Growing Up (Part One)

I was a very stylish little child, almost always seen in dresses with matching shoes and accessories my mum picked out for me. Somehow when I began to reach adolescence, I warped into the bespectacled, almost always in oversized clothes, wrong shoes, wrong hair, few friends, a time of ultra-low self esteem. The confidence was there but the self-esteem was just a nano-particle. I spent more time with people who were older than me rather than my peers. Now I’m pretty much okay I guess. Mostly sticking to t-shirts/shirt + jeans + flat/canvas shoes combo. Hair remains unchanged. More friends. That was my growth summed up in a paragraph.

People have always asked if I am of mixed parentage. As far as I am concerned, my mother is Malay and so is my father. When I was a baby I was told I looked like an Arab born whenever I am put on the headscarf because of my fair skin and the red cheeks. I was also told my father sometimes wonder if they took the wrong baby out of the hospital when I was born (because all newborns look alike). My father looks more Indian than Malay. My mum doesn’t have the typical Malay look, but she’s fair-skinned. The younger me also spoke English and Malay with a twang (probably from watching too much Disney cartoons). Combine that with fair skin and curly hair and you’ll get a mat salleh with Malay DNA.

An unforgettable statement by a teacher back in Mantin was “I thought you made your hair like that to make a statement”. Statement my foot laa. Back then I kept wishing I had hair like those models on the shampoo adverts. I suffered peer pressure to permanently straighten my manes. I remember having three or four girls armed with a hair iron each who spent hours trying to straighten my hair. Suddenly all the boys looked at me as I made my routine trip to the dining hall for dinner. I never asked my mum if I could straighten my hair permanently because it was costly (and you’ve to do it once every couple of months to maintain it) and my secondary school fees costed a bomb (close to half of my university tuition fees last year, you do the maths).

My hair is naturally curly and its never been dyed until now. I sported a fringe in secondary four which was a bit of hair flopped over my forehead, straightened, and styled like a china doll. Compliments were received when it overgrew and I let it sweep across my face in a side bang. Then it got annoying when it kept getting into my eye so I gave up on fringes for a while. I’ve tried cutting my own hair which turned out not too bad. People can’t really see the difference if I had been to the salon or not because it looks just the same to others regardless.

I see bokehs without my spectacles or my glasses on. My eyesight is powered by -6.5 and -0.7 right and left respectively as of the most recent check-up. I began with -3.0 in primary 3. I never realised I was short sighted although I’ve been sitting on the floor about 3 metres away from the whiteboard during of my lessons until my mother realised she couldn’t see me waving in a store when I was looking in her direction and I had trouble reading the menu behind food ordering counters. From secondary 1-3 I have been wearing the thick glasses before I switched to Nikon lenses (yes, Nikon lenses for my specs) which manufactures them thinner for the massive power I needed so I don’t end up with heavy, thick lensed viewing tool slipping off my nose, and gradually eased to using contact lenses on a daily basis by the time I was in secondary five (after I broke my spectacles for various reasons for the fifth time in a year). My thick specs was the main reason why I refused to put on braces for my teeth. I had enough dealing with criticisms on my hair + baggy clothes + spectacles combo. I didn’t need another one to annihilate all that’s left of my self-esteem.

Looking back, I think I did a pretty good job resisting all that peer pressure. My handful closest good friends who see me now will tell me I’ve changed from the person they knew back then in terms of physical appearance. Butterfly out of the cocoon.  Some would say I’m still the same. Some who saw me during prom or my prom photos would go “OHMAIGOD”.

In my opinion, I’ve just grown a bit taller, wear more clothes that fits properly, and developed dark shadows under the eye, have better self-esteem and a bigger circle of friends which traverse across a world of interests, industry, age, and experience. Woosta! I’ve survived the past twenty years of my life. Alhamdulillah 🙂

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