Handsome You

A short story about acceptance

Photo credit: Flickr CC frankieleon

By Sarah Synk

Sixteen

I scrolled through my Facebook feed one rainy day during study hour. I looked at my “happy” self staring at the camera. Long red curly hair with bangs covering my eye, a freckle on my neck, bright purple lipstick almost stained my teeth, hazel eyes, and a necklace with a black cross that was trying to cover up that damn pesky freckle. Baggy tomboy clothing with an Evanescence t-shirt, and my red glasses that hides my big nose.

My profile picture looked hideous. Everything about it looked hideous. And of course, in the middle of the hallway, I began to cry. I told myself I am strong. My mind is strong. I saw my friend pass by me, and fuck, my bestie realized that I was crying. She took a while to ask why I was crying. I, too, hesitated.

I haven’t been feeling…myself. Lately, that is.” I bit my lip “I don’t know why. I am not my happy-go-lucky self anymore. I’m miserable, fuckin’ miserable.”

However, in reality I did know why – I just didn’t want to tell anyone yet.

My friend took my phone, “If you are still looking at your profile pic and complaining about how ugly you are, then I will throw this phone in the garbage.” Briskly, I managed to retrieve the phone from her.

“Fuck off, Jade.” I don’t know what had gotten into me. I knew she meant well, but I was dealing with my looks in an extreme manner. She sighed, scowled even.

“Look, I gotta head to class. Don’t be such a fuckin’ bitch. I’m just tryin’ to help you.”

Heading home that day, I ran right into my bed. My momma, Jimena, came to check in on me. She gave me my favorite snack: empanadas and a diet coke. She chewed on an empanada as we spoke.

“I heard you had a rough day.” She said in a thick Spanish accent “Jade just texted me. She said you yelled at her. You should get rid of Facebook you know.”

To begin with, I didn’t even know why my momma and Jade had each other’s numbers. I guessed my mom was the “cool” mom all of the sudden. I groaned…and of course Jade would have told my mother!

“Momma. Please, don’t listen to Jade for once.” I started to blare another favorite band of mine: My Chemical Romance. I’m an oldie, and I listened to it on a vinyl that my sister gave me right as I turned that big huge number: sixteen. A song called “Welcome to the Black Parade” was the first to be played.

My mom tried to convince me to talk to Jade, but I was being a pain (and was in excruciating pain), and so she left me alone with my never ending burning sorrows. I headed back onto Facebook, scrolling through that miserable feed. I looked at my Facebook page and realized this was a huge waste of time. And then I decided to do something…delete my account.

***

The next Monday, people at school asked if I blocked them. I said “no.”

I told them I got rid of it and it was water under the bridge. Jade was happy about it.

“Good. I’m glad,” she said to me in a brisk manner. Jade pulled out pictures of me from her Facebook feed, “Now. Can you please tell me how beautiful you look?”

I felt myself shivering at the word beautiful. I don’t believe in the word beautiful. I didn’t need her prep talk, either. I tried to run away, but my friend grabbed me.

“I know I’m gonna sound like a stalker…” Jade began “But, I’ve kept all the negative posts you put on your Facebook account. I printed most pictures, most comments.”

I looked at her baffled…that IS beyond stalkerish. She opened her favorite purple journal that I gave her for her sweet sixteenth birthday where in the journal it says:

I hope you enjoy this birthday gift, as you love to write. Love, Beautiful You.

Beautiful You is a nickname that my parents and Jade calls me. I just don’t know why. People always say I’m so beautiful that I could be a Victoria’s Secret model (Okay, I may be over exaggerating). Pictures fell out almost cluttering the dusty and dirty hallway of the school as I saw my note and name in the corner of my eye. Luckily, I managed to catch em’ with my bare hands.

“You’re an idiot.” I said, “What kind of comments and pictures did you print out?”

The first picture I saw was me in a corny unicorn bathing suit (I know, what middle schooler wears clothes with unicorns on em’)? I was invited to a summer-themed Bat Mitzvah party hosted by my old “popular” friend named Margaret. I had ugly braces, broad shoulders, and looked very masculine. I totally passed as a guy, despite wearing that stupid bathing suit. I loved wearing guy clothing. Wearing girly girl clothing left shivers down my spine! Below the picture I had written:

Eww, I look like a guy. But, idk, I think I’d be a cute guy. Lol.

All honesty? I didn’t care if I looked like a guy. To me, making the “I think I’d be a cute guy…” comment was a very absorbed remark. In the comment section, Jade had responded with an eye wink emoji (of course jokingly):

Dude, you would look like a very cute guy 😉

There goes Jade again, judging me by the looks. The little young innocent Jade.

Another post, another picture that Jade pulled out, was when I attended my third cousin’s wedding. It was a rather interesting wedding. The ceremony was held outside and the couple was ordained near my cousin’s barn. I was dressed in a very cute orange dress, my favorite color, but what I really wanted to wear was a rad tux. My red hair was glowing like burning molten lava, and on the whole I looked very flamboyant. However, I had just come back from a baseball game, one where I had been crushed underneath the hot sun, and was left with a damn sunburn.

My love interest back then, Harvey, had commented on the photo. He was a nerdy kid, with beautiful brown eyes, and practically commented every post of mine. On this one he wrote:

Damn girl, you lookin’ fuckin’ hot. I like, no wait LOVE, your sunburn!

Jade of course commented on it afterwards, still using the stupid eye wink emoji:

I agree! She is pretty hot 😉

Biggest eye roll right then and there. Those were the only two pictures she showed me.

“I know this is an awful thing of me to do,” Jade continued “but I stopped. I just want to let you know, you’re a beautiful friend. I sometimes get really pathetically jealous of you. I love listening to Evanescence songs and belting them on top of our lungs, I also love you from your body shape, to your looks, and to your singing voice. You’re too negative. A negative Nancy that is.”

Good singing voice? I had no idea I even had a good singing voice…

I guess Jade was right. I guess I shouldn’t have cussed at her because of my girly-girl looks. “Alright I won’t cyberbully myself anymore. Let’s go grab some lunch.” So we did that.

        ***

Eighteen

Even though I got rid of my Facebook account a long time ago, I still saw pictures of me around my house and stared at them in misery.

“Earth to you, Beautiful You,” My mom said.

“We need to go dress shopping – I want you to buy the best dress in history!”

I sighed. Prom, my junior prom, rolled around quickly. I didn’t want to go in a dress. I wanted a snazzy tux. I wanted to look masculine.

Okay.” I groaned.

“I found a perfect place. A lovely lady named Valentina, who is also Spanish, owns a prodigious prom dress store called Valentina’s Dresses. I already chose some dresses and she put them on hold!”

I sighed even more.

“Oh don’t be such a baby. I know you’re not into prom, but I want you to be the prettiest girl there. In fact, we are going to see Valentina today.”

I wanted to scream – no, there is no way in hell that I even want to wear a dress.

I began to cry, right then and there, “What is it, my Beautiful You?”
I took a deep breath, and I said it.

“Momma…” I began ,“I have a secret, a dark secret, that I’ve been holding in for so long.”

To be honest, I could not believe she accepted me after I told her.

***

“Omg I got a beautiful dress, Beautiful You. I was gonna have you go dress shopping with you, but I saw this with my mum and she and I fell in love with it.”

Jade showed me a picture on our school’s stupid prom dress account (we cannot wear the same dresses as other people, one of the school’s rules about the prom). Thank God I classify myself as a guy, I really don’t care about that dress shit, but I do care about Jade. I don’t want her ever to be mocked over something so stupid that it would make her cry and be depressed for the rest of her life. I hate seeing Jade being made fun of.

“Omg!” I shouted with a high pitched voice “You look amazing.”

It was a red ballgown of a dress. She showed me a video of her twirling round in it.

“Bellissima!” I muttered under my breath.

“So…” She said shutting off her phone “What are you going to do about your dress? When are you gonna go dress shopping?”

I gulped, “Well, my mom is holding some dresses for me. She knows a woman named Valentina. She said the dresses are pretty. Want to go dress shopping with me this weekend?”

She smiled, “Duh! Of course.” She smiled “I wanna see what your mom has chosen. She has a pretty good style. I gotta admit.”

“Well,” I say, “You are awfully happy…what is up with you?”

She smiled even more “I got asked to the prom by a guy named Felix!”

No way…he is an amazing drummer and singer in our school’s jazz band! The ladies drool all over him, “Tell me allll about it.” She told me the story. It was legit the cutest thing ever.

Jade and I headed over to math class. There is this cheerleader named Melanie in our class who is legit, the snobbiest person who could roam planet Earth. She looked like she could have been part of the cast of Mean Girls. She has long crimson hair, beautiful blue eyes, and a very petite body. She appears so frail that she looks like breakable glass.

“Hey everybody…” she shouted with glee “Today, in my hands, I have a sign -up sheet for y’all. While we already picked our prom king and queen for this year, we can start signing up for our senior prom next year! I’ll pass the sign-up sheet around the classroom, if you’re interested. Thank you for your undivided attention.” She smiled.

She handed the flyer first to me. I really wanted to enter as a potential prom king; however, biologically, I’m a girl. A living breathing girl. I don’t want people to think I’m a freak.

“Eh I’ll pass. Jade…you’ll totally rock as a queen.”

She rolled her eyes, “Whatever you say. Whatever you say.” She signed up anyways. She passed the sign-up sheet to Felix, and blushed. Felix winked.

“You’ll slay as a queen.” He said.

“Since I signed up, Beautiful You, why don’t you sign up as well?”

I thought I was gonna hurl. I felt myself running out of class, “Beautiful You… Jesus Christ.” Jade went running after me, and I felt myself crying violently in the girls’ bathroom.

“Beautiful You, what is it?”

I kept shaking, and my body began to ache, “I…I…I am transgender.”

She gasped and hugged me, “And you’re transgender? What’s the big deal?”

“I… I didn’t…want you to think I was some freak.” I felt my heart melt to the floor, breaking apart, and feeling like a black hole was sweeping my melted heart away. She hugged me even tighter.

“You’re not a freak. You are my best friend.”

She let go of me, “We’ve been together through thick and thin. You know that right? I would never abandon you…” She cried, “What an awful thought.”

I sighed, “I know. I know. I know you accept LGBT equality, but I was still scared about telling you.”

We both stopped crying, “I guess we don’t have to go dress shopping…I won’t force you. I’m sorry if I did.”

“You didn’t know any better, Jade.”

She gulped, “I feel bad you’ve been keeping it in.”

“I know, but anyways…who says you don’t have to go prom shopping with me? Why don’t you help me go shopping for a snazzy tux? Maybe I’ll look so snazzy that I’ll look like an American Eagle model!”

She smiled, laughed even till the point the mirrors in the bathroom almost cracked from her high pitched voice, with a sense of booming pride.

“I’d love to, Beautif-”

She stopped, “What is it?” I asked.

“Well, um, that is a girl’s name. Do you have another nickname I can call you?” I took out a piece of gum, and gave a piece to Jade. I sighed, “You can call me Handsome You.”

Dear God, that is so cheesy.

“All right captain.” She said “Handsome You it is.”

We both laughed together.

***

Jade and I headed back into the math classroom, and I saw the bitchy cheerleader, Melanie, again. People were still adding their names onto the list. My heart thudded a hundred miles an hour as I stared at the list, “What is it? Handsome You?”  I shrugged. Of course, she would question my emotions.

“It’s…I think I want to sign up. You know as…prom king.” I whispered.

She smiled, “Go for it…I mean who cares what people think?”

That is relatively true. I mean, I have every right to be whoever I want to be.

“What are you thinking?” Jade asked fixing her long braided hair.

“Well, maybe give me the sign-up sheet and I’ll let you know.”

Someone handed me the sign up sheet. One side said prom king, one said prom queen.

I found myself taking my pen slowly, and I felt it guide across the paper. My hands felt shaky, and I began to wheeze. I couldn’t believe I was going to sign-up for prom king, “You don’t have to do this…” Jade suggested. I did not listen. Instead, I did whatever the hell I wanted.

“Jade, this ain’t about you.” But it was over, my pain was over.

Then, the bitchy cheerleader took it from me, “Who’s Oliver?” She asked with the most confused look upon her face. Everybody shrugged behind their seats, but not Jade. She stood proudly.

“I’m…Oliver.” I said. Everyone look stunned, but some people smiled. Melanie didn’t say anything, and just took the sheet from me.

“Well, welcome to the school Oliver.” She said in actually the sweetest voice possible.

When math class was finished, the cheerleader actually got my attention.

“It was very brave of you, and what you’ve done.” She smiled “I have a sibling who is transgender. Never feel like you have to be fake.”

She whispered, “Because of this stupid cheerleader get up, I have, or feel, to be fake. But I will never let anyone put my sibling down. Which is why…I might quit next year. I don’t know why I even became a cheerleader in the first place. It’s all part of popularity, as I realize now. Here, here’s my number if you need any help.”

She walked away, and Jade was in the middle of the hallway stunned.

“Did she…” She began.

“Yes.” We began walking to the next classes together – Jade heading to science, me headin’  to Advanced Engineering class.

“So do you’ll think she’ll do anything?” I shrugged,

“I really don’t know,  but I’m surprised of her.”

We then came across Melanie. She was talking to someone, a young man. He started to walk towards me, and smiled. I soon found out it was Melanie’s brother.

“I heard what you did today.” He shook my hand and Jade’s, “My name is Timothy. I am transgender too, Melanie’s brother.”

“Well, I’ll let you two talk,” said Melanie and she started to leave.

Jade winked, “I’ll leave you alone too.”

Poor Timothy’s face got really red, “Ignore them. Anyways, what you did today was brave. I’m just glad I am not alone…prom is so overrated.”

I chuckled, “You bet. You bet.”

We, apparently, had the same interests which was completely weird. As I talked to him, I began to develop a little crush on him. The bell rang, and I realized I was late to class.

“Shit. I hope I get to see you again. Here’s my number.” I said briskly, handing it to him.

“Nice meeting you!” He smiled.

***

Prom came about. I held the pictures-taking festivities at my house. I invited Jade, Felix, and Timothy. I wore a red tuxedo, and he wore a black tuxedo. I kind of asked him to go out on a date with me, and he agreed, “Omg, look how dashing you look!” My mom screeched. I gulped while Timothy was holding in his laughter. So did Jade and Felix.

“The ladies will swoon over you.” Momma said, embarrassing me.

Timothy gave me a light tap on my shoulder,

“Ooooh…Ladies’ man.”

The snapping of cameras seemed like it took an hour because of my mom. We had rented a limo for the evening as Timothy’s parents owned a limo company. We blared a multitude of different songs and sang on top of our lungs.

“Ugh… Of course you have to request an Evanescence song.”  Jade muttered.

Timothy’s hand almost touched mine about, but it was only an accident.

“Yea, we are totally emo.” Timothy winked.

We then arrived to the venue which was at a function hall called Psalm Tree Views. Our prom was ocean-themed. A chocolate fountain sat outside on a patio. As we entered, two stone dolphins hovered over the doorway. Streamers were hung up throughout the hallways. As I looked around, I saw a portrait of someone who must have been the owner, looking as rich as can be.

“Wow…” Jade said. As we arrived, we took a group photo. In the background, from the green screen, there was a giant shark. Getting into the dance floor, they had awesome strobe lights, and the cheerleaders greeted us.

“This is amazing!” Timothy shouted, and we all agreed.

***

The night went by so fast, and it was suddenly time for them to announce prom king and queen. Melanie had two awards in her hand – a female trophy and a male one. “Today, I would like to nominate a king and queen on whose acceptance is flawless at this school. Jade and Felix will you please rise up?”

Did I hear that right? Jade? I know popularity doesn’t matter, but Jade is probably the least popular at our school. “Jade! Oh my God – that means you!”

Timothy and I clapped with excitement. The song “We Are the Champions” played as Jade and Felix headed up on stage, closest to the podium. Jade received a sash, a tiara, and the trophy. Jade didn’t provide a speech, as she was nervous, so she ran off the stage right when she received her prizes. Felix got all the attention from his jazz band members; they hooted and fist-pumped the air.

“You won!” I shouted. She told me that Melanie was the one to nominate people. Jade said that Melanie was impressed that I had been friends with Jade for so long.

“W-h-a-t? A cheerleader did that?” I asked.

The other cheerleaders looked unimpressed, but I didn’t care. Prom night was the best night, and if it was not for Jade helping me through all of this, I don’t think I’d be standing here right now.

***

When prom was finished, we all rode the limo back together to go to Felix’s after party. Timothy was chatting up a storm, and said he had not had this much fun in the longest time. “I’m glad you had a great time,” he said to me. I smiled.

“Yeah I did. I danced like a crazy maniac!” During the limo ride, we played more zesty music. The song “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers was requested by Jade. We sang the lyrics till our voices became raspy.

Hopping out of the limousine, we entered Felix’s house. It was very spacious, a Victorian home. The party was lamely supervised, but Felix said he didn’t mind. His friend group wasn’t much into drinking anyways. However, teenagers were making out and Felix’s mother stopped them.

Felix groaned, “I really wish my after party was not supervised. My mom is ruining everything. People will hate me.” Then he added, “I can’t get over the fact that Jade and I won prom king and queen.” He glanced at Timothy and I, but his eyes mostly focused on Jade.

“And Oliver,” Felix added, turning toward me, “I think you’ll rock as king next year.”

I said I doubt that I would get the title as “prom king.” Like I said, I’m just not into that stuff, but Felix mentioned how I’m an inspiration towards everybody, and how I treat everyone with kindness.

“You know, popularity is stupid. No one is popular in my mind. We all are loved, even if we don’t feel loved.”

Jade got up, I saw her crying. I ran after her, and grabbed her hand.

“Jade… spill it. Stop cryin.’ It’s prom night!” She sighed.

“I’m glad I have you as a best friend. I feel like a suckish person. You shouldn’t had to worry about what I think, you’d knew I would accept you no matter what.”

I gave her a hug which seemed like the hug went on forever.

“Calm down, Jade. We are here tonight for the best night of our lives. Like I said, you didn’t know any better.”

After I gave her a pep talk, we walked back over to Timothy and Felix.

“Sorry,” Jade said sniffling “What Oliver said was very moving. I mean it, Oliver. It’s just that… love is a very powerful word for me.”

That is true. She turned towards me, and placed a hand on my shoulder, and we talked in private one more time so Timothy and Felix would not hear a word of what she had to say.

“I want you to listen to me, okay?” She begun “I want you to love yourself. Screw peoples’ hate. Focus on you, and the people that love you. You’re an amazing human being. Now, let’s party.” We both laughed, and again we danced the night away…


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