way he could have meant what he said.
After months of trying to court me (hard), I decided to run even farther and go camping on a mountain by myself for a weekend. It poured down rain the entire time so I was forced inside a tent with my stupid thoughts. I’ve never been someone who could say that they have audibly heard from the Lord. He liked to speak to me more in haikus or smoke signals…. kidding. But for real, I heard Him that weekend. So graciously, so tenderly He said, “Stop being an idiot. You’ve been desiring for someone to make you feel beautiful. I’ve brought him to you. It’s real. Stop being afraid.”
And here’s the thing, even on my dark days when I fall into the trap of my insecurities of feeling like that outsider, I remember that feeling. Please hear me, I DO NOT think we need men to make us feel beautiful. But, the way that I finally jumped into my fairy tale was by having my eyes opened to beauty by Sam. It was the first thing that made me fall in love with him. He knew my insecurities and loved me, embraced me, thought I was funny but also beautiful. I felt a balance when I met him.
I still feel balanced with him. Even if we’re about go to on our 5,000th date, I just came in from a run, or I’m dancing around in a costume doing a Steve Urkel impression, he looks at me with complete sincerity and makes me feel beautiful. I think it’s important that I had to come to that on my own, but I’m grateful Sam helped me there. Thanks for helping me see my fairy tale babe.